My personal tribute to
David Hoadley - First among storm chasers
Dave holds an award given to him at the 2006 TESSA Meeting in Colleyville, TX - Photo © 2006 C. Doswell
As it turns out, there are at least two other tributes to Dave by my friends: one by Gene Rhoden and another by Roger Edwards. I'm certainly not going to try to one-up those excellent blogs/essays. Their blogs include biographical information on Dave, so I need not repeat that here. Instead, I'll try to put my personal spin on the joyful task of honoring the greatest storm chaser of all, and to explain why I believe he deserves such a title.
It's been my habit to post long, often bitter rants about various topics and storm chasing has been the subject of several of those. This posting, however, is going to be very different, because Dave Hoadley has long represented the best traits among us. I'm pleased to be able to say something very positive, for a change. Dave is soft-spoken, very courteous, possesses keen insight, generous perhaps even to a fault, and modest about his accomplishments. As noted in the blogs by my friends, we had the pleasure of Dave's company in March of 2006, this time at the spring TESSA meeting, followed by an informal dinner banquet where we saluted Dave. What a wonderful opportunity - we got to hear Dave review his 50 years of storm chasing during the meeting and then had a chance to let Dave know how much we appreciate him at a banquet in his honor. My thanks to Martin Lisius, TESSA President, for putting on this event.
So what makes Dave so special? Why do I feel so much affection for him? For me, it begins in 1977, at the first Severe Local Storms Conference I ever attended, in Omaha, NE. This is when I first met Dave, and I was simply blown away by the fact that he'd been chasing since the 1950s. We thought we OU/NSSL chasers were the pioneers of chasing. How could we not have heard about him? The answer to that was simple. Dave was not about drawing attention to himself. Dave was simply living his passion for storms.
So why was he at the conference? He was doing what any good chaser is always trying to do. He wanted to learn more about storms. He wasn't at the conference to tell us about his accomplishments - he was there, on his own time and at his own expense, to learn. For me, that alone was enough to earn Dave enormous respect from me. But it didn't stop there. He shared his photography with us and we were blown away, once again. His images were spectacular and clearly not simply a record of what he saw. They were also works of art. Dave and several others got together at that conference and the Stormtrack chaser newsletter was born, out of Dave's wish to get to know other chasers and to share information. For its first years, Stormtrack was Dave's responsibility, and he duly collected input from others to include, but I think I speak for most of us when I say that I most looked forward to Dave's contributions.
Dave's artistry, it turns out, is not limited to photography. Comb the archives of Stormtrack, and you'll find numerous little essays, beautifully illustrated by Dave's spectacular sketches, about many aspects of chasing. Not just the tornadoes he's seen, but his innermost thoughts while he was chasing. His writing has a modest lyricism that reaches right into the heart of a chaser and it makes tears well up in your eyes - you recognize instantly what Dave is writing about, because he's captured the essence of your feelings in just a few words. I've swallowed many lumps in my throat reading Dave's poetic descriptions. He's a deep, deep thinker and has the talent for expressing his thoughts in a way that forces you to think and ponder the big issues about which Dave has written. He's not writing about pulse-pounding excitement and adrenaline rushes, so yahoo chasers probably will never understand what Dave's trying to say. But Dave has successfully expressed my feelings on many occasions. I'm grateful that our hobby produced such a person at all. To realize that he was the first among us to really live our passion makes it all the more amazing.
Dave's chase philosophy and keen insight was featured early - on page 1, Issue #1 of Stormtrack:
One of my long-standing concerns has been that storm-chasers may eventually draw too much publicity, and chasing will become another mass cult of the leisure class, such as scuba-diving or hang-gliding. Should this happen, we might find ourselves in some future year impatiently waiting in line at an NWS or FAA station for a turn to look at the data essential to our daily forecast. If the numbers of such people increase significantly, Federal regulations may be passed limiting data access to licensed pilots, etc. For this reason, I have shunned publicity. I enjoy chasing too much to risk losing it for a brief moment of notoriety. What's your opinion?
I was young and foolish. I didn't believe that chasing could ever become "another mass cult of the leisure class" - how wrong I was! And how wise Dave's words were. All one needs to do is browse Stormtrack, and the wit and wisdom of Dave Hoadley becomes quite evident.
It also becomes clear, from his "Funnel Funnies" that Dave has the ability to laugh at himself and empathize with other chasers. We all know about the various things that can go wrong on a chase. His cartoons neatly encapsulate the hidden humor in these traumatic episodes during a chase, and also provide a glimpse into chasing's dark sides. See the following examples:
Dave has generously contributed of his time and accomplishments in support of the science, and to improve storm spotter training. He has always shared his still and video images with anyone who needed them for a good cause.
The overall classiness of Dave can be overwhelming. When he gives a talk, I find myself spellbound by the simplicity and clarity of it. Anyone who gets a chance to hear him speak surely should avail themselves of the opportunity. He manages to convey the intensity of his passion without theatrics or speaking tricks. and his wry sense of humor is always scattered throughout, not as comic relief, but as an integral part of the program.
But for me, the most compelling experiences regarding Dave have been his essays and poems, mostly shared with us via Stormtrack over the years. He clearly recognizes that there is a lot more to being a storm chaser than your tally of tornadoes seen. He's gentleman of the highest sort and not only the first interstate storm chaser, but the best of all of us. He is precisely the antithesis of the yahoo - and as such is a role model any responsible chaser should learn about and emulate.
Thank you, Dave, for all that you are and all that you've shown us over the years. We salute you.