The Water Woes of Wichita Falls, Texas

Last year when I was out storm chasing (highlights here), I stayed in Wichita Falls, Texas, which has been under a multi-year, extreme drought. On May 28 last year, I took photos of Lake Arrowhead, which is part of Wichita Falls' drinking water supply.  After the extreme rains of the last month, I stopped by there yesterday, and the change is dramatic.  Here's some before and after photos:

A couple more from last year:

Of course, all that rain, while so beneficial to drinking water supplies, has caused some serious flooding problems as well.

Chasing Mountains in the Sky

Mount Everest is a little over 29,000 feet tall.  The supercell thunderstorms I’m chasing for the next 10 days in the great plains can be almost twice as tall. Seeing one of these things from a distance can be amazing and even beautiful--the secrets of the atmosphere are revealed, especially if you have studied the science of the clouds. But getting closer to one of these storms, as I wrote last year in my blog entry, “Out Here in the Middle”, can be truly awe inspiring, or even scary--especially when the storm is producing a tornado. I’ve done a lot of things with a lot of potential risk, but I’m not an adrenaline junkie. I’m happiest when I manage the edge can rather than plunging over it.

Storm chasing is an expensive and sometimes tedious undertaking; you have to figure out where and when storms are going to be, drive (typically 100’s of miles a day--last year I drove about 6000 miles in 9 days) to get in position in time, wait for storms to fire, race and towards the storms as fast as possible down roads you’ve never seen before.  If you’re lucky enough to get on a storm you have to keep on top of the storm's dynamics, monitor the positions and activities of other chasers (not all of whom exhibit good judgement), and try and shoot photos while maintaining a workable escape route at all times in a location to which you’ve never been before.  And then you have to find a place to sleep, and start thinking about what tomorrow will bring.  Chasers nomadically live by the rhythm of nature, and chasing through the wide open spaces of the plains the beauty and silence of the sky is clearly evident.   

This endeavor is also incredibly engrossing, and when on the hunt, I'm typically in a constant state of "flow".  In one of my first-ever Midwest chases, I got in front of a beast of a (non-tornadic) storm, and shot the photo above. By sunset, I was really exhausted and and then eventually got stuck in a bad location with sideways rain (and fortunately no hail). I realized at that point my thinking was kind of cloudy because I hadn’t eaten anything in about 8 hours.  Anyone who knows me knows that that is a rare occurrence for me.

Another really satisfying part of chasing for me has been learning the sky. With these tiny (by global standards) storms, even the best forecast just gets you in the general area where storms might initiate--after that you're on your own with the sky (and the radar), because weather science is pretty good at telling us that the sky is going to boil with storms but it’s not good enough yet to predict where the first bubble will be.  I spotted the storm that produced the storm below before it even showed up on radar, and then stayed on it for several hours.

After this crazy school year I'm burned out and ready for a break in the routine, and looking forward to the next week.  

I'll be posting updates from "out there" on Instagram/Twitter. Orlando 2015 Show Control Case Studies and Geekout during Infocomm!

We've got a great line up for Jim Janninck's and my (now-annual) Geekout at Infocomm!  The free and open-to-all event will be held at The Melrose Center in downtown Orlando at 101 E. Central Blvd. Orlando, FL 32801 at 6pm SHARP (we have to be out of the space by 7:30) June 18th, 2015.  

Here's the talks (in order of submission):

Celebrate America

Presenter: Tyler Gothier, CTS

Celebrate America is one of the largest family-friendly events in the Sacramento area.  The production includes a patriotic musical with over 150 cast members, a Black Hawk Helicopter presentation, Navy Seals Parachuting onto the venue, and concludes with a spectacular aerial fireworks display.


Presenter: Joseph White, CTS, Senior Sales Engineer, Alcorn McBride Inc.

DreamPlay by DreamWorks in the City of Dreams Manila is the first Family Entertainment Center based on characters from DreamWorks. It uses media heavy guest interaction to entertain kids and adults alike for hours. It represented many unique challenges for show control from the sheer number of devices to direct interactions with guests expecting a magical escape from reality into the DreamWorks universe. A magic talking mirror, animated characters interacting with live actors, and a challenge not to wake a sleeping ogre work together to bring the world of DreamWorks to life in Manila!

Lifepoint Church

Presenter:  Paul D. Henderson, Ph.D., Design Principal, Wave

WAVE designed and implemented a new central campus for Lifepoint Church in Fredericksburg, VA, including a new 1000-seat broadcast auditorium, overflow and breakout spaces, offices, and circulation spaces. In addition to full audio, video, lighting and IT design, WAVE implemented a show control system to manage all auditoriums, conference rooms, and lobbies. A network of multiple Medialon Showmaster controllers provides control of all displays, digital signage, audio processing, and architectural lighting. This allows the playback of interactive multimedia shows in the lobbies, touch-panel controls of all equipment for casual users, and full-building supervision of equipment.

Presenter: Kevin A. Zevchik, US Manager, AV Stumpfl

The T-Rex Cafe’ at the new Disney Springs (formally Downtown Disney) in Walt Disney World was ready for a revamp of their ceiling projection and animatronic control system.  A Wings AV platform replaced a dated 5 projector blend with a brand new 2 10k lumen laser projector blend utilizing VIOSO camera calibration to keep the projectors in blend and alignment without ever touching them.  Moreover, the control system for 24 animatronic dinosaurs was upgraded to a new high amperage relay module system and a front-end system using a wireless iPad to facilitate the dinos, special effects, and a tour that is offered to school and children groups.  

Close parking to the venue is Melrose Center Parking is directly across the street from the Main Library in the Library Garage 112 E Central Blvd. $2/hr, $15/day, open 24/7.

At 8pm we will start drinking, um I mean meet to further geekout at Ceviche Tapas 125 W Church Street. Late night mini-golf is not out of the question either.

I'll post any updates on the day of the event on my twitter feed.  Hope to see you there!

Forged in Fire Featuring Okello Kelo Sam at City Tech

Our last Theatreworks production of the season at City Tech is Forged in Fire, a great show featuring Okello Kelo Sam telling his amazing and inspiring story of being abducted as a child soldier in Uganda, escaping, and going on to eventually found Hope North, a school for young victims of Uganda's civil war.  He lived through some horrible things but you leave the theatre in a good mood because Okello is so inspiring, and his joy is so infectious.  

Here's an interview with Okello on WNBC from last night (featuring fuzzy versions of a few of my photos):

I worked on the sound for the production, and I definitely recommend seeing it.  It only runs the next two weekends and is likely to sell out, more information and tickets here.