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Hi! I'm Tony Colley.

During my elementary school years, we lived in Kansas City, Missouri. I remember many nights climbing into my parent's bed after being awoken by window-rattling thunder. We spent so many evenings/nights in the basement when the tornado sirens sounded, my dad dragged an old couch down there and put it under the staircase so we'd have someplace comfortable to huddle. Fortunately, no tornado ever came close; and the only real storm damage I remember during those years was from a major ice storm that toppled one large evergreen tree at a front corner of our house. That fear of thunderstorms and tornadoes somehow turned into a fascination. Those ice storms and wading through chest-high snow drifts (admittedly only 3 feet deep) somehow engendered a love of wintry weather.

In the summer of 1968, we moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where severe thunderstorms and wintry weather were much less common. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say.

One year for Birthday/Christmas (only eight days apart), I got a little build-it-yourself weather kit that featured a wind vane and rotary cups, which I put together and my dad mounted on the roof above my bedroom window. A couple of wires led into the house, one connecting to a cardboard circle with eight lights which showed wind direction and the other to some kind of gauge showing the wind speed.

At some point during high school, I got one of those U-shaped min/max thermometers, with little metal markers showing the min/max since they were last reset (by using a magnet to drag them down to the current temperature). My dad and I built a louvered weather instrument shelter, to Weather Service specifications, in the back yard to house it and I would pretty faithfully go out every day and make note of the high and low for the day and reset the min/max markers. I still have that thermometer, hanging in my garage.

The first time I actually saw a tornado was during my senior year in high school, on the infamous afternoon of 3 April 1974. My view was from a couple miles away, from a second floor window, with trees and houses obscuring my view; and all I could really see was a wide dark cloud extending down from the cloud base. (read more, pictures).

I planned to get a degree in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin, but could not afford to continue there after my freshman year; so I got a BS in Physics from the University of Louisville (I lived at home and my $400/semester scholarship from my dad's work fully covered tuition plus a little for books). It was there that I was finally introduced to computers and computer programming, eventually writing programs in support of my Physics professor/advisor's research.

I was awarded a full graduate research scholarship in the Atmospheric Science department at Colorado State University, covering tuition plus a living expense stipend. The research work I was assigned involved developing software for analyzing weather satellite data, and eventually focused on applying the tools of the emerging field of image processing. I got my MS in Atmospheric Science in December, 1979; but life has it's way of leading you down paths you never expected, however, and my profession of umpteen years has been software engineering.


The second time I saw a tornado was on 10 June 1991, when a tornado tracked eastward across I-25 a little north of Castle Pines North (Douglas County, Colorado). I was in an office building 3 or 4 miles to the north (near C-470) and could not see the base of the tornado since it was behind a ridge from my vantage point; but clearly saw the top half of the classic funnel-shaped tornado hanging down from the cloud base.

Eighteen years later, in May 2009, I took a storm chasing tour (read more, pictures) and experienced the debris zone of a tornado! TWICE (in the same day)! On 13 May, we encountered the Novinger, Missouri, tornado about a mile southeast of town (about six miles west of Kirksville). We then headed east and encountered the Kirksville tornado (from the same supercell) several minutes later and about six miles east of Kirksville. Both tornadoes were rain-wrapped and difficult to see coming, and both times we found ourselves within a hundred yards of a tornado before realizing we needed to BACK UP (read more, pictures).

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