Two veteran tornado chasers that hunt with Terry and I are now tracking Hurricane Irma in southern Florida.
Kholby Martin and Ethan Schisler, who are both from Galesburg,Illinois, flew down to Miami today with Martin’s father, Mike.
ABOVE: KHOLBY, ETHAN SCHISLER, AND MIKE MARTIN
They didn’t have long after disembarking from the (nearly empty!) plane for the adventure to begin.
The car rental agency had been abruptly shut down by police officers leaving the three stranded. Fortunately they found another agency that provided them with brand new Dodge Charger and even better…a full tank of gas.
Food was the next obstacle. Martin said most of the restaurants were closed, but they managed to stumble upon a pizza joint where the owner gave them a cheese pizza no one had picked up. It’ll probably be their last official meal for a few days.
The trio is bunking down in Miami tonight with plans to head south toward Naples, Florida where they believe they will be close to the eyewall of the hurricane.
“We found a hotel for tonight only,” said Martin. “Everything is booked for Saturday and Sunday nights,” he added. Martin says the hotels are full with residents fleeing the storm from outlying islands and other residents who fear their homes won’t stand up to Irma.
Martin and Schisler have both chased hundreds of tornados. Martin has also experienced a small earthquake, seen the eclipse, and pretty much every weather phenomenon in between. But he’s never documented a hurricane.
ABOVE: KHOLBY MARTIN (and yes, ladies he's single!)
“I am pretty calm about this,” said Martin. “In a weird way I am really looking forward to it. We are as prepared as we can be. I’ve done my research. I’ve talked to other chasers. I have a background in meteorology. All that comes into play right now as I’m getting ready to set up and intercept this thing.”
All three have had plenty of experience with extreme weather. Martin’s dad, Mike, is also a man who doesn’t shy away from adventure. After 911, Mike was on the road the next day headed for New York City to help in rescue and recovery efforts. Intercepting a hurricane is also on his bucket list.
“We definitely have a shared interest,” said Martin of his dad. “But we never expected to document a hurricane of this magnitude!”
At daybreak, the trio will push out for Naples and search for a parking garage. They want to hole up and wait for the storm on one of the higher levels of a parking ramp to avoid the storm surge. Additionally parking ramps are constructed of concrete and will provide a relatively safe structure once the winds reach hurricane force.
“I don’t think the winds really are the issue of danger. There will be flying debris, but the storm surge is what can be really dangerous. It’s not going to take much to flood up the whole area,” he said.
The odds are Martin will be bunking down in that Charger for the night. There’s scant chance of a hotel being available either Saturday or Sunday night. But the group will be busy. They are equipped with go pros, video cameras, still cameras, weather instruments to record dew point and wind speed. Pretty much everything imaginable, they have it.
Plus they’ve packed life vests, goggles, food, and water.
Martin is as ready as he’ll ever be. But knowing him as Terry and I do, we know that Kholby will not only put safety first, but he’ll also come home with a whale of a tale. We'll be sure to share it with you!
You can follow Kholby on his Facebook or on his twitter @stormchaser220. Ethan Schisler can also be followed on his Facebook.