Storm Chase May 21, 2013: Unexpected loss


chase images and log by William T. Hark, M.D. Video (HD) and pictures available for licensing. Click on images to enlarge


The day started in Denton, Texas at the Super 8. The previous night, I had met up with several friends who were also out chasing storms. I usually chase with them each year. They include Dave Lewison, an engineer from New York, Scott McPartland, a videographer from New York City, Chris Kridler, a journalist, photographer and author from Florida and Brad Rousseau and Dayna Vettese, and Greg Stephens, meteorologists from Canada. Also staying at the hotel was Charles Edwards and his tour group from Cloud 9 Tours. I initially learned how to chase storms from Charles in 1997. Dave and Chris also started chasing after being with Charles in 1997. Over the years, we have often chased storms along with Charles and his tour group or met them out on the road either deliberately or by accident. We have also gotten to know a number of his subsequent guests as many return year after year to chase storms. Angry Planet host and adventure traveler George Kourounis and National Geographic and extreme weather photographer Mike Theiss also help run the tours. We spent the early morning looking at data and later joking around with some of the Cloud 9 folks in the parking lot. Some of the new guests enjoyed looking at Scott's modified chase vehicle with hail guards and dome cam. I took several images of the severe weather tattoos on a few of the guests. George gave all the guests a brief update on the chase plans for the day. As the baggage was being loaded into the vehicles, Chris Curtis, one of the tour group members was missing. Charles and John Guyton, a retired firefighter and EMT who also works with the tours, went to check on him. They thought he had overslept. I then heard that he was unconscious, and I ran into the hotel check on him. As I entered the hallway, John said it was too late. Chris had been dead for hours. Apparently, he suddenly passed away while using the computer. Chris was in his upper 40's and had no known medical problems. The group was devastated as many have known Chris for years. I believe he started going chasing with Cloud 9 in 2004 and was a tour regular. I didn't know him well but often chatted with him when I encountered the tour group. He was jovial and friendly and above all, enjoyed watching storms. We (Dave, Scott, Chris etc.) waited around for a while until it was clear that there was nothing else we could do to help or support the Cloud 9 group. We left and drifted south toward our target area of Stephenville, Texas southwest of Dallas in a caravan of several chase vehicles. After the sudden loss of one of the Cloud 9 tour members and the effects on our other friends, we weren't really in the mood to chase storms. We ate lunch at a really good barbecue restaurant, Hard 8 Pit Barbecue and decided to end the chase early. We drove to Wichita Falls, Texas. The plan was to head to Amarillo and possible chasing in the Texas Panhandle the following day. Scott was having some vehicle problems with a non-functioning airconditioner. I was shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of Chris Curtis. Enjoy life and don't take it for granted.

Boston Globe article about Chris Curtis

Checking data at the Denton, TX Super 8
with Scott, Dave, Charles, Brad, Chris and Dayna.

George giving AM weather briefing
to the Cloud 9 Tours participants

Vehicle issues

Weather tattoo

Smoked meat at Hard 8
Pit Barbecue

Lunch at Hard 8 Pit Barbecue

Go to May 22, 2013

Return to May 20, 2013: Duncan, Oklahoma tornado

Return to Storm Chase 2013

All images Copyright 2013 William T. Hark