The show that won't die, Tornado Road and finally some inside info about it
On September 2nd, 2008 I wrapped up with filming for the show project called Tornado Road that was produced by Original Productions. The same Original Productions out of Los Angeles that produces Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch.
I just heard from Neva's brother tonight that it is STILL on The Weather Channel.
This show we filmed in 2008, that was reported by some in the chaser community to be so bad before it ever aired, that they heard it was never going to be broadcasted. One chaser even went so far as to post on his blog in March of 2009, "On an amusing note, the much heralded show on NBC called "Tornado Road" has been officially cancelled.....not surprsingly." I left the miss spelling of "surprsingly" in since that is how it is on his website.
Too funny when I think back about it because in March of 2009, a full "SIX MONTH" before the first scheduled air date in October of 2009, the rumors were flying and nobody within the show would say anything about it. Well Beau did tell a few people some things and violated his non disclosure and had other local chasers asking me about it and I could not confirm or deny anything, even to Neva or my own parents.
I think what drove people in the chasing community insane was the fact that nobody was talking about it and I knew a lot about what was happening behind the scenes, see my blog from October of 2008 http://www.weatherpaparazzi.com/content/back-home-and-time-get-back-work that talked about my follow up visit to the production company.
What nobody knew at the time outside of the production company and the cast and crew was that we, the cast, had a Million Dollar per incident STFU clause in our contracts to not say anything before the show aired since it was a reality show. With fear of NBC Universal and The Weather Channel along with the production company slamming us with a million dollar fine if we said anything, a lot of us just kept our mouths shut which made some in the storm chasing community go insane because they just had to know. When they did not know anything, they just made shit up.
So now fast forward to December of 2016, the single season is still on the air. Slightly edited since someone did not like how they were portrayed and cried about how they looked bad on TV. Guess they did not realize the camera does not lie.
So here is some behind the scenes info for you if you are new to my blog or you have known me in the chasing world for a long time but don't really know me.
For starters, I was not even in the running or considered for the show to start. Tony Laubach was just signed on that spring for Storm Chasers with Tim Samaras and Twistex when he got an email asking him if he was interested in being part of the show. Since it was produced by the same company that also was behind the show Twister Sisters with Mel and Peggy and Tony was also part of that show from the year before, his name was on their short list of those to call.
When I got the email from Tony, I was not sure about if I wanted to even do the show. Since I'm more of a Run and Gun news shooter, I really did not want to be bogged down with a TV show. As for people saying they were in the running to be on the show and were making plans to be on the show, um, okay, the show was brought into conception and production within 7 days. Yes, Seven Days!!! So I call BULL SHIT on others saying they were suppose to be part of the show.
So without even having contracts signed and learning that my chase partner who I wanted to be on the show with me could not since Chris Collura just got a day job. Unfortunately without having someone I could trust with the forecasting and chasing since Chris just took a full time job, the producers decided it would be fun if they were to partner me up with someone that I did not know.
Originally I was suppose to be partnered up with someone that just graduated college in Meteorology but never chased storms before. I thought this could be interesting. Neva did not like it since they said it was a female and she was not too happy with the idea of me hanging out with some unknown woman for a few weeks on the road. Well, that plan did not work and whomever they were, I was told they got a job offer and could not do the show. So the producers got an idea to get a friend of a friend of their's to go chasing with me who had ZERO forecasting knowledge, could not tell a Wall Cloud from Altostratus Clouds.
So I flew to Denver on June 3rd, 2008 and had no idea what I was getting into but just knew I was going to make the best of the unknown.
A little known fact that on the day that we were suppose to leave Devner on June 4th, I was like a caged animal freaking the funk out because there were storms firing up a couple hours to our east and the next day was a High Risk day, See Blog but the production did not have insurance and we were on hold. Did I say they put this whole thing together in 7 days? Yes so I was taking a crew out that has never chased before and was late out of the gate the night before entering into a high risk forecast and we were already running late.
Was everything on the show real? Yeah for the most part but they moved few things around so the time line of events was not as it happened for some of the storm chases.
And the big question, what about Phil? I had no clue about him before the show and have not heard from him since the show. As you could guess from watching the show, we did not get along. That was real and there are a lot of things that happened behind the scenes that just made me say WTF, why is he here, why am I even here.
The plan was for me to be out for no more then two weeks for this production as I had a scuba diving trip at in early July planned and their was no way in hell I was blowing it off. On top of that, I was also planning on moving to Saint Cloud to be closer to Neva. I end up spending a month on the road with him and to be nice, if you plan on spending any time on the road with someone, make sure it is someone that you get along with.
Did he really cost me some great storms? Well, if you saw the show where I was waiting at 9am to roll out and we did not leave until noon because he was doing Yoga? Yes that really happened but it was on the third day out and we were in Kansas City with a target of Mason City, Iowa. So you could imagine how pissed off I was when the tornado reports started to come in as we were only near the Iowa and Missouri boarder. Click here to see the SPC storm reports for the day. All of the red dots are tornado reports and we were 3 hour's too late.
So that night I was pretty much pissed off that I missed a great event in a great area with the plan to head up to North Dakota the following day but was told we were to start heading back to Des Moines, not north. So I was pretty much out of control of where and what we could chase. I did get to make my FU statement that night when we were again told we could not stay in Des Moines and had to go to Omaha. OMAHA? WTF, I wanted to chase up in North Dakota and was thinking WTF was I doing here and then I remembered they were paying all the fuel, which at the time was $4.00 or more a gallon. So on the way to Omaha, we actually got separated from our camera crew and producers on the drive over from Des Moines to Omaha, so guess what happened next?
Yes, no camera crews or producers to hold me back and we ended up getting on a tornado.
So yes there really was a tornado intercept on Tornado Road but Phil and I were the only ones to intercept the storm.
The executive field producer and the field producer with our crew were very pissed off. I was told you wait for us and I just told them the weather waits for nobody so I wait for nobody. That was the point I knew I really was not getting paid enough and wanted to go home because this was not fun anymore.
I did stick it out and after my expiration date of June 15 came when I was suppose to go home. I was asked to stay on a few more days. A few more days became a week and then almost two weeks with my sanity being stressed out to the max and the scuba dive trip rapidly approaching, what you saw on TV was pretty much how it went down except for the little known fact that we were near Douglas, WY and I wanted to drive about an hour and a half south on Interstate 25 and dump him off at the airport in Cheyenne, WY and then continue south to Denver and drop off the truck and fly home. My plan could have had me home by 10pm that night. Nope, not going to happen. I was told that the production company booked his flight out of Rapid City, SD. You could imagine how pissed off I was getting but kept my cool from wanting to strangle the producers when I was told I had to drive 200 miles on back roads to get Phil to the airport. So my plan to drive 90 minutes south and say BYE, turned into a 5 hours drive through the back areas of Wyoming and most of the Black Hills National Forest. Then being told his flight was that afternoon and the time to get there was coming rapidly and then told they rebooked it for later that night, I was saying WTF, why did you not rebook it to freaking Cheyenne like I wanted to in the first place?
It was not until we rolled up to the airport that I saw the camera crews waiting for us. Well makes sense for a production but still I was like WTF, get me the hell out of here before I lose it.
Well, as you saw on TV, we dropped him off at the airport, the camera crews and producers got their shots for the show but what I was wondering is the airport was pretty much empty and told the crew as I was walking away, see you guys later, you can pick up the truck from my place and get the gear out later. They told me to wait for them as they dropped Phil off to make sure he got on the flight so they can get an interview with me afterwards.
What happened next was not on TV. Yes I rolled out and quoted MLK saying FREE AT LAST as I drove off to the sunset but was told to park on the far side of the lot and wait. I waited and waited and then some of the camera crew got back in the truck and said were booked for a hotel for the night and they wanted to de rig the truck in the morning and then I could take it home. I was reluctant but said ok since we got rid of Phil. That was when they told me, "oh yeah there are no flights out tonight so he is riding back to the hotel with the other crew, you don't mind do you?" So I just drove 5 hours over a 90 minute drive to get rid of this guy that was driving me completely insane for the last month and now they tell me that he was not gone? I did lose it and told the producers to keep him out of my sight or someone might get hurt and it would be their fault.
Well we got to the hotel and I never saw Phil or heard from him ever again. One of the producers did come up to me and ask me if anyone told me to do this to make sure it was not staged. I told him are you fucking insane? I wanted to dump his ass in Oklahoma when my contract was up, I put up with his antics for an extra two weeks.
I did learn that night as we out for dinner with other crew members that the executive producer was suppose to drive Phil to the airport the next morning. So I made sure I kept buying him drinks, strong drinks, so he was in no condition to drive him to the airport on time. It did work and heard from my crew that they were insanely late and Phil missed his flight and had to sit at the airport all day. Bummer lol.
So yes, if you take out the time line of events on the show which were no where near what really happened in regards to what storms we were on during the show other then dumping Phil at the airport and then going on to chase Hurricane Gustav, what you saw on TV was not scripted and really did happen.
And now the other big question, the Severe Studio guys Ashley and Kelly. Who? Yes, Kenny's real name is Ashley and there is nobody by the name of Kory Hartman, it is a stage name, if you see him out chasing, ask to see if his drivers license, I bet it says Kelly Martinson, because that is what was on his 1099 when he was a stringer for my company for several years.
So why did I get them on the show? Honestly it was really simple, they sucked at getting footage up on the server and I knew if I did not pick it up from them, it would take all damn night and we would miss any real deadline. Also since they were only a few miles away from us, I figured it would make for some decent story about what I do as a video broker. But really, if I could get the raw master footage in my hand, I knew I could have it on line hours before Kelly could since he was always slow and half the time the file formats were messed up.
Plus I missed the tornado that day because again I was delayed by the production crew. The two days before the Little Sioux Tornado, Phil flew home to Texas as the crew wanted to take a couple day break. Yes I lost all control of where to go chase and this was the day after the Omaha tornado that we ended back in Minneapolis and I dropped Phil off to fly home and take care of some things and fly back ASAP. Well I got a call the morning of the Little Sioux tornado that Phil did not make his early morning flight and might not make it back. I told them after missing the tornadoes in northern Iowa, this train was leaving and I'm chasing with or without them. So they had Adrian who was the main camera guy for our crew ride down to the target area with me just in case we had to chase solo. Right as the storms started to fire and were in the middle of initiation, we had to stop chasing and go meet up with the rest of the crew. Like I always say, seconds equal minutes and minutes equal hours and hours equal days in the news video business. So the half hour detour to meet up with Phil cost me the storm intercept.
So after getting the call from Kelly saying he has video and knowing how bad he was at uploading, I just drove over to pick it up from them and give Adrian and the crew something for the story of the chase vs just saying busted again because of delays I can't deal with.
The shitty party about helping Ashley and Kelly out was the thousands I made them for the video and getting them on the show, that was their seed money along with their bragging rights to use with Severe Stuidios to start to compete with my company that had been helping them out for years. Gee thank's guys!
Will they ever do another run of Tornado Road? Well, they kind of already did, it was called Storm Riders with Simon Brewer and Juston Drake and was on The Weather Channel for several years after Tornado Road was produced. Tornado Road had another sucker punch to it which is why there are two different versions of the show. One of the cast members went after NBC and the production company because they did not like how they looked so bad at failing at chasing. Not to worry, I have a copy of the original broadcasts and they are pretty funny.
Would I ever do another TV show again? Probably not unless the money was insane and I got production credit and input vs the shitty one time payment I got for the show which was nothing compared to the stock footage sales I made from the show for my Katrina footage.
Personally, I love doing what I'm doing and not having to really answer to anyone except the news producers. The show was produced when I was 38. I'm 46 now with a 9 month old baby girl at home. Most of our friends are sending their kids off to college or even having grandchildren.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would become a parent and I would rather be home to see my child every day instead of being on the road for months on end. You can take the chaser out of the chase but you can take the chase out of the chaser. I'll just do it closer to home and help my crew out and unlike others, not directly compete with them unless your in my back yard. That is another chaser drama story all together that will come out in time but rest assured I don't own any $300 Gucci Slippers while not paying my crew or even telling them what their owed.