Even as thousands of people were fleeing the southern Atlantic coast as Hurricane Floyd came knocking yesterday, at least one man was headed instead for the best front-row seat he could find, to be there when the monster storm arrived.
His name is Richard "The Hurricane Chaser" Horodner, and since he was just 18, he's been "chasing" hurricanes all around the world -- that is, getting as close as he safely can to witness the "power and organization of nature" exemplified by each one. He has filmed every major hurricane since Hurricane Diana in 1984 for home video sales and has sold footage to TV networks, including ABC, CBS and CNN.
He's 52 now and has survived dozens of close encounters, some of them right in his own back yard, so to speak, near Miami.
Storm chasers like himself, he acknowledges, may appear to be irresponsible. "But we take precautions to stay on the edge of danger and try to stay out of it," he told CBS News last year. "We don't encourage what we do. we've done it a long time, and we understand how to get away from from the danger before it occurs."
We caught up with Horodner briefly yesterday afternoon, just as he was packing equipment and provisions in his Buick -- "a big Buick," he emphasized -- for his date with Floyd.
Richard, can you talk with us a bit?
Make it fast. I'm just putting my ice chest in my car.
Where you going?
Just north now. See where the storm is going.
What are you bringing in the Buick?
Cameras, still and video, first aid kit, cell phone, water, sandwich meat, eye protection, heavy shoes and a life preserver. Ninety percent of deaths in a hurricane are from drownings.
When will you shower next?
It could be a couple of days, if I don't find any open motel rooms, which I usually don't. Then I have to sleep in my car and your back gets sore.
What do you want with Floyd?
I just want to shoot two hours of dramatic photography -- people seem to want to see that. I call it "souvenir documentaries" -- they show the folks back home in Osh Kosh their hurricane.
How much will a Hurricane Floyd souvenir documentary cost?
What's so great about hurricanes?
I'm fascinated by the scientific nature of them and I love feeling the power and display of nature.
What's the money shot?
The "tidal surge."
Are you a crazy person?
Of course people call me crazy -- brave, goofy, nuts. I don't care.
You seem very tired.
That's the problem -- you get tired even before you go."
Tracking the storm
Here are some Web links to hurricane information, from government agencies to storm chasing for beginners:
National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov Federal Emergency Management Agency tropical weather information: www.fema.gov/fema/trop.htm
Hurricane City, Atlantic hurricane tracking: www.hurricanecity.com
Intellicast (free forecasts, satellite and radar imagery): intellicast.com/
The Weather Channel: www.weather.com
Jim Leonard, veteran storm chaser: pw1.netcom.com/(tilde)jmlcat-5/index.htm l
Storm Track, a magazine for storm chasers: www.storm-track.com
Allan Rosenberg's storm chasing links for beginners: www.gilbertzone.com/ beginner/beginner.html