May 11, 2001
Storm chaser stocks up with high-tech
By Chris Kridler
Gear and gadgets help storm chasers find storms, but some chasers
don't stop at a laptop computer. Outfitting their cars for the
expedition becomes a passion. George Kourounis, a chaser from
Toronto, has taken the art to the highest level.
George Kourounis sits amid his gear
in his Honda CRV.
"I've got an engineering background,
and at work, I build and repair recording studios and all the
equipment associated with them. ... Integrating all this stuff
into the car and making it work and making it look beautiful,
it's what I do at work, and I really enjoy it quite a bit."
In his 1999 Honda CRV, he has two CB
radios, a dual band ham radio, two radio scanners, a laptop computer
on a removable desk running Global Positioning Satellite tracking,
cell phone, TV tuner, a folding TV display that pops out of the
dashboard and displays images from the video camera, a decoder
for receiving information from the National Weather Service,
two power inverters, and a programmable scrolling sign in the
rear window that can flash "caution" or, occasionally,
Outside the car, there are eight antennas,
including the radio antenna. Inside, there's the GPS receiver
and a TV antenna.
Kourounis, who turns 31 this month,
is an audio technical engineer. He's spent countless hours with
a soldering iron customizing the inside of his car. The result
is a mobile communications station with a custom-built, slickly
integrated interface, all of which can be removed or hidden from
It wasn't always this way. Around 1996,
he started chasing lightning storms, trying to get photos of
elusive bolts in downtown Toronto. On foot. "So I would
literally run through the pouring rain with all my stuff in a
backpack ... after that I graduated to a mountain bike ... from
there, I graduated to the Batmobile."
This season, he's caravaning with another
Canadian chaser, Mark Robinson of Mississauga, Ontario. Kourounis
helped him customize his car, too, but it has a long way to go
before it becomes the Batmobile.
The '89 Eagle Vista lost the front grille
and a fog light on the way to the Plains, so it has a cockeyed
appearance, and it has no speedometer or odometer. Robinson calls
it the Enraged Mosquito. It represents another common type of
chaser vehicle: the hail bomb - a car that seems custom-made
for punching the core of a storm and getting bombed with hail.
So far, the hail hasn't been anywhere that big. But the Enraged
Mosquito is ready for action.