A sad day yesterday hearing about the passing of fellow storm chaser Andy Gabrielson. Andy was headed back to Minnesota after chasing in Texas when his Tahoe was hit head on by a wrong way driver on the highway. Alcohol is suspected in causing the driver who hit Andy going the wrong way down the highway. He is survived by his parents, wife and 3 year old daughter. He was 24.
I didn’t know Andy very well, save for a few 3 minute conversations we had at the Chaser Convention over the past couple of years, but everyone was familiar with his work. If there was amazing footage on The Weather Channel, there was a 99% chance that it was probably from him. Andy was a chasing machine. He would drive (usually all night) insane hours just to get to the target area every day. Minnesota one day, Texas the next. It was insane. And whether it was boom or bust, you knew he was in the best position to see tornadoes on every chase. Whenever I had a car full of people out on a chase, it was inevitable that at some point in the day someone would say “Hmm, wonder where Gabrielson is today?” Andy was definitely one of the measuring sticks. While out chasing, I come across other chasers all of the time and few really stick out to me. But when you passed him, or saw him sitting on the side of the road ready to film, it was different. ”Oh, Gabrielson’s here? I must be in the right spot.” Few others have that kind of impact. Pretty impressive for someone that was never on any Discovery shows, or rarely actually seen on television. His insanely good footage on an almost daily was his face and what made his name.
My favorite memory of Andy came on May 31, 2010. Yep, the Campo day. Dann and I had decided to chase that day down to Southern Colorado near the Oklahoma panhandle border. We sat on a beautiful supercell for a few hours which eventually produced one of the most prolific tornadoes in history; the Campo, CO tornado. The day before this however, there was a slight risk up in North Dakota and I recalled seeing Andy’s chaser icon up there on those storms. Now, the next day Dann and I were watching this gorgeous tornado and I remember saying to Dann, “Well, I guess Gabrielson can’t get to em’ all!” I took a quick glimpse at the radar and you’ll never guess who’s icon popped up? Of course, Andy Gabrielson. Haha, I couldn’t believe it. He was damn near in Canada just the day before! ”No way, no way!” I kept saying. It was at that point, Dann and I were convinced that Andy secretly had a mad scientist friend and a Delorean equipped with a flux capacitor.
Of course, he didn’t have a time machine. It was Andy doing what he did best. Never stop chasing. Why would I have ever thought that Andy wouldn’t drive all night from North Dakota down to southern Colorado to chase a 2% tornado risk? Of course he did. Also not surprisingly, he shot the best video from that day.
As is the case with many tragic deaths, Andy was the victim of randomness. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Potentially the victim of another drunk driver’s idiotic decision. It’s not fair. It’s cruel and cold. Andy spent a large amount of time getting dangerously close to mother nature’s fury. It’s a twisted irony, that this is how it ends. My thoughts go out to his family, particularly to his 3 year old daughter who I know will be in good hands. RIP Andy, you were one of the greatest chasers out there.