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Official's Vacation Was Not a Breeze

May 16, 2000|KATRINA DEAN

Most people book vacations for places with nice weather.

Not Larry Brown, assistant superintendent of business services for the Moorpark Unified School District.

They've been calling him "the Breeze" ever since he blew back into town from a two-week vacation chasing tornadoes in Texas.

Brown's co-workers even teased him by suspending a toy cow over his desk and turning on a big fan to simulate a twister.

But Brown said he's got no beef with his co-workers. After all, not everyone shells out more than $2,000 for a danger-chasing vacation, which included 12-hour van rides and cheap motels.

But Brown did. And his reason surprises many.

"I'm a thrill seeker, but only to a point," he said. "There is just something that has always fascinated me about severe weather."

The 50-year-old's most recent adventure took him to Stamford, Texas, in search of hail, wind and rain. Brown said his fascination with extreme weather conditions started when he was a kid growing up in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"We always had monsoons in the summer and massive electrical storms," Brown said. "And I saw 'The Wizard of Oz.' "

But nothing in the movie could prepare the adventure seeker for the sight of flipped-over mobile homes, shredded airplanes and baseball-sized hail that he and fellow tornado chasers experienced during their trip.

"When we were outside this motel watching this funnel form about a mile away from us," Brown said, "lightning would light up the sky and you saw this black wall of clouds coming right at you."

When the storm died down, Brown and his tornado cohorts were told that another twister had zipped right by them, almost reaching the motel.

Even though his vacation has given his co-workers another reason to tease him, Brown said it was worth it.

"I met a lot of nice people from all over the world," he said. "And even though we never saw one [tornado] touch down, I feel as though I know more about them and have a better appreciation for them."

Would he do it again?

"In a second," Brown said. "I'm already thinking about going back next year."

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