At 3:37 p.m. on Saturday, thunder boomed - chasing most of the storm chasers inside.
"This is one storm I hope goes by," said Dave Carroll, a veteran storm chaser and Pulaski County High School meteorology teacher, as he headed into his Blacksburg home. Several close flashes of lightning, some gusts of cool wind and a downpour interrupted the frenzied work to wire two vans with radio equipment.
But Seth Price kept working. He closed the doors of one of the vans and continued placing wires, sitting in his rain-speckled shirt just hours after graduation with a bachelor's degree in material science from Virginia Tech.
Price, 23, of Jersey in King George County, is among 12 storm chasers who headed out from Blacksburg on Sunday for a storm-chasing expedition into the Great Plains, slated to last about 10 days.
It's the third straight year that Price, a licensed amateur radio operator and a Skywarn weather spotter, has been a part of Carroll's chase team, serving as the group's radio expert.
When he was little, Price wasn't very interested in his father's amateur radio hobby. But he was interested in the weather.
"That's the way he talked me into it," Price said. "He could relate it to storm chasing and Skywarn."
Price's father, James Price Jr., his mother, Kay, and his younger brother James III are all ham radio enthusiasts as well. They were on hand Saturday to watch Seth Price graduate and to help him set up the storm chase vans' radio systems.
"In this family, you have to be a radio expert," Kay Price said.
"When I was first married, I managed to get my wife into it," his father recalled.
Seth Price repeatedly raced back to his car and his parents' car through the downpour, getting new parts to work on the chase vans' complex radio arrangement. Later, joined by some of his fellow chasers as the rain slacked off, the chasers' rented Dodge Caravan and Ford Freestar soon had a new look - the Caravan sprouted 10 new antennas, while the Freestar had seven.
The radio equipment will help the chasers better communicate, among themselves and with others, and monitor the weather as they pursue violent thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes in the Great Plains.
Their pre-chase work mostly complete, the chasers - only half of the group of 12 who headed out Sunday - and some of their family members took a break late Saturday to eat some grilled burgers and hot dogs. But what to make of the storm in home port?
"What better omen to start a storm chase than to start with a thunderstorm," Kay Price said.
"I wish I could go, too."
How the chase vans are wired
APRS Send: TinyTrak3 connected to Icom 281H and a 2M antenna.
Purpose: To update chase team's position, accessible by Internet. Signal must be picked up by a digital repeater for position to be updated. Repeaters are sparse in some areas of the Plains.
APRS Receive: Alinco TR-135DP with a 2M antenna.
Purpose: To help track the status of other APRS stations, including automated weather stations.
Dual Band (2M, 440 MHz): Yaesu FT-7800 with a dual band antenna.
Purpose: To listen and talk on the 2-meter and 70-cm wavelengths. Communication with other weather spotters and storm chasers, the National Weather Service, and emergency personnel.
Dedicated simplex rig (2M): Icom 2100H with a 2M antenna.
Purpose: Also allows communication with other storm chasers.
Family radio service
Purpose: Two-way communication between the two chaser vans - and between chasers within each van, especially when hail or heavy rain makes hearing normal speech difficult.
Citizens band radio
Purpose: Allows the van's drivers to monitor traffic information from police and truckers.
Scanners (one in each vehicle)
Purpose: To listen for storm information, via official sources. NOAA Weather Radio can also be heard on them.
Purpose: Allows anything heard on a radio or a cellphone to be heard in both vans.
Wireless Internet hookup, via cellphone (one in each van):
Purpose: To receive radar information, forecast discussions and weather bulletins.