In February of 2003, thanks to a remarkable partnership that I had with Lowe’s Home Improvement, I purchased and placed in to operation a 2001 model year Chevrolet Tahoe. We’ve known it ever since as simply “the Tahoe”.
Over the course of the next 15 years, the Tahoe endured extreme weather conditions that exceed any test track or environmental conditions that General Motors could throw at it during development. We’re talking hurricane force winds, extremely low air pressure, salt spray, blistering rain, sand blasting and countless hours of grueling work – all the while keeping my team members and me safe.
The Tahoe performed like this for over 430,000 miles and not once did it break down while we were on a field mission or during any of our public awareness/education work.
Sure, over the years it needed to have various parts replaced and we did a great job of keeping it maintained – proving that if you follow the recommendations of keeping a vehicle up to date with regular maintenance, it will last. And ours did just that, it lasted, and lasted….
Hurricanes such as Isabel in 2003 and Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne of 2004 quickly “broke” the Tahoe in and showed us that we had made the right choice for our flagship “hurricane vehicle”.
By 2005 we developed our remote cam project. We packed the Tahoe to the ceiling with large yellow “Storm Cases” that would be set out to stream live video of historic hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, Mississippi. It was absolutely critical that the Tahoe kept going – no matter what. And it did.
The next ten years saw dramatic changes in technology, the rise of social media and a continuation of storms and hurricanes. Our Tahoe? It kept right up with it all – often being featured in television news stories, newspaper and magazine articles and online reports. Its legendary status grew and more and more people began asking, “Are you still driving that Tahoe?”
“Absolutely!” I answered.
In 2012 it was the Tahoe that captured the attention of a police captain in Belmar, New Jersey as hurricane Sandy bore down, about to change the lives of millions along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
He noticed the weather gear mounted on the roof, the various hurricane related decals on the side and approached me for some advice. After a few minutes, he knew that I could help the town of Belmar to better understand what they were up against as Sandy closed in.
I parked the Tahoe in front of the town hall and proceeded to provide guidance to the mayor, the town administrator and about 30 other officials and first-responders. I told them precisely what to expect. They listened and were as ready as they could be for the worst part of Sandy – the storm surge.
I used the Tahoe and my years of experience tracking hurricanes to landfall to give them up to the second situation updates from the water front – until it was time to retreat as the surge came in. They were able to save valuable time for their rescue teams to get rest, knowing that they had an expert, and his trusty vehicle, keeping watch.
They were so grateful for my assistance that they insisted that I meet the governor the next day on a battered, sand-covered Ocean Blvd in Belmar. Had it not been for the Tahoe, none of this would have been possible.
Last year, as Harvey dumped historic rain on southeast Texas, it was the trusty Tahoe that allowed me to set out unmanned camera equipment to stream live data and video before the floods became severe. This gave people time to react and make evacuation decisions for themselves or loved ones.
Only a week later, the Tahoe proved itself one more time with a long, multi-day mission to south Florida for hurricane Irma. It eclipsed the 430,000 mile mark during this journey; never showing signs of giving up.
There are so many other stories that go along with the science aspect of what the Tahoe has meant to me and those who have supported my work for all of these years. One day, it will be part of an epic book. For now, I have prepared a short look back at this remarkable vehicle.
Now it is time for a new Tahoe, for new stories and for new ways to change the world for the better because we have a safe, reliable vehicle to help us do so. What do you think, Chevy? Want to help us out?