An Open Editorial on Storm Chasers

24420_553727737991820_1083095658_n Everyone in the storm chasing community knew this day would come and it has.  There are reports flying around the media about the danger storm chasers put themselves in.  This, after some chasers got caught in a powerful tornado.

The videos from this event, from a number of chasers, are going viral this morning.  So it’s only a matter of time before the criticism starts.  To be clear, I was not in Oklahoma and I don’t have all the facts on how so many chasers put themselves in danger so I won’t judge or single any one team out.  I will only state what we do and the reaction to the videos.

In the videos that I’ve seen, there is evidence that leads me to believe even the most seasoned and responsible chasers were caught off guard by the behavior of this particular storm.  It also appears that the remote road network added to the problem with so many chasers on the same storm.

What I want to point out before people begin judging chasers as crazy is this, we ARE professionals.  We know what we’re doing and we know how to protect ourselves and others.  Just like anyone else, we can be wrong from time to time.  In this era of “getting the shot” and making it better than anyone else, it seems many chasers are losing sight of the most important part of this job, one’s own safety.

Whether it’s for glory or public safety it doesn’t matter.  Safety of yourself and the team trusting each other MUST come first.  That is how I feel we conduct our chases.  While many may call themselves extreme or some other unique title, we’re all after the same thing (or at least I hope).  We are out there to keep the public safe and to do everything we can to document and learn about these monsters.

To those who are designing ways to “intercept” tornadoes, I commend your work, not for the thrill, but the science that can come from it.  But for the rest of us in simple vehicles, I think the best advice is to remember this:  Call yourself extreme, or storm chaser, or hunter all you want.  In reality we are documentarians and journalists.  And the golden rule of these professions is to never BECOME the story.

Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened on Friday, dramatic video and injured chasers have overshadowed a deadly outbreak.  I know many hurt or nearly killed in yesterday’s chase will analyze what went wrong.  I hope they do, because the next time, getting the shot of a lifetime could end up being someone’s last.

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5 thoughts on “An Open Editorial on Storm Chasers

  1. jingles waterman June 1, 2013 at 10:18 am - Reply

    To Who it matters to,
    Ok, Chasers are the eyes & ears on the ground. No they don’t mean to get caught in the receiving end of a storm. But ya’ can’t always go by computers either. These men & women on the ground see & tell what computers don’t have the ability to do. Storms have a way of changing course in a blink of an eye. These people are able to tell those not there what is going on. They are able to get word out to those who are about to be impacted which those in offices with computers don’t always get the information in time. I’ll bet ya’ anything those who have been hit with storms that have been affected in many ways & have lost everything..are very glad to these people for doing what they do..chase storms & keep their eyes open. Thankyou for your time & to all who do this cause it helps in many ways to save lives!

  2. I think this is dead on, and lets not forget the fact that this tornado was imbedded in a high precip super cell. The tornado was probably hard to see unless you were within 2 miles or less of the funnel. To some that is an acceptable risk, to others it may not be. I don’t deem myself an experienced chaser, so I don’t typically like to toe that line. My resources are very limited, and I do not have the special equipment that many do have. Also, most of my chasing has been in the upper midwest. Iowa, and Nebraska have particularly good road networks, compared to most other states. I have been living in North Texas for a little more than a year now, and I can tell you that Texas and Oklahoma do not have the best road networks, nor do they have the greatest roads. I can easily see how something like this happened, and quite frankly it was bound to at some point. I’m glad that as far as I know, they all walked away with only minor injuries.

  3. Honestly, I commend their work. It’s a rough job and although dangerous, you have to admit that storm chasers have probably saved thousands of lives. After the storms, you can find most of them helping out in the city that was hit just becaus they care so much. The work that they do helps us gain knowledge about the storms/tornadoes, and although it is somewhat crazy it’s necessary in order to collect valuable information. I find it no less dangerous than say, for example, the weather man covering tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, roads that have collapsed or other weather hazards. They are quite similar and although you don’t hear about them (the weather man/woman) getting injured I’m sure it happens sometimes. It all goes with the territory and I wish the media would just chalk it up to simple human error and not blow it all out of proportion. Human lives are of the utmost importance and I believe that that is what drives most of these chasers to chase the storms/tornadoes. If I, for instance, could save a few lives but in the end it resulted in the loss of my own life,I would say that it would be worth it. That is the choice that I make, not for someone (i.e. the media) to tell me that I cannot do this work because they decide that it’s too dangerous. There are lots of other things that are even more dangerous (think military) that don’t get hyped up by the media. Storm chasers know the risk and they know what they are doing (most of them) so I see no reason why they shouldn’t be doing what they love.

  4. I’m thankful that on one lost there life thank GOD. The people that do this know that it is dangerous and know that you try to help save lives and I commend all the people whom do this on a daily bases. I know that these storms can change directions at anytime. Please be safe and thank you for all you do to save lives.

  5. Myself and my son (a budding meteorologist, and a future storm chaser) are saddened by this. We have watched Tim and his crew as they do amazing work; the data they have obtained over the years has provided boundless info to the meteorological community, that hopefully will save lives in some way. The work that is done by the chasing community is absolutely necessary, but as with any profession, is not without hazard. Our prayers are with the families, and with all storm chasers. Keep the faith, and keep up the good work.

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