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.