Lessons in Stormchasing

From: Barry Hansen
EF-5 Tornado East of New Hartford on Sunday, May 25, 2008

EF-5 Tornado East of New Hartford on Sunday, May 25, 2008

I have been asked a lot of questions about storm chasing from coworkers and friends and there are some things I would like to cover about the subject.  First of all I want to tell everyone that storm chasing is not a hobby for thrill seekers, it’s more of a fascination. It is in my humble opinion about 70% luck 20% gambling and 10% preparation.

Now if you happen to get that 90% covered that’s great, you are staring at a tornado probably.  But that last 10% is what could stand between success and trouble.   Anyone who wants to chase a storm I don’t want to discourage you, in fact I would encourage you to see a rare phenomenon of nature that can be just as beautiful as it is deadly. But I want anyone who chases to do so with that last 10% that I’m talking about.
Nick and I go out fully prepared to possibly put our selves in harms way.

The first thing we both did was educate ourselves. If you want to chase I strongly recommend that you at the very least take a storm spotter class put on every spring by the National Weather Service, they provide you with a lot of valuable information at absolutely no charge.

Also in most cases you don’t need to travel far to take a class, they send people out to various locations and there is usually one within 15 minutes of your home sometime from the beginning of March through the end of May.

3053_76335548255_75982018255_1667537_6507566_nThe next thing is the most important thing, have a plan.  Know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.  Once you do this, LET SOMEONE KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO BE.  Chasers can easily cover anywhere between 300 to 1000 miles in a day.  It’s important to let someone know where you are at various times throughout your chase. if something happens and no one knows where you are, no one knows where to even start looking for you.

This leads me to the next rule of chasing.  NEVER CHASE ALONE!!!
Do not do this.  Never, ever.  I can’t stress this enough.  Two heads are better than one.  And an extra set of eyes can keep you safe. there are also situations that you may have to be on the move and you need someone watching your back.

The last thing I want to cover is that if you are going to chase, please, obey the traffic laws. They are there for a reason. I know the movie “Twister” made storm chasing look like rally racing, but it is simply not like that.  Driving like a crazy person to catch a tornado is only going to at the least get you a ticket and a fine, but it could get you hurt or worse hurt the person you hit.  DON’T PUT YOURSELF IN A THREATENING SITUATION, well at least before you find your storm.

Well, I hope this helps anyone thinking about going out and finding a storm to chase, it’s a boring and sometimes costly hobby but it is well worth it when you get to the exciting part. Once again, have a plan, educate yourself, and be safe. happy hunting…

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