Last week, we introduced you to the 5 undergrads you meet in every ATMO program. Today in the continuation of our Meet the Mets series, we examine a different, yet not mutually exclusive, side of meteorology: the storm chasers. We are pleased to announce that we made up fake interviews personally interviewed 5 different storm chasers, each conveniently falling in the each of the 5 categories. Below are their first-hand accounts.

1. The Trained Spotter

“We storm chasers do some great work for the community. To put it simply, our reports save lives. I got the ICT NWS on speed dial so I can send in my reports ASAP. Just the other week, I spotted a dust swirl north of Medicine Lodge, and the storm wasn’t even warned yet until I called and gave them the scoop. If you go to the SPC archive reports for that day, you can see the note ‘BRIEF TORNADO REPORTED BY SEVERAL TRAINED SPOTTERS.’ That was me. And it’s not just tornadoes. I also report severe hail, wind gusts, wall clouds, and funnel clouds. Did you know that a funnel cloud is different than a tornado? A funnel cloud doesn’t touch the ground. I learned that in my Skywarn spotter certification training course. If you storm chase and aren’t spotter certified, you probably didn’t know that, and you should stay off the roads. We can’t have people reporting bad information.”

2. The PhD

“I don’t really consider myself to be a storm chaser, whereas ‘field scientist’ I find to be more apt terminology. My research has the potential to save lives if the NSF will extend my grant. And save your Twister jokes. Deploying probes is only a small facet of the operation I lead. We also drive a fully functional c-band Doppler-on-wheels, and each vehicle comes equipped with anemometers, barometers, thermometers, and electromagnetic sensors to measure the microscale variability within these storms. In our six-week field campaign, we were able to position our 34-member caravan within a mile of 2 different tornadoes! That’s 2 papers right there! The traffic is becoming a major problem however thanks to the ‘bro culture’ of storm chasing. It should be illegal for anyone without a research permit to be on the roads within the severe warning boundaries.”

3. The Extreme

“WOO! Let me tell you, I am PUMPED about tomorrow’s chase. I think SPC was saying there would be several F5s. Can’t believe they haven’t gone to high risk around Bartlesville though. That’s where the TVN crew is going. I’ll be ready either way. Just put a new hail cage on the roof of my F150 Raptor. This cage has caution lights built into the frame so other vehicles can still see me while I’m core punching my way to the bear’s cage. How sick is that? I also installed one of those windmill instrument things that tell you how fast the wind is blowing. Some of the research professor guys have those same instruments and their work saves lives. I’m glad to be part of that life saving too. There’s seriously amateur chasers out there who don’t have the proper equipment on their vehicles. They should really just stay home.”

4. The Local

“Yeah I like to go out and chase whenever storms pop up ’round here. Them naders always come down right on top that hill right there. Happened back in ’97, ’05, and just last year. The same hill. I’d like to get one of the science chaser guys out here to figure out why that is. That kinda knowledge might save some lifes down the road. But nowadays, it’s way more than just the science guys chasin’ after these storms. I’m trying to drive to my Uncle Buck’s house to let him know there’s a nader comin’ since he won’t fix his fuckin’ telephone, and instead I’m stuck behind some caravan of jacked up trucks with cages on the roof. These folks just oughta stay home.”

5. The Photojournalist

“When I storm chase, I want to be able to convey not only how the storm looks, but how the storm feels. That’s why I carry both a Sony a7S and Canon 6D with a wide angle lens. You gotta have the right tools to capture both the full contrast and extent of these nature beasts. I’m tired of all these thrill seeking amateurs with their GoPros clogging the roadways. They should really just stay home as they contribute nothing to journalism. Meanwhile, my work helps spread awareness of just how powerful tornadoes can be. I would never wish a tornado upon a populated area, but photos of the destruction as it occurs would be Pulitzer material. That could REALLY save some lives in the long run you know.”

BONUS STORM CHASER: The Undergrad

“There’s nothing I love more than punching through gorilla hail to get to the tornado. Our professors try to discourage that practice, but what they don’t realize is that my ’93 Corolla, A.K.A. THE BLUE STALLION, is indestructible. Besides, what better way to understand the severe weather we learn in class than to drive straight through it? Unlike a lot of other folks you see out here, who should really just stay off the roads, our storm chasing has a true educational purpose. We’re sharpening our forecasting skills and seeking ‘qualitative verification’, and this talent we develop will help us save lives someday. Most other chasers with their 1-hr storm spotter training are blindly following the SPC’s day-1 outlook of the greatest risk being near Lawton, but if they had 2 1/2 years of a real Atmospheric Science curriculum, they’d know that the real magic will be happening down near Abilene. This is what we determined when we stopped at a nearby McDonald’s to use their free WiFi.”

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