Author Topic: Storm Chaser mad and calling it quits  (Read 448 times)

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Offline chief-david

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Storm Chaser mad and calling it quits
« on: May 21, 2019, 05:46:13 PM »
http://www.startribune.com/mobs-are-ruining-storm-chasing-and-creating-additional-risk/510219542/?refresh=true

Mobs are ruining storm-chasing and creating additional risk
In some cases, a greater risk than the weather itself.
By Matthew Cappucci Special to the Washington Post  MAY 21, 2019 — 11:57AM

ELLYSA GONZALEZ • LUBBOCK AVALANCHE-JOURNAL VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
Texas Department of Public Safety troopers investigated a two-vehicle crash that left several storm chasers dead on March 28, 2017, near Spur, Texas.

I had heard grumblings about the downsides to storm-chasing for a long time — poor driving habits, traffic jams as cars converge near violent storms, and the dangers of rogue chasers and hobbyists. It had always been on my mind, but four years of venturing to the Plains had taught me it was just something I’d have to live with. I always brushed it off as an unavoidable byproduct of chasing.

But Monday was different. I witnessed firsthand the practices that will drive me away from the sport I once loved with my entire being. The past week of storm-chasing has been eye-opening. In just seven days, I’ve encountered:

• Chase vehicles parked perpendicular to roads blocking major intersections.

• Multiple chasers with red/blue police lights “pulling over” others to clear their path to the storm; in 70 mile-per-hour winds and egg-sized hail and less than a mile from a tornado, this could have been deadly.

• Traffic jams 200 cars deep.

• Chasers parking on/in the road to take pictures, blocking traffic.

• Chasers barreling down a one-lane road at 90 mph.

• Chasers driving on the wrong side of the road.

The dangers speak for themselves.

There’s a reason why my biggest fear about storm-chasing isn’t weather-related; it’s not the softball-sized hail, it’s not hurricane-force winds, and it’s not even lightning or the tornado. It’s other chasers. On Monday, when a large tornado passed by Mangum, Okla., the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported just one injury, not from wind but “involving two vehicles with storm chasers.”

The perils have been manifest before. Three storm chasers were killed in an accident in Texas on March 28, 2017, when a pair of Weather Channel contractors blew through a stop sign at 70 mph. In 2013, veteran storm chaser Tim Samaras fell victim to a tornado near El Reno, Okla.; his son Paul and chase partner Carl Young also perished. A Weather Channel vehicle was tossed 200 yards, breaking the driver’s neck. Scores of other chasers cheated death that day.

But so far, the storm chase community has been incredibly lucky. On its current track, storm-chasing is a ticking time bomb. It’s only a matter of time before a major catastrophe occurs — with many more fatalities. Chaser-clogged roads and an erratically moving tornado are a recipe for disaster. It’s not a matter of if; it’s when.

Much of the problem stems from the sheer number of chasers on the road. Back in the 1970s and ’80s, there were only a handful out there. Those who were generally were trained atmospheric scientists who understood the dynamics of what they were dealing with.

But the mid-2000s ushered in an era of do-it-yourself storm-chasing — popular TV shows such as the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” and the advent of smartphones spurred many to think “I can do this.” And in many cases, they can. But in my opinion, they shouldn’t.

It’s easy to turn on the TV and see a severe weather risk area plastered on a map. Driving to it is simple. And nowadays, high-resolution computer models are made available to the public online. The sheer amount of information out there gives the tools of the trade to anybody. But that doesn’t mean they know how to use it.

Storm behaviors change. Cell service drops out. And computer models are often shaky at best. Today’s “homegrown” storm chasers may have what they need to get by 99% of the time. It’s easy to know what to do when things go right. But it’s only a matter of time before things go wrong.

It’s not just amateurs contributing to this chasing turning point. “Professional” storm chasers, too, are only making it worse. With stiffer competition and more of it, many are taking to the extreme to get the best, most up-close footage. This often means taking unnecessary risks and putting others at risk as well. Yet time and time again, it’s gobbled up by the public, encouraging this “bad behavior” further.

Branding things as “extreme” gets clicks and views. That makes money. And across the board, we’re much more likely to celebrate an “extreme storm chaser” than we are a “safe storm chaser.” You’re not going to turn on the TV and see a headline that reads “storm chaser records tornado from a safe distance.”

It’s part of a larger cultural issue that’s in the process of redefining storm-chasing. For many, the practice we fell in love with simply doesn’t exist anymore.

And with big profits on the line, the dangerous behavior will only get worse. Illegal driving won’t be policed by law enforcement; they’re busy during severe weather. And there’s no real way to practically limit the number of storm chasers or tourists that venture out.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. And it will take a major event to drive greater change and prompt discussions about the sport in general.

Maybe it’ll be from more devastating car accidents. Perhaps a tornado will sweep over a chaser traffic jam. Or maybe an “extreme” storm chaser won’t have dumb luck on their side. The number of things that can go wrong are endless.

And one of these days, they will.

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Offline CW2274

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Re: Storm Chaser mad and calling it quits
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2019, 06:18:59 PM »
As long as there's roads, cars, cameras, and people to work them, this will not change and you can bet it's a "won't happen to me mentality". So be it. Right or wrong it's a risk people knowingly take or are oblivious to.
As far as Tim Samaras and Co., I don't believe they should have been thrown into this mix, Tim was a leader and a consummate professional at his craft, and if anything overly cautious. They died from the massive El Reno tornado making a sudden, unexpected turn towards them and the lawnmower engine in their subcompact car couldn't literally get them out of the path in time as they were swept away.

Offline Aardvark

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Re: Storm Chaser mad and calling it quits
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2019, 11:26:04 PM »
US teachers have always had the desire during severe storms to send the biggest pain in the rear kid up on the roof with a metal pole, or outside to see which way the wind was blowing.

When we were doing a lockdown drill at the high school where I was teaching before being retired,  we were fortunate in the physics room to have a back storage room that one could actually set up camp and live in if needed. The room unfortunately was a fish bowl. A large picture window was open to the hallway, not a safe place is someone is wabbit hunting. 

So while back with my 9th grade physics class and we were in the storage unit with the computer (it was used to send messages that things were fine or not)  one of my students asked me how could we tell when things were safe if it was a real shooter.   I looked at him and said,  I would select the student who isn't taking it seriously or not behaving and send them out in the hallway.  If they came back it would be safe and if they didn't we would set up a memorial.   One kid said I was kidding, I said , are you sure?
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Offline SlowModem

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Re: Storm Chaser mad and calling it quits
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2019, 10:37:44 AM »
This El Reno video may have already made the rounds here, but I'll post the link just in case there's someone that hasn't seen it.

In my opinion, anybody that gets close to a tornado is an idiot.  They are extremely unpredictable and life-threatening.  The El Reno tornado is a perfect example of that, as described in the video I'm posting.

I don't think there's anything that can be done about it.  As long as TV shows keep glorifying the chasers, and paying big pucks for pictures and videos, there are going to be throngs of storm chasers out there trying to get the money shot.

I could have invested in cameras and equipment, but I chose to invest in a storm shelter.  And we all used it (my wife and I, my parents, and my dog) all night back in 2011 when there were hundreds of tornadoes in the area.  To me, that's what makes sense.  The chasers are tempting fate, and some have already found they made the wrong decision andn lost their lives because of it.

« Last Edit: May 22, 2019, 11:06:10 AM by SlowModem »
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Offline SlowModem

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Re: Storm Chaser mad and calling it quits
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2019, 10:46:09 AM »
US teachers have always had the desire during severe storms to send the biggest pain in the rear kid up on the roof with a metal pole, or outside to see which way the wind was blowing.

I've always thought it's hard to be a teacher.  But thinking about it, I'll bet there's a lot of things that have changed over the past 20 years just concerning the safety of the students because of all the shootings, tornadoes, etc.

IMO, teachers should be paid more and appreciated more.
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Offline WeatherHost

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Re: Storm Chaser mad and calling it quits
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2019, 10:48:36 AM »
and the lawnmower engine in their subcompact car couldn't literally get them out of the path in time as they were swept away.

I don't think there's anything that can be done about it.  As long as TV shows keep glorifying the chasers, and paying big pucks for pictures and videos, there are going to be throngs of storm chasers out there trying to get the money shot.

Like any other business (which this has become), they can require licensing/permitting, training and vehicle inspections to make sure safety standards are met.  No sticker on your vehicle means extra fines if caught doing something improper.  I'm not saying everybody needs one of those wedge shaped tank-like things I've see mentioned, but they should not be out there in go-karts either. At the very least, a 'chase' vehicle should be required to have some form of roll cage type structure.  And make sure they don't have anything prohibited by law like was mentioned in the article.

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Offline SlowModem

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Re: Storm Chaser mad and calling it quits
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2019, 11:11:56 AM »
In this picture, you can see my position marked DW0148 and all the tornado warnings around us.  That is a night we'll never forget.  My wife and I, my parents and my dog spent the night in our shelter.  We could hear them roaring overhead.  Luckily, none of them touched down close to us

I think everyone should have some type of shelter.  They're not that expensive, really.  And their value can't be measured if it saves you from a storm.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2019, 11:15:36 AM by SlowModem »
Greg Whitehead
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Offline Bunty

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Re: Storm Chaser mad and calling it quits
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2019, 11:14:47 PM »
I wouldn't be surprised if a storm chaser dies from being unable to escape after getting stuck on a muddy dirt road.

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Offline CW2274

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Re: Storm Chaser mad and calling it quits
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2019, 12:32:50 AM »
I wouldn't be surprised if a storm chaser dies from being unable to escape after getting stuck on a muddy dirt road.
Exactly why one with any common sense tries avoiding them like the plague.

 

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