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Published:March 3rd, 2012 13:41 EST
Storm Chasing 'Riding the Limits of Mother Nature'

Storm Chasing 'Riding the Limits of Mother Nature'

By Ron G Anselm


I don`t know what would be more thrilling or fun to be a storm chaser living life on the edge and to the limits while your bearing down on the heels of a giant twister or what I did when I was in Search and Rescue in the Coast Guard to battle storms and huge waves as you pursue a cry for help from a distressed vessel miles out at sea.  

I have always had a little live life on the edge in me and still have a lot of  the thirst for thrill for adventure in my spirit, I mean you have to if you are or were in a job where you are or were putting your life on the line every day to help others.

I remember when I was fifteen years old I wanted to be a Stuntman. My best friend and I went the road of Hollywood and pursued that dream of being the stunt double for many actors. We talked to stunt coordinators and found out although you get paid a lot of money for taking that 600-foot fall or being wheeled out of a car at 100 MPH you had to go to stunt school first to learn how to survive and keep your body in one piece before you could really be accepted on the silver screen as a certified stunt man. Of course, it costs a lot of money I did not have at fifteen years old, so I decided to go a different route in life but again that was the thrill seeker in me coming out.

One profession and I guess you can call it a profession or at least a part-time job on the side is to be a storm chaser. I have always loved science and especially Meteorology. I also know what it is like to be on the other side of the spectrum and trying to outrun a tornado while driving in my car and having the tornado bearing down on me like a speeding top twirling out of control with a force greater than a nuclear explosion and somehow I win and outrun the tornado. Living in the Deep South this is basically a normal occurrence for anyone in the spring. If you are driving in your car while there is tornado warnings up you may find yourself putting the pedal to the metal if a tornado pops out of nowhere.

The fun though would be if you are the pursuer and chasing storms as if you were a Bounty Hunter chasing wanted fugitives. We hear all about storm chasing and the people that do this but do you really know what a storm chaser is? There are really two definitions that make up the complete variable to the equation of storm chasing. The first definition is storm chasing.

A quick definition of storm chasing is the pursuit of any severe weather condition, regardless of motive, which can be curiosity, adventure, scientific exploration, or for news professions/media coverage.  (Wiki, com, 2012).

The second definition is storm chaser and that is simple a person who chases storms. You probably have to be a little whacked to chase storms but at the same time the thrill of it is worth it. Most storm chasers are out for the big game which is to chase a tornado but some chasers pursue thunderstorms, watch a barrage of hail and lightening and basically act as scientists and some are as they study these storms and try to help out the local media in these areas and act as front line soldiers in giving warnings to local law enforcement and the National Weather Service to warn residents of approaching tornadoes and storms.

Like I said you basically have to be crazy to chase storms but there are also some positive reasons for doing it besides helping give warnings of approaching storms. Some do it for the photography of storms. Some do it for the sightseeing of the sky and land as these storms move through the various landscapes and shed a little artistry on the scenery while at the same time shedding a force not to be reckoned with. Others like me take the approach as if a storm may be an opponent. I have to face and beat my opponent as if I was a warrior in battle and the storm is my enemy. I will not lose and there is no room for defeat. So, as I survive the chase of the storm, I win the fight and battle.

Most storm chasers are not paid for what they do. Some may make YouTube videos, some may sell personal videos and make a profit and others may get their name out there to help their future career in science and meteorology. Storm chasing does involve technology. Most chasers use computers to analyze data and send data while on the chase.

 I saw once on a documentary about storm chasers where a group of chasers used a computer generated system where they had electronic gear on the roof of their vehicle which measured wind velocity of tornadoes and sent the information to their computer they had inside of their vehicle which was saved on their hard drive for future study. They parked their vehicle in the path of an approaching tornado,  Scurried out of their vehicle like mice running from a cat and jumped in a nearby ditch as the tornado swirled right by their vehicle and over it as the data was collected. So, there really is a science to storm chasing.

A lot use an armor plated vehicle to try to defend against the fury of storms while performing their duties. A lot of them use HUM-V`s which if you don`t know what a HUM-V is; it is what the Army uses now as their jeep. The HUM-V replaced the old Army jeep. HUM-V`s are like a mini tank if you put enough armor plating on them and they can withstand a lot of impact, so they make the perfect weapon for protection when chasing storms.

The main bulk of storm chasing occurs during the spring and early summer months when the most activity for storms and severe weather is taking place. Here in Alabama like right now is when the most activity takes place. When the end of winter is drifting off with the cold air masses and the start of spring and summer are bearing in with the warm, humid and moist air and those two air masses collide with one another is the same as taking gasoline and pouring it on a fire because it is fuel for creating horrendous and unpredictable storms.

So, if you find yourself bored and in the South on a stormy spring day maybe you may want to grab your camera and head to the highway as you watch what started out as a sunny and warm spring day turn into a day from a scene from the movie Apocalypse Now and chase some tornadoes or photograph some bolts of lightning if you have the guts.


Storm Chasing,, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2012.