Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Storm Chasers: Friend or Foe

This spring is the 40th anniversary of storm chasing and I comment on that here.

As predictably as Tax Day produces stories about traffic jams at post offices, some rural sheriff every year will complain about the number of 'storm chasers' in the spring. Do the law enforcement officials have a point?
WDAF TV screen capture. Tornadoes in the Great Plains just can't get any privacy!
Answer is yes and no.

Genuine storm chasers, with only a few exceptions, make it a point to drive carefully, not stand in the middle of highways, call in valuable "ground truth" reports to the National Weather Service and broadcast meteorologists, and, on a number of occasions, have rendered valuable aid immediately after a tornado has struck.

That said, as the Davies accurately state in the story, there are gawkers: People who have no training in meteorology who (in some cases) actually stalk bona fide chasers or try to figure out where the tornadoes are going to be from the warnings then go out to look.  My experience, like the Davies', is that the gawkers cause most of the problems. Plus, because they don't know what they are doing, they are most likely to get hurt.

Just like there is no solution to traffic jams at the post office, there probably is no good solution to the gawker problem, either.

The entire story is here:

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