The Perils of Storm Chasing

On Sunday, November 29th, The Discovery Channel showed the final episodes of the third season of Storm Chasers.  In those episodes, the chasers got very close to, or even inside tornadoes. 

I was approached by several this week telling me what they thought what they saw was “cool” and how they would like to “try it.”

I can’t state too emphatically what a terrible idea this is. 

The people in those espisodes were experienced meteorologists in armor-plated vehicles specially shaped to aerodynamically resist wind.  An ordinary vehicle would be overturned or carried away. 

This photo, a screen capture from KSNW-TV news film, shows a minivan pulled off the Kansas Turnpike, thrown into a field, and thrown back across the Turnpike by a F-2 tornado on April 26, 1991.  The people inside were seriously injured.  

It is not always obvious a tornado is forming or approaching your immediate area.  Here is a photo I took of an approaching tornado in 2003 near Lyndon, Kansas.  The tornado was close enough that I could hear it.  Could you recognize the tornado, through the haze and heavy rain, in time to get out of its way?

I’m not convinced the chasers in the armor-plated vehicles would have survived an F4 or F5 tornado.

If you want to chase, there are companies like Tempest Tours and Silver Lining Tours that will, for a fee, take you storm chasing and will keep you as safe as possible.  Please do not endanger yourself and clog highways trying to chase storms.  


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