Storm Chasing 2012 -- Its 40th Anniversary Season

I storm chased both yesterday and Friday and, as one of the very first storm chasers (started in 1972), thought I'd offer a couple of thoughts on the subject.

With one exception that I will mention below, I was impressed at the courtesy, professionalism and good driving.

Earlier last week, I suggested to storm chasers they stop in Greensburg and have a meal, fill up with gas, or do a little shopping. Kathleen and I saw five chase vehicles doing just that... in just the time it took us to fill up! The people at the Dillons/Qwik Shop told us many chasers had been by. Way to go, chasers!

The only exception to this positive story were the actions of the "Dominator," the armored vehicle that was seen on Discovery's Storm Chasers. As seen below at right, it came around a corner at too high a speed with people (literally) jumping out of the way. You guys are in the public light, please set a good example!

Saw several funnel clouds, but I don't think we bagged a tornado. Here is one of them north of Mullinville. Love the colors of Kansas in spring.

Got to see a number of nice storms from various angles.

Chasing is far easier now than in 1972 when we spent a lot of time under blue skies. Now you can view high-resolution radar on your smartphone

Below is the hook echo from what would be the storm that caused the Wichita tornado just north of Dakoma, OK.

And, here is the Wichita tornado in southern Sedgwick Co. as displayed with remarkable detail in Terminal Doppler Weather Radar wind field display.

Forty years of storm chasing have brought benefits we could never have truly foreseen. There are those that do not believe that storm chasers save lives. I disagree. Watching the TV coverage yesterday, it was clear the live, first-person reports and video enhance the credibility of the warnings. When the warnings have high credibility, people respond and lives are saved. The reports of damage called into law enforcement help the first responders respond faster.

When you combine this with the research results that have helped improve the quality of tornado warnings, I'm impressed with how storm chasing has evolved the last 40 years. 


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