Storm Chasers Are Essential

As most know, some in Kansas law enforcement have been critical of storm chasers this spring. The Dickinson County director of emergency management called them "outrageously stupid." The Kansas Highway Patrol apparently targeted storm chasers on Friday, April 25 by pulling seven over, the officer rebuking them for storm chasing, and then letting them go with no accusation of violating the law. As I wrote at the time, targeting people engaged in a legal activity is against the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics.

The latter link above shows storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski pulling alongside a Joplin police car and pleading with the officers to get the sirens going! Jeff's pleading helped give Joplinites some warning of the imminent storm.

At about this time last Saturday evening, a swarm of tornadoes was occurring southwest of Wichita. Two of those tornadoes became international news when they were photographed behind a "just married" couple southwest of the town of Harper, Kansas.

The screen capture, above, is from a video of the wedding. It was about this time the tornado was destroying the home of Ms. Karen Ashpole. Ms. Ashpole is the mother of the my longtime friend and AccuWeather colleague Michelle Strecker. Karen was not home at the time and was unharmed.

When it was safe, she went to the remains of her home and guess who was there to help? The Dickinson County emergency manager? No. The Kansas Highway Patrol? No. The Harper County sheriff? No to that, as well. It was storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski!

As you know from a posting earlier today (scroll down), tornadoes caused damage in middle Kansas last night. I was struck by this statement, time and time again in the warnings:



More than a dozen times, storm chasers provided vital information about these tornadoes -- may of which occurred after dark -- which was used in the warning process. As far as I know, no serious injuries occurred.

I think it is time Kansas law enforcement quits whining about storm chasers and refocus on enforcing the law. I would also like to see the media give this issue much more balanced treatment.

I would also like to extend to all chasers who assist victims, send reports to the NWS, and behave professionally, my personal thanks.


  1. I agree completely!! I am very thankful for these storm chasers. And I think they're vital in these storms. The serious storm chasers have more experience at this than law enforcement. Although, I do hate to see thrill seekers that act foolish, but in my opinion they aren't real storm chasers. We were caught in these storms in Russell last night. Keep up the good work! =)

  2. Mike -

    There is a story in the Hutch News online edition that has the Rush County EM Director complaining about chasers during last nights storms.

  3. People love to have something to complain about. They don't like storm chasers... but I bet they wouldn't like it much if they were caught by a tornado with little warning, either. Storm chasers are saving lives.

    Who knows if it would matter, but I wonder if it would help to get a petition or letter-writing campaign going to the police departments that are giving chasers the most trouble.

  4. Mike B: what the Rush County EM Director states at the bottom of the Hutch News article is an accurate depiction of what I saw at least 5 times during the several hours we chased.

    Annoying, and in a few instances, not very aware of their surroundings (like standing on the road side of the chase van with dark clothing on, after dark....tripods blocking 2/3 of the road width...things like that). But he doesn't claim, and I never saw, any activity that impeded efforts to document or respond to the storm.

    Of course, a tractor coming down the dirt road at you taking up the whole width of the road is annoying, and no one wants to suggest the tractor is doing something wrong. Annoyance is a fact of life, and sometimes people comment about it. I don't think the Rush EM's comments were out of line.

  5. Scott,

    Here is my problem: It is not the job of law enforcement to comment on every "annoyance." It is the job of law enforcement to enforce the law, no more, no less.

    That said, chasers would help themselves a great deal by making sure the annoyances were at a minimum.

    Thanks for the comment. Mike


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