Thursday, May 30, 2013

More Storm Chase Silliness

What is it with Kansans and storm chasers? 

This complaint from a resident of Clearwater, Kansas, from KSNW-TV's web site. There have been others today.

To make a point: If having an "unimpeded" drive home to Clearwater, Kansas, at all times is that important, I recommend the Clearwater "Fighting Indians'" high school football and basketball teams cease interscholastic sports immediately!

Those games "impede" traffic far more than storm chasing ever does. What if a home fire broke out at the same time the game was over? The traffic jam could cost lives by delaying the fire department's response.

While football and basketball are fun, the people clogging the roads to get to and from the games are not saving lives and gathering vital scientific information.

Understand the point I am making?

Predictably, the Sedgwick County sheriff's office chimed in:

“Folks that just going out to see if they can get a photograph of the storm,” said Lt. David Mattingly, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office. “It it hampering our efforts to get in and assess damage and get the people who may have been injured.”
Lt. Mattingly adds, “What we’re concerned about is we’re going to have a substantial crash. There’s someone not paying attention. They’re going to try to get home and crash into somebody else.”

I was one of the storm chasers (pulled completely off the road) Sunday, May 19, and I took the photo below of the Clearwater tornado which damaged several homes. I never saw any emergency responders because we were long gone by the time they responded (we wouldn't want them to drive into an ongoing tornado to get to the people affected when the tornado first touched down).

I was tweeting information about the storm to the National Weather Service and had even checked with their meteorologist-in-charge, Suzanne Fortin, a few days before to insure they were monitoring the Twitter stream in case a storm like this occurred. My wife was on the phone to AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions so we could get the vital information out to our clients.

It is unquestionable that the storm chase program has played a major role (by confirming what is seen on radar) in more than doubling the "lead time" provided by tornado warnings. As I posted last week,  the tornado warnings cut the death toll in Moore in half.

I've been chasing this week to quality-control a system from AccuWeather that, when released, could save even more lives and cut down on false alarms. The only way to test in "real world" situations is to get around storms as they occur.

Yesterday, there were two other storm chase cars at the convenience store in Coldwater, Kansas, when we stopped in for gas, snacks and to use the restroom. We spent more than $60. I asked the manager if "storm tourism" helped his store. He enthusiastically answered yes! He said the day of the Moore tornado, more than 100 cars stopped at the store.

Storm chasing saves lives and helps the economy of Kansas, especially in rural areas. If a storm chaser breaks the law (and we saw one speeding on U.S. 54 by a considerable amount yesterday), by all means ticket them!

Otherwise, unless you are willing to give up better storm warnings, everything that occasionally "impedes" traffic, and the economic boost storm tourism provides, the annual Kansas rite-of-spring complaints about storm chasing are getting old.

ADDITION from Oklahoma:
Before Patrick tweeted this, I made a comment (see below) about the media chasers. They seem to be the worst (based on my experience). If true, and I know and trust Patrick, Channel 4 should be ticketed, plain and simple.


  1. Mike, I found Art's "logic" flawed anyway. If he heard the sirens at Kellogg and I-235 and made a beeline to Clearwater to go home to "safety" ..he deliberately drove into the tornado's path instead of driving away from it.
    So, his moaning of storm chasers impeding his "safety route" is null and void anyway since he decided to drive right into it's path.

  2. Many people like to complain simply because they can. They don't stop to think it trough first so they can make a valid argument first.

    That being said, speaking from an emergency management standpoint I can see the reason for concern with a lot of traffic on the roads.

    As I see it though, storm chasers are tax payers too, and have the right to drive on open roads funded by tax dollars. The biggest concern are those who are either operating in an unsafe manner, or those parked in such a manner as to block traffic.

    My suggestion, the storm chaser community can help improve things if they start self policing. By this I mean, if you see someone operating their vehicle in a manner that could be dangerous to either themselves, or others sharing the road with them, politely explain to them that they might want to tone down their driving.

  3. Keith: Your point is well taken. There was an instance, southwest of Kingman KS, a couple of years ago , that was a real mess. Cars not fully off the road and one of the high profile "media" chase vehicles driving in a very unsafe manner.

    Within hours, the storm chase message boards exploded with "this needs to stop!" No one needed to tell us.

    When I saw all of the cars and research vehicles near Clearwater, I anticipated the complaints and really made an effort to observe to see if any complaint would be valid. In this case, they were not. I believe among the REAL chasers, there is a concerted effort to be good drivers and good citizens.

    I'm sure life would be easier for the Sedgwick Co. Sheriff's office if the roads were completely empty at all times but that is not the reality of our society. It is the job of law enforcement to enforce the law: nothing more or less. By all means, ticket any chasers driving irresponsibly. Otherwise, as you point out, we have as much right to the road as anyone else.

    Thanks for the comment.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.