Responsible storm chasing. Is it too late?
“The so-called “chase community” (which really isn’t a “community” at all, but rather a group of people with a shared hobby) needs to take a long look at their behavior during their chase activities.” quote from Chuck Doswell
What is it about storm chasing:
I love seeing the weather, long time chaser friends on random back roads to catch up and discuss the current storm(s), the freedom of being able to chase without stress. That warm inflow. The sudden cracks of a close strike of lightning. Windows bashed by hail. The raw, violence that tornadoes display in their movement. It’s amazing and I love it.
What I do not enjoy about storm chasing is that there are some that DECIDE to do it in a manner that INTENTIONALLY puts, not only their own lives, but others lives in danger by a desire that is only known to that individual or group. Whether for attention, the “thrill of the hunt”, the feeling like they “fitting in”, or trying to make a good story. I’m not talking about speeding and I am most certainly not talking about accidental or occasional mistakes that we all make. I am talking about directly intentional poor decision making and dangerous behavior.
Storm chasers, just stay home:
If you want to act like a moron or think you are justified in acting like an idiot when you’re out chasing, please do the rest of us a favor and just stay home. We don’t need or want you out there putting us in danger with your ridiculous behavior. You are only putting yourself and others at risk with your dumb and emotional driving while also drawing attention to what responsible chasers enjoy while shedding a negative light that, in essence, tarnishes the reputation of responsible storm chasers.
Why the need to act like fools?
Some storm chasers are now resorting to doing anything and everything possible to get attention. From lifting their shirts and exposing their bodies to passerby’s to wearing horse head masks and blowing on big kazoo like horns to even driving through small, weak dust-devil equivalent tornadoes for “the shot”. This hobby has truly become a circus full of immature people doing whatever they can to seek attention.
“Adolescents have stronger responses to rewards, particularly if an action has a social reward,” Huettel said. “They may not see their behavior as risky because it has a potential reward — maybe it will improve their social status or it’s going to help them get the girl.”
It is also interesting to point out that this “thrill-seeking mentality” has been studied for decades by the APA. In reference to hikers going up Mt Everest, the debates are about the same.
“Despite America’s tradition of thrill-seekers, Farley sees a constant tension between thrill-seekers and people who want stricter safety regulations, citing the ongoing debate over the toll of climbers killed on Mount Everest every year. Mountain climbers think the chance to reach the top is worth it, despite the risk of dying.
“Their view is, ‘We’re all going to die. I’d rather die undertaking a grand adventure than in bed with tubes running through my body,'” he says.
Negative news/incidents involving storm chasers:
Other news articles:
If this doesn’t show you that there is a definite problem with storm chasing and negative media, then perhaps nothing will.
Rich Thompson and Roger Edwards wrote about this same scenario in 2000 with several revisions since then. The title? “Cancer within”.
In 2011, an update was made to the article with a reference to Doswell’s article citing that two things had happened….(quoted from the article)
- We were right…and
- Precisely the ugly and undesired outcome we dreaded indeed has arrived.
Storm chasing responsibly:
Storm chasers continuously brag about how we self-police. However, the truth is, there is little to no self-policing. Instead, most chasers turn to social media outlets, complaining vaguely about things they see other chasers doing or lashing out at each other without ever truly calling out or condemning such foolish behavior. Some “extreme” chasers even complain about good deeds done by others after they end up busting their own forecasts and have no “attaboy” tornado video for the day.
The time has come to either actually start self-policing or stop chasing and quit complaining when the news casts negative shadows on “storm chasers”. I, for one, will not hesitate in turning over evidence of reckless driving or behavior that authorities can use against those individuals. One problem that is noted during severe weather that lets these type of people get away with such acts is that law enforcement manpower is sufficiently reduced due to a duty of protecting life and property that LEO’s must assume during such weather events. This means that while tornadoes are imminent or occurring, an officer of the law is far less likely to pull someone over for reckless or dangerous driving as they have bigger situations to worry about. However, one thing we can counter these actions with as storm chasers is our video cameras. Authorities can and will pursue criminal charges against individuals that intentionally break the law weeks and months after the intentional act took place. Especially if they have evidence. As far as I am concerned, one less bonehead on the road is one less bonehead to worry about during these already stressful and dangerous conditions. By no means, am I suggesting that I am a perfect driver, nor are any of us. I just don’t make it a habit of breaking traffic laws or damaging property/trespassing to get “the shot”. You want a good shot and/or story? Forecast better. Plan ahead. Stay ahead of the storm.
There is nothing wrong with being a professional:
In the world of professional airline pilots, a “community” full of men and women that love to fly airplanes and do it as a career, we routinely report and turn in those that choose to break the rules INTENTIONALLY. It is not an ego thing. It is not a like/dislike thing. It is for the sole purpose of protecting the National Airspace System and the lives of those that we fly and those on the ground. If a pilot decides to fly like an idiot, he gets reported and then has to explain to a federal judge as to why his/her actions are being considered careless/reckless. Storm chasing is no different and shares many, many parallels.
No, I was not out chasing the past few days due to other more pertinent obligations. However, I will be damned if a few idiots start to blemish a hobby that many, many people, including myself, love. I do not care who you are, no-name chaser to celebrity, I for one will not tolerate intentional recklessness while chasing. The roads are already a dangerous place.
Want to read further into being a responsible storm chaser?:
Here is some reading by Chuck Doswell on “Storm Chasing with Safety, Courtesy, and Responsibility”
What is the point chasing storms responsibly?
The point is, I have been chasing for over a decade. I have been cut off by other chasers that decide to run stop signs and blast out on to main roads which cause me to slam on the brakes, drive off of the road and into the ditch, and worse. The majority of these chasers that have done this (of which I have had captured on video) were “celebrity” type storm chasers (and probably not the ones you’re thinking of). Personally, I don’t care who you are. If you decide to endanger my life to make your video more interesting or your local (or national news show) more dramatic, I would love to see your license revoked to prevent you from killing innocent people that are responsibly chasing severe weather.
As an active and year round storm chaser, I am not in any way trying to discourage people from chasing. I’m not suggesting that we should stop studying, filming, spotting, supplementing the National Weather Service, or supplying video to media vendors. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. In short, what I am suggesting is that people should take storm chasing far more serious before our government agencies decide to do it for us and essentially outlaw storm chasing entirely (except, of course, without official licensing/certification).
So how do you think we should act as storm chasers? Leave a comment below with your input.