Storm chasing has changed a lot in the past decade. Advances in mobile internet has opened storm chasing up to anybody who has a smart phone. Years ago, a storm chaser had to find a library or any place with internet to check data on impending storms. Storm chasers had to know how to read the sky, meaning knowledge of cloud and storms types were a must.
There are increasing numbers of new storm chasers each year. People chase for various reasons. Some like to photograph storms. Some like to experience the weather. Some sell their footage and./or pictures for profit. And last but least, there are those doing research on how to improve lead time for warnings. With the increase of chasers on the roads, there are going to be greater chances of vehicle accidents and people breaking the law. Thankfully in Pennsylvania, where I chase storms, chaser convergence isn’t a problem.
Sadly, on March 28, 2017, 3 storm chasers lost their lives in a vehicle accident while on a tornado warned cell in Texas. The accident happened when 2 chasers ran a stop sign, colliding with another chaser. All 3 were pronounced dead. May 10, 2017, another vehicle accident involving storm chasers occurred on a tornado warned cell in Texas. Fortunately, there were no fatalities or life threatening injuries.
Storm chasers have made mistakes in the past like being distracted or using electronics while driving. It is easy to get caught up in the moment when the storm goes tornado warned and not concentrate on driving. Chasers have been known to speed and blow through stop signs. It is not worth putting your life or others at risk for a storm.
I myself have been chasing storms in western/central PA since 2011. I am certified as a storm spotter through Skywarn. I have taken both basic and advance courses. As a storm chaser, I am a life long learner meaning I want to learn as much as possible about the weather. My passion is to photography storms. As a photographer, I want to know as much about storms as possible, just like someone who photographs animals wants to be knowledgeable in animal behavior. When I am storm chasing, I pull over to check data regarding the storm. My camera mounts and camera is mounted before I embark on the chase. One shouldn’t be mounting cameras while driving. I try to have a chase partner most of the time to look at the sky. When I am driving, ALL of my attention is focused on the road. I chase in areas I am familiar with. My vantage points, areas I use to observe storms, are picked out ahead of time. I rarely repostion because chances are, I will not get a decent view of the storm. The road network in Pennsylvania isn’t the greatest due to the topography and trees. I prefer to watch to storm from a distance. If I am caught in heavy rain, I pull over in a safe place and wait for the rain to pass. Driving through heavy rain is dangerous because visibility is limited.
Driving to storms, I am using the same road as everybody else. Having my Skywarn certificate and my amber lightbar DOES NOT give me any special privileges. It does not give me a reason to break laws and speed. My lightbar DOES NOT give me permission to block roadways or intersections or drive like an idiot. My personal definition of a lightbar is so other motorists can see you when you are pulled off the road safely.
With the increasing numbers of storm chasers on a storm, laws must be followed. Its only a matter of time before an innocent motorist is killed by a careless chaser looking at data or speeding. Stay safe everyone.
Pulled off the road documenting a lake effect snow band in Mercer County, PA.
Pulled over along route 308 documenting flooding.
I chose areas where I can see the storms approaching.