There is No Such Thing as a Professional Chaser

   17–26 minutes to read

The point is, on big storm days there is too much traffic on the roads . . . I estimate 75% to 90% or more of it being people who are untrained, inexperienced, and in many cases aren’t even that skilled at driving in normal conditions.

So far this year, KWCH has interviewed me twice concerning the number of people clogging up the roads. One of my fellow KWCH chasers was also interviewed for this story

Anne got the story mostly right…don’t judge the story only by the portion of it that got in the written copy. As with any media story, the reporter does not have the experience in the field they’re doing the story on that their interview subjects do. Several things I want to correct, clarify and amplify:

Thing 1: There are no professional storm chasers. A professional, by definition, is someone who earns their income from doing a particular task. In my opinion, that means the main source of the income that supports their family.

There are professional meteorologists who chase storms as a component of their job. Some chasers do receive payment for the video they shoot (I am in this group), for expenses, or they sell photos or chasing tours.

But even for the most hard-core chasers among us, this is a hobby — a passion — not what puts bread on the table. If there is even one truly professional storm chaser who earns their primary income from storm chasing, I’m not aware of them.

Thing 2: Everyone has a right to the road…we all paid/pay for it. Absolutely. I emphasized this in my interview with Anne, and she also mentioned it. BUT everyone also has a responsibility to use the road within the limits of the law, common sense, and our joint responsibility for the safety of everyone on the road.

This article on The Vane, which is a good read in and of itself, contains the following paragraph that expresses this facet more clearly than I’ve been able to:

This is one of those instances where people have to remember that we all live in a society, and that they have to think of the safety of those around them, as well. I know many people like to live in some Machiavellian fantasy where they should do whatever they can to serve themselves, to hell with everyone else, but one person’s selfish actions can harm so many other people in a situation like this.

Put another way: your right ends where it interferes with the safety of others.

Thing 3: There are a LOT of chasers on the road for what I consider illegitimate reasons. Lance backed off the specifics in his interview, but I’m going to put it out there. There are ONLY TWO legitimate motivations to be on the road chasing storms, in my opinion.

  • Research/Education
  • Active participation in the warning decision & communication process

That’s it.

Fame, fortune, witnessing the power of nature, photographing the storms for posterity, whatever . . . all are things that may come as a byproduct of one of the two motivations above. If that’s what you want I hope it comes for you.

But when your instinct upon seeing a tornado is to grab the video camera and call your friends two states away to gloat, you’re on the road for the wrong reason. STAY HOME.

If your instinct is to call the local NWS office, call the net controller on your amateur radio, report on SpotterNetwork, notify in NWS Chat, Tweet a photo of the storm to the local NWS @handle, or otherwise add your observation to the warning decision making process — I’m glad to see you on the road with me!

If you’re a published researcher in the midst of a research project, I defer to your much more advanced skills and training and respect you deeply for what you’re doing. Same for those training the next generation of meteorologists (CoD Chase teams, for example).

There are quite a few people who go out . . .  perhaps on their own property or within a few miles of home, where they know the roads and are able to maneuver away from chaser convergence…just to view the storms safely. If you have the knowledge to keep yourself out of the dangerous areas, more power to you. Please remember to call in your severe weather reports to the local NWS office.

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