Wrapping it up…what can we do?
Chasers, it is said, police our own. That we do. But the problem is not chasers . . . even the ones who aren’t on the road to do anything but engage in an ego stroke.
I was talking with a Law Enforcement friend about this over the weekend. He brought up the recurrent theme of many in the public and LE: someone is going to have to put some regulations in place. Well, no, not really. Not only is every licensed driver entitled to use the road, but the laws to deal with this already exist.
Improper parking? Ticket it. Failure to signal? Ticket it. Incorrect lane use? Ticket it. Computer screen in the driver’s line of sight? Ticket it. Failure to maintain lane? Ticket it. Impeding the flow of traffic? Ticket it. Driving impaired or without a license/insurance? Handle it appropriately. When it starts hitting people in the pocketbook, you’ll have an impact. (When T-shirts are sold at the annual chaser convention saying “My chasing team doesn’t have a drinking problem, my drinking team has a chasing problem,” you KNOW there are some impaired drivers on every chase day.)
My friend had the idea of a multi-jurisdiction task force specifically to enforce traffic laws on convergence days. Enhanced enforcement of existing laws is one of the better ideas I’ve heard for dealing with this issue.
I only got pulled over and ticketed for speeding (103/65) once before I learned. The sheriff had me dead to rights on several of the things I listed above, so he really cut me some slack if you look at it. Unlike a lot of the “chaser community” whiny-babies who say they’ll just avoid the counties which participate in that . . . I spoke about storm awareness and preparation last fall at an event for sixth-graders in the community where he ticketed me, at an event he was also attending. The man was doing his job in 2008 when he got me and I held/hold no malice toward him.
Lest you think I’m just being a LE shill/apologist . . . I have seen the video of what the Barber county sheriff was doing a couple of weeks ago and it sounds distinctly to me like a man on a power trip, or at least in serious need of a refresher course in interpersonal skills during times of stress. However, if you watch the video closely and look at how the vehicles are positioned, you’ll see they are within the letter of the law (barely), but not the spirit of the law. IMO if another driver feels the need to get out of their lane to pass you or the need to cut their speed to below 40 on the open highway, you need to be further back from the edge.
I also firmly called down a 9-1-1 coordinator in a county along the Kansas/Oklahoma line when he baldly stated at an IWT meeting, “I tell my deputies to arrest ’em all until they stop coming here.” Yes, in a room with 60 or so other Emergency Managers, Media and NWS personnel, I made quite clear the fallacy in his thinking. (And the vast majority of those in the room rolled their eyes at his statement. Given their positions, that’s probably all they could get away with . . . I get that.)
I and the people riding with me have missed dozens of good video opportunities (the Russell/Lincoln county tornadoes being the most recent example) because there was no safe place to pull over or because we made the decision to stay away from the chaser/”chaser” horde. You can do so too.
The standard chaser fallback to threats of enhanced enforcement is usually they’ll have to do without my reports when I avoid their county then…serves ’em right. I’ve watched over the years and made mental not of who always has this comeback. To those people I say: you and I both know it will be no loss at all. You don’t report jack anyway. Please, stay out of their counties and let us who are actually out there to protect our friends and neighbors do what we’re there for.
Oh, and if you wonder whether I’m talking about you…the fact that you wonder means I probably am. Maybe not personally, but if the shoe fits somewhere in the story . . . well, think about it. Unfortunately we can’t put the genie back in the bottle . . . but the people who chase regularly and responsibly have a moral obligation to do what we can to keep our passion safe and driven by the right motivations.
In case it is not obvious, these observations are my opinion and are not necessarily shared by everyone on the KSStorm Media team. I know that writing this is going to subject me to intense criticism from the chaser community (especially the wanna-be fringe and the people who live to rabble-rouse). Be that as it may, I believe this is something that needs to be said.
While I’m no Dr. Doswell and have no hopes of ever having his level of knowledge and experience, I take a bit of comfort knowing that the people who are about to skewer me also excoriated him for daring to make many of the same assertions at the 2014 ChaserCon. (Dr. Doswell also skewered me personally in his talk — though not by name — with his comments that those who say we chase to provide warning data and help others are, in effect, yanking our own chains.)
The criticism is not new . . . see here (2010) and the essays linked from here for examples that go back to the early 2000’s. I’m going to lift a paragraph from Dorian J Burnette’s essay linked above because he describes exactly what’s going on in my mind:
Traffic has become an increasing problem during good storm events due to the number of chasers. I completely avoid chaser convergence like the plague in the heat of a storm chase. The problem is that an area packed with vehicles near a tornadic supercell has “death trap” written all over it. I absolutely do not like to encounter traffic in the heat of the storm chase, and I will go to great lengths to avoid it. I have no problem using dirt roads, and a lot of times I can be found on them rather than on a more “major” road. However, I will usually not stray too far away from a paved road because 1) better time can be made on paved roads and 2) dirt roads are no fun when they become mud roads. All I am attempting to do is minimize encounters with traffic” — DJ Burnette, https://www.djburnette.com/chasing/essays.html
In a utopian world people wouldn’t need safety lessons, all chasers would be trained and their data shared with NWS in real time, we’d be courteous to one another on the road and in our comments, etc. and so forth. But this is not the world we live in, so….
Let the flame war begin.