"Storm Chasers" Cancelled

Discovery has announced that its series Storm Chasers will not be renewed. I’ve been asked for my opinion. Tim Samaras, one of the stars, talks about the show and its cancellation on his Facebook page here.

I thought the show had its good points and its bad points. The good was that it increased interest in severe weather and, hopefully, by showing their power made people respect them and more likely to find shelter when a tornado approached. 
On the downside, the show had far too much manufactured “controversy” and made at least some people think tornadoes were easy to see and chase. The latter was dangerous. 
I enjoyed watching an occasional episode and wish everyone involved well. 

The Trifecta; Chaser Meet and Greet at Noon

We had thunderstorms again last night in Wichita, the third night in a row. Many parts of Wichita have received a total of more than three inches, easing the drought a bit. The lesson: Invite a bunch of meteorologists to town if you need rain!

While it is sprinkling outside the Marriott right now, it will clear by noon and the Chaser Meet and Greet is on. Kellogg and Web Road, north Marriott parking lot.

Chaser Meet and Greet

I forgot to mention… as part of the High Plains Conference, there will be Chaser Meet and Greet in the north parking lot of the Wichita Marriott on Saturday morning noon to 3pm (August 6). There will be number of chase vehicles and you can ask your storm chasing questions.

There is no charge for this event.

The Long-Delayed Storm Chase Post

Things didn’t work out quite the way I had hoped on several levels…

The Weather

The storms I was predicting didn’t materialize as I predicted. There was one storm in our target area that looked promising. We (blue symbol) thought we would be able to intercept it north of Dodge City.

We got to the target area but the storm fell apart rather than intensifying.

The other storms started falling apart.

So, we decided to make the best of it.

The Attractions

McD’s is really pushing their new frozen strawberry lemonades.

And, we stopped to look at one of Kansas’ quirky roadside attractions.

Had dinner in Greensburg and toured the amazing town before heading back to Wichita. Even though I was tired when I got home at midnight, I wanted to get this posted since it was delayed. Well, wouldn’t you know…  Google’s Blogger system was down.

So, sorry for the delay. We’ll try it again this spring and, hopefully, I’ll do a better job of forecasting.

Storm Chasers Killed?

I have waited to post this but now several sources, including this one, are reporting that a car filled with teenagers and video equipment was found in Tuscaloosa. The occupants died and it is believed they were storm chasing.

I have also had the video below (from YouTube) for nearly two weeks of amateurs driving into a tornado. From the audio, they seem to be chasing the storm. At the :36 mark, you can hear what sounds like an adult voice say, “let’s go!” in the background as they accelerate into the storm.

The video was taken at Dunn, NC Saturday, April 16, 2011. I haven’t posted it until now because I was afraid it might inadvertently encourage people to engage in this behavior. As far as I’m concerned, driving into the immediate vicinity of a tornado (whether penetrating the tornado was intentional or not) is recklessness in the extreme.

This blog, on numerous occasions, has warned of the extreme danger of storm chasing unless you are thoroughly trained and know what you are doing. If you want to see storms, sign up with one of the tour companies that will take you out safely.

Amateur storm chasing is nothing but a formula for disaster. 

First Person Chase Account of Mapleton Tornado

Katelyn with her copy of “Warnings” in front of the
memorial to school children who perished in the
Great Tri-State Tornado of 1925.

Warnings fan Katelyn Pfeister has written this moving, and exciting, first-person account of chasing the Mapleton, Iowa, tornado. You can read it here.

ADDITION: The four chasers in the story:

From left: Kaytie Groen, Jeff Miller, Katelyn and Shawn Grossman

How Did Storm Chasing Begin?

Tonight’s episode of Storm Chasers on Discovery is supposed to be an especially good one. It premieres at 10 Eastern/9 Central.  Joel Taylor posted on Facebook that the Bowdle, SD wedge tornado will be shown. He says it is the most spectacular tornado ever telecast on the series.

Kim Dugger storm chasing.

Have you ever wondered how storm chasing started? I tell the story for the first time in Warnings. I was present in Felgar Hall at the University of Oklahoma when it was first proposed. 

Chaser Katie Bay reporting the storm so a warning can be issued while simultaneously photographing it.

Greenleaf Book Group, Warnings’ publisher, has created a Facebook page about the book.

And, if you would like to read the first chapter of Warnings, click here.

Even today with Doppler radar, chasers and spotters play a vital role in the warning process.

UPDATE: 10:05PM.  Tonight’s was — by far — the best episode in the series.  A tremendous tornado and much less of Sean/Reed “drama.” Keeping in mind this is reality TV, there is a lot of creative editing. You see very dramatic photos of metal power transmission towers falling, a rare site. But 34 minutes into the program look to the left of the tornado. A toppled tower magically resurrects itself.

UPDATE II: 10am Thursday:  If you want to see still photos and radar imagery of the giant tornado featured in last night’s Storm Chasers click here.

"Rock Star" Storm Chasers

I was asked yesterday about what I thought of the storm chasers from Discovery’s Storm Chasers making commercials like the one below that is running at AccuWeather.com .

They also have a clever Budweiser commercial. I haven’t been able to find a link. I’ll post it if someone would send me the link.

My reaction?

First, you probably need to know that I loved the movie Twister. Many of my colleagues disliked it because it of its “scientific inaccuracies.” I suggested, multiple times, they chill out because, “its a movie, not a documentary.”

The fact that Reed has turned storm chasing into a business, is great as far as I’m concerned. It raises the visibility of meteorology and that is a good thing.  More power to him!

Yes, I Wrote "Warnings"

Thanks, Kim, for posting (below) about our trip to the University of Oklahoma.

While at the book signing, a friend I had not seen in a couple of years asked me if I really wrote Warnings or whether I had a ghostwriter. He said, “It is so well written?!” The question did not offend.  I never thought I would write a book and I didn’t have any idea how it would come out when I started.

Answer?  Yes, I wrote the book. It was a 4+ year process. I had two great editors, Jeannette Cezanne who assisted me with whittling down the 500+ page first draft and Greenleaf’s Theresa Reding who helped me put the manuscript into final form.  Since he liked the book so much, I’m flattered that he asked.

A story about the editing process. I wanted Jeannette to really get a feel for what the subject was all about, so she could help me figure out what to cut and what to keep. She flew to Wichita in June, 2008, to see WeatherData, to go storm chasing, and to meet me face to face. The photo below shows Jeannette posing in front of a rotating wall cloud.

And, a few minutes later, the clouds parted enough to get some sunlight while Katie Bay (chasing with us) got this photo of a tornado (note the debris cloud near the ground).

Jeannette, who had never been to Kansas before, thought seeing a tornado (the good kind — it did no damage as it was in open country) during a chase was routine.  If only.


I love the time-lapse at the beginning of this video. It shows the “wall cloud” (the rotating, lowering of clouds in the background) well and looks like something out of “Twister.” The wall cloud is the point of origin for many tornadoes.

That said, their attempt to get in front of the tornado was foolhardy and could have resulted in serious injury. As it was, their rear window was completely blown out and their front window was seriously damaged.

Amateurs have no business storm chasing outside of one of the guided tours.

You Know You Are A Storm Chaser When…

With the extended period of cold weather (without even thunderstorms in the South), the storm chase community has reactivated the “You Know You Are A Chaser…” thread.  

You’ve memorized every good restaurant, speed trap, Wi-Fi hot spot, and bad road south of I-80 and along/west of I-35 to the foothills.

Your bladder has expanded to the size of a Hummer.

The TV in the vehicle is showing radar, instead of playing something to keep the kids quiet.

You own colored pencils.

When your honeymoon for that June wedding is in Wichita, Kansas.

When you can’t remember your anniversary but can recall with perfect clarity what happened in Waco, Texas on May 11, 1953.

When you see a tennis ball or a golf ball, the first thing you think of is hail size.

When someone asks you where your vacation will be this year and you reply “I have no idea. Somewhere on the Plains.”

When your credit card company calls you to report possible credit card fraud since your card was used to buy gas in South Dakota in the early morning, Iowa in the mid morning, Oklahoma in the evening, and Colorado late at night….. with a hotel charge in North Dakota one night and Kansas the next………

Sonic. Two functions…good food, hail shelter.

When you hear the word touchdown…and it actually means something other than a football player entering the end zone.

Many more at StormTrack.

Live Coverage of Snow Storm

My friends, Mike Phelps and Robin Lorenson, are storm chasing in the winter storm.  They are driving from Wichita to OKC on I-35.  The live video stream is here.

Their goal is to get photos of ice and the blizzard.  I don’t know how long they will be out, but if you want to see how the road looks at the moment, take a look.

The Perils of Storm Chasing

On Sunday, November 29th, The Discovery Channel showed the final episodes of the third season of Storm Chasers.  In those episodes, the chasers got very close to, or even inside tornadoes. 
I was approached by several this week telling me what they thought what they saw was “cool” and how they would like to “try it.”
I can’t state too emphatically what a terrible idea this is. 
The people in those espisodes were experienced meteorologists in armor-plated vehicles specially shaped to aerodynamically resist wind.  An ordinary vehicle would be overturned or carried away. 
This photo, a screen capture from KSNW-TV news film, shows a minivan pulled off the Kansas Turnpike, thrown into a field, and thrown back across the Turnpike by a F-2 tornado on April 26, 1991.  The people inside were seriously injured.  
It is not always obvious a tornado is forming or approaching your immediate area.  Here is a photo I took of an approaching tornado in 2003 near Lyndon, Kansas.  The tornado was close enough that I could hear it.  Could you recognize the tornado, through the haze and heavy rain, in time to get out of its way?
I’m not convinced the chasers in the armor-plated vehicles would have survived an F4 or F5 tornado.
If you want to chase, there are companies like Tempest Tours and Silver Lining Tours that will, for a fee, take you storm chasing and will keep you as safe as possible.  Please do not endanger yourself and clog highways trying to chase storms.