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Blog A Popular Hobby Has Become A Dangerous Passion - Examining the Risks Faced by Chasers

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In 1996 a famous movie called Twister came out. It glorified the chase to capture footage of storms and tornadoes. The thing people miss about this movie is that while the premise attempted to gain scientific knowledge through experiments, it also demonstrated the dangers of chasing through injury and death. Many people, though, need to be heeding this warning.

Since this movie, more and more people each year take to the road to try and capture footage of these beastly storms. This leads people who are not trained to go it alone and put themselves in extreme danger by being out on the roads and in front of these storms. Often putting themselves to the east of these storms and right in their path.

Even the best storm chasers with years of experience have been killed by storms that suddenly changed or switched directions and ended up being right up on them. In 2013, Paul Samaras, Tim Samaras, and Carl Young died when an EF3 tornado in Oklahoma turned on them. They had been doing this for years, and this tornado surprised them. They had previously been safe, but this storm trapped them in the path.

Then some are breaking traffic laws, getting caught in unfortunate situations, driving tired, recklessly, or just having a regrettable accident. In March of 2022, three more storm chasers were killed in a car crash while chasing a tornado in Texas. More chasers are going to equal more accidents.

I can only find data from 2010 to 2022, but according to the Storm Prediction Center, 15 storm chasers have been killed and many more injured in that time frame. Governments and organizations are calling for increased safety measures. Some have called for better training programs, while others suggest storm chaser activity regulations. And while it will be hard to put rules on storm chasers due to the freedom to move in this country, there could be penalties for injuring or killing someone while storm chasing.

We have already seen several chasers injured and trapped in the path of storms this year, and the season has really just begun. I pray that none of these men and women who put themselves in the path of a tornado are killed. If this year's activities continue, we may very well read a story of a chaser who has passed. This will be a detriment to the chasing community, their family, and friends. We have also seen people who are not storm chasers video storms that are coming right at them. Do yourselves and your family a favor. Take shelter.

If you decide to be involved in storm chasing, you must do so responsibly. There isn't enough money in this world that is worth getting killed or severely injured trying to get a photograph or video of a tornado. It is essential to know that chasing is never a solo activity. It would be best if you had, at minimum, a driver who understands weather patterns and a navigator who knows how to read radar data and understand where storms will go.

Storm chasing is not for the amateur. Unfortunately, many amateurs are storm chasing, and this is going to continue to be a problem if people do not take it upon themselves to be trained, to work with other chasers, and to realize the limitations of their abilities to get in behind the storm and not in front of it.

Those chasers who have been killed or injured remind us of the dangers of storm chasing. Yes, the activity is thrilling, and yes, it can provide invaluable scientific data about storms and tornadoes. Still, it is more critical for chasers to prioritize safety and take the necessary precautions before and during a chase. The storm-chasing community needs to work together to develop a safety net that ensures this activity can continue responsibly.

Stay safe out there, and enjoy the chase. If you are a chaser, just make sure you come home. Alive.

God Bless
-Jay
 
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SmokeEater

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I have no words.... He says he was actively trying to make his way out of the path? Right.... At the very least, the loss of situational awareness is ridiculous. And this crap is now happening multiple times, every single event.



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Clancy

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Agreeable tweet from Brett Adair. I'm not sure there's much we can do to keep people from making dumb decisions, but I think this weird trend for glorifying people who get their stuff rocked by trying to play Go To Heaven Speedrun Any% with Dixie wedges should probably stop. And as is the advice given to people in hurricane evacuations zones for decades, don't be the person that has to have ambulances called for you when you didn't need to be there in the first place.
 
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Agreeable tweet from Brett Adair. I'm not sure there's much we can do to keep people from making dumb decisions, but I think this weird trend for glorifying people who get their stuff rocked by trying to play Go To Heaven Speedrun Any% with Dixie wedges should probably stop. And as is the advice given to people in hurricane evacuations zones for decades, don't be the person that has to have ambulances called for you when you didn't need to be there in the first place.


While I do agree with him that legislation is impossible, I disagree on other points.

Brett said:
As long as they don’t endanger me…not my problem.

That's all well and good to say, but just because they're not currently endangering you doesn't mean they're not endangering someone, and part of living in a social society is agreeing to hold people to account for their actions, even if it doesn't directly impact us. Especially in these situations, where law enforcement is going to be focused on safety and spotting, we can't depend on or expect them to enforce speeding or safe driving laws. There's just too much else they need to be doing. So either we need to be able to report it after the fact, or use our social abilities to hold these people accountable, because the normal circumstances are altered. And as humans living in a society together, it is our problem whether it directly impacts us or not. Partially because in the future it may impact us, and if everyone had this attitude, no one would be there to help us or enforce expectations on things harming us when it does impact us.

So, I do think it's important to call these folks out and make sure they know their actions are not acceptable, especially because this is a particular situation where law enforcement is going to be busy doing their other jobs and won't be able to act in the moment.

Brett said:
However, when you knowingly get yourself into trouble - don’t expect help getting out.

This is also all well and good in theory, but doesn't work in practice. If medical response/first responders/whatever come upon injuries, they are going to deal with them. They have no way of knowing who was just caught up in the situation and who was thrill-seeking. If someone has an injury that requires medical care, the hospital or clinic isn't going to kick them to the end of the line (and we don't even need to touch on whether that would be ethical). Of course, most of the recent situations with chasers seem to all be close calls or relatively minor injuries (did Chris FL have to go to the hospital?), so it's easy to say "get yourself out of it." But that's not a guarantee.

Beyond that, disabled vehicles in and near roadways or damage sites could be in the way of immediate search and rescue, and even a chaser who embraces Brett's philosophy and is fully willing to take responsibility and pay for towing/removal with a private company may end up using limited resources and even having to have their vehicle dealt with by those needing immediate access to a damaged location.

So yes, absolutely chasers should be prepared to deal with their own issues, but the reality is that it's not always possible for people to do that, especially if folks are being careless or reckless and end up injured.

Tangentially, while we think of manufactured things as constantly renewable resources, we also should consider the environmental impacts of destroying vehicles and having to replace them. The monetary cost should be a factor, but I don't think it's enough that it's stopping people. There's often an immediate environmental impact with leaking fluids and the like, but also the impact of the manufacture itself as well as the mining/creation of the materials that go into a vehicle, some of which are becoming more rare. Sand is a growing concern, and it's needed for glass, like all those destroyed windows and windshields.

I also think it's important to say I'm not against chasing as a whole, but I do think there are a lot of people who are being too reckless. And unfortunately, those of us at home aren't helping when we seek out footage of super close calls and the like. I don't know how we can be better media consumers, but I do think society as a whole needs to shift expectations for some of this to change. I do enjoy seeing live streaming stuff myself and I really have been reflecting on that these last few days.

There are no easy answers, and "personal responsibility" is a too-easy answer.
 

Clancy

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There are no easy answers, and "personal responsibility" is a too-easy answer.
Yeah, I definitely don't agree with him on everything, but it does seem like a lot of these chasers are running on the mentality of "let me make really stupid decisions and if something happens I'm sure everyone will help me out." Also agree that whether it's putting you or others in danger, irresponsible decisions are unadvisable either way. It's a complicated problem and has a lot of hot-headed talkers on the conversation currently, including a lot of chasers defending their own questionable choices because "but that footage tho."
 

Brice

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I have no words.... He says he was actively trying to make his way out of the path? Right.... At the very least, the loss of situational awareness is ridiculous. And this crap is now happening multiple times, every single event.



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More people need to see this video, if that was a violent tornado, this guy would not be alive, and the fact he has no injuries is a miracle
 

Sawmaster

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And yesterday Timmer intentionally crammed himself in right at the edge of the core. Nice video but...

These people won't learn, so another "unintended suicide" (or several) is going to happen and I think sooner than later :confused:
 

JayF

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Back in the day we chased the storm... not run right into it...


LOL I mean chase in itself is the key word, meaning behind it not in front of. :) This guy had to be washing sand out for days.
 

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*Blows dust off of comments section*

As a bit of an update, Skip Talbot just recently put out a video analyzing the 4/4/2023 storm-chasing accidents, showing how and why things played out the way they did, and offering some lessons on what could be better done to avoid future incidents (especially a segment covering a "checklist" of sorts that was devised to help aid in storm-observing safety).

Here's the video (runtime 1:18:45):

 
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The most recent storm event had a well- known chaser claim a town was "gone," which sparked some debate in the event thread about hyperbole, especially in the immediate aftermath, and I figured I'd put my thoughts here since it was a chaser's comments that launched the discussion.

On the one hand, in the aftermath of a stressful or traumatic event, people's judgement and ability to share accurate information is usually affected, so people will misspeak and evaluate incorrectly.

On the other hand, chasers should be experienced with encountering damage and the after-effects of tornadoes and should be able to view things through a more impartial or professional lens, at least if they're streaming or making public commentary. Obviously, they have been dealing with the stress of the chase, but part of being a good chaser is being able to keep a level head when in stressful situations. Many chasers are very much like this, and their commentary on damage is appreciated and useful.

But there is also a growing number of chasers who are chasing views and notoriety, sometimes to the detriment of their storm chasing skills/habits. It benefits them in the moment to use hyperbole. Excitement gets views, and just like you used horrible events in headlines to sell newspapers, people hearing that you have total destruction on your stream will tune in, which means folks are financially incentivized to speak hyperbolicly on storm streams.

So it's a real problem, especially with the YouTube weather "economy," where you have folks actively seeking the most exciting streams alongside "weathermen" also looking for the most exciting streams. Those being shown then get to develop partnerships or draw in more viewers for subsequent streams as they've gotten their name out on a large platform, so even outside of drawing in viewers in the moment, being exciting has the potential to help you financially in the future, as well.

So all that to say, I don't take generalized reports from chasers in the moment, especially ones that work well to drive viewership, all that seriously. Beyond that, there are chasers who I trust more to provide accurate information, and the one whose statement about Sulphur sparked this debate is one that I had blocked on Twitter, back when I actually used it, because he often was very clearly chasing views more than anything else.

Again, this isn't to say chasing or even streams are bad, just that it's complex, and we have to look at what drives people's commentary, even when the might not be consciously aware it's driving their reactions.

Apologies for any typos or weirdness; I'm still only on mobile and I hate it. :p
 

Clancy

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The most recent storm event had a well- known chaser claim a town was "gone," which sparked some debate in the event thread about hyperbole, especially in the immediate aftermath, and I figured I'd put my thoughts here since it was a chaser's comments that launched the discussion.

On the one hand, in the aftermath of a stressful or traumatic event, people's judgement and ability to share accurate information is usually affected, so people will misspeak and evaluate incorrectly.

On the other hand, chasers should be experienced with encountering damage and the after-effects of tornadoes and should be able to view things through a more impartial or professional lens, at least if they're streaming or making public commentary. Obviously, they have been dealing with the stress of the chase, but part of being a good chaser is being able to keep a level head when in stressful situations. Many chasers are very much like this, and their commentary on damage is appreciated and useful.

But there is also a growing number of chasers who are chasing views and notoriety, sometimes to the detriment of their storm chasing skills/habits. It benefits them in the moment to use hyperbole. Excitement gets views, and just like you used horrible events in headlines to sell newspapers, people hearing that you have total destruction on your stream will tune in, which means folks are financially incentivized to speak hyperbolicly on storm streams.

So it's a real problem, especially with the YouTube weather "economy," where you have folks actively seeking the most exciting streams alongside "weathermen" also looking for the most exciting streams. Those being shown then get to develop partnerships or draw in more viewers for subsequent streams as they've gotten their name out on a large platform, so even outside of drawing in viewers in the moment, being exciting has the potential to help you financially in the future, as well.

So all that to say, I don't take generalized reports from chasers in the moment, especially ones that work well to drive viewership, all that seriously. Beyond that, there are chasers who I trust more to provide accurate information, and the one whose statement about Sulphur sparked this debate is one that I had blocked on Twitter, back when I actually used it, because he often was very clearly chasing views more than anything else.

Again, this isn't to say chasing or even streams are bad, just that it's complex, and we have to look at what drives people's commentary, even when the might not be consciously aware it's driving their reactions.

Apologies for any typos or weirdness; I'm still only on mobile and I hate it. :p
It's definitely a problem, and there's a lot of amateur chasers out there that will jump all over anyone who even suggests such. Kind of goes for everything chaser-wise, horrid chaser convergence (that will end up getting a lot of people hurt at some point) just one example. I also think a lot of folks easily forget how many people have serious anxiety related to weather and also how seeing someone enthusiastically gawking at people's destroyed homes isn't always particularly encouraging if you're someone affected by a storm. Also, the aforementioned chaser being "well-known" is just about an understatement at this point haha. Storm spotting is important, and there's nothing inherently wrong with chasing for photography, video or even just a hobby, but there are problems that really need to be addressed.
 

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Numerous sources say that the woman killed yesterday when she was blown/thrown out of her car near Corning IA yesterday (5/21/24) was a chaser. This was where Reed Timmer showed the wins turbines collapsing. The Coroner confirmed the death but hasn't listed any other details.

I am appalled watching bunches of livestreams with chasers shown "playing leapfrog" past one another to be the closest one to a tornado. Not just a few chasers or incidents but many. And clearly a number of the new chasers have no clue about what they're doing. A calamity is certain as things are now.
 

Clancy

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Numerous sources say that the woman killed yesterday when she was blown/thrown out of her car near Corning IA yesterday (5/21/24) was a chaser. This was where Reed Timmer showed the wins turbines collapsing. The Coroner confirmed the death but hasn't listed any other details.

I am appalled watching bunches of livestreams with chasers shown "playing leapfrog" past one another to be the closest one to a tornado. Not just a few chasers or incidents but many. And clearly a number of the new chasers have no clue about what they're doing. A calamity is certain as things are now.
Not to mention chasers making it a competition to zero-meter a tornado on yesterday's Iowa tornadoes.
 
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