News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Flashpoint

June 9, 2013

FLASHPOINT: Storm chasers must heed warnings, remember why we chase storms

MUNCIE — The tragic death of noted weather researcher and former Discovery Channel storm chaser Tim Samaras has shaken all of us in the meteorological community. He was one of three people killed in the middle of a chase last week in Oklahoma, but he will always be remembered as a scientist first and storm chaser second — someone who helped improve our knowledge of tornadoes and lightning in order to make our lives safer.

But the loss of Samaras and his team is a tragic reminder that storm chasing is a dangerous pursuit.

With the advent of radar applications for smartphones, precision storm warnings and GPS devices, it may seem as if anyone can simply jump in a car and easily find tornadoes. However, this is akin to thinking one can rewire a house by purchasing electrical supplies and doing an online search for instructions.

People interested in storm chasing should, at minimum, take a storm-spotting class, read several books about chasing safely and find an experienced partner. They should also respect basic safety rules such as never chasing in cities, at night, or in areas with hills and trees that can obstruct lines of sight. Finally, as the events leading up to Samaras’ death revealed, chasers should maintain a safe distance and have escape routes mapped out in case a storm suddenly changes direction.

You might ask: Why not give up chasing entirely?

Even with the dangers, there are good reasons to chase and get as close as we safely can to these meteorological monsters. Unfortunately, chasing is still one of the best methods for weather researchers to collect data about tornadoes. While we understand the large scale factors that cause supercell thunderstorms, meteorologists still are learning why some storms produce tornadoes while others do not. There is simply no good way to measure the near-storm environment without going to the storms themselves and deploying equipment.

Not all storm chasers are doing research, of course. There are other reasons — some laudable, some not — to pursue tornadoes. Some chasers serve as severe weather spotters for the Weather Service and feed information to the news media to alert the public — often providing crucial warnings needed to save lives. Others brave the storms to teach classes of future meteorologists. Some, however, lead tours to cater to the curious, and some simply chase to view nature’s power up close and take videos to post online.

American meteorologist Chuck Doswell, who helped develop the concept of the supercell, has been worried for some time about the growth of chasing and the risks involved. Since the 1990s, he’s been warning that it would only be a matter of time until one of us would be killed chasing a storm.

Last week, his worst fears were realized. Samaras’ death showed that even experienced, conservative professionals can make mistakes and wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So, here’s a little advice to the chasers, experienced or otherwise: Please respect the storm. Avoid cities, avoid night chases and remember that it is better to miss a tornado than to risk your life or your property. Some tornadoes and storms simply cannot be chased, and you just have to write them off.

When people ask if a chase was successful, the best response is, “No one was killed or injured, so it was a success.” More than getting photos, videos or even scientific data, that should be our top priority: returning everyone safely home.

Professor David Call has been at Ball State since 2007 and teaches classes in physical geography, elementary meteorology, severe local storms and broadcast meteorology. Each spring, he leads students on storm-chasing trips across the Great Plains.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Flashpoint
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Bodies of Malaysia Jet Victims Leave Ukraine Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Raw: MH17 Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel 98-Year-Old Woman Left in Parked Truck Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Raw: Plane Lands on New York Highway Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Fighting Rages Amid Mideast Truce Push Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Raw: Secretary of State Kerry in Israel Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law
NDN Video
LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB'
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity