Storm chasers should expect a busy time of year during the spring in Texas because this is when severe weather season begins. The term “tornado season” often refers to the period from late spring to early summer; however, in this,s year’s “tornado season,” the state has already had multiple tornadoes until the middle of March.
Storm chasers are essential in assisting meteorologists and the National Weather Service in collecting data that radar alone cannot offer all the time.
“Until we get some sort of ground truth or a storm spotter or a storm chaser saying, ‘Hey, yeah, tornado warning, that tornado is on the ground.’ Because a lot of the circulations that radar picks up, that does not they don’t reach the ground,” KRLD Chief Meteorologist Dan Brounoff said. “So that’s one of the most valuable things that have as many eyes on the ground looking at the sky as possible.”
The kind of information Brounoff refers to requires expertise on the weather beyond simply going outdoors and pointing a camera at the sky.
“You’ve got to understand and interpret what the clouds are doing, you know, because inherently you’re going to get into positions where you’re not going to have all this technology,” storm chaser Jeff Stephens said. “And then all you’ve got is your visuals. And that, to me, is learning what clouds or what and not thinking that a scud cloud is actually a funnel. And a funnel is not a tornado. You know, just understand the fundamentals of it.”
When we were researching this article, every storm chaser we spoke to related stories of dangerously close calls or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And virtually all of them stated that the fear of tornadoes was not their primary concern.
“The scariest thing is probably big hail. Tornadoes, you can kind of see them in the distance, and you can get out of the way as long you don’t get too close,” storm chaser Joe Bajza said. “But the hail, if you get wrapped up in the hail, it’ll break windows. It’ll crack your windshield. I mean, you get dents in your car.”
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Yet storm chasers say that even if they can dodge the hail and the tornadoes, there’s nothing like seeing what the weather can do for them.
“There’s definitely adrenaline, especially when you start out and you see the first storm go up and you see the first beautiful structure of the day. It’s exciting. It’s awesome,” storm chaser Jennifer Stark said. “Like I always tell people, when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you see this beautiful structure, it is absolutely mesmerizing. You cannot take your eyes off of it.”
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