Monday, April 30, 2012
When severe weather hits KAKEland, trained storm chasers like Lanny Dean are out in full force trying to capture a tornado touchdown on camera.
"We are truly out there for a reason: to teach people weather, to show them weather," said Dean, owner and lead forecaster of Extreme Chase Tours.
Chasers are also the eyes and the ears of the storm.
"We validate that warning process by giving direct information to the NWS, to local media outlets, such as Jay Prater," said Dean.
That is what Dean and his crew were doing Friday when he says he was pulled over near Coffeyville by a trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol.
"What we feel like the reason was for the officer pulling us over was what I consider nothing more than targeting," said Dean.
Dean says seven other chasers were also pulled over in different parts of the state for frivolous reasons, and lectured about their involvement in the chase.
Deans says many were threatened with tickets, even jail time. He says they were warned about the tinting of their car windows and the proper way to park.
Why were they attacked, as Dean puts it? He says they are being lumped together with all chasers and spotters, even the people who are only out there for the thrill.
The Kansas Highway Patrol says any stop is a necessary one.
"When we stop a motorist at any time, we've got to have probable cause for that traffic stop. So, we would not stop a vehicle for no reason," said Trooper Gary Warner, Kansas Highway Patrol.
Dean disagrees and fears soon he and others may be forced to quit chasing in Kansas, which he says puts everyone in danger.
"How many people are going to have to die before people realize we're worth our weight in gold out there?" asked Dean.