Thursday, March 22, 2012
The world of storm chasing fascinates millions of people every year, but the unfortunate reality is that it's a dangerous pursuit. Emergency managers across the country warn that untrained storm chasers are becoming more and more dangerous not only to themselves, but to those around them.
On this dreary day in Kansas, the clouds are finally breaking around a surface low pressure system. But there is no severe weather today. Professional storm chaser Jim Reed has made a career out of storm photography and sees the influx of untrained sightseers chasing bad weather.
"People are fascinated," Reed says. "They have this primal desire to learn and to understand what's around them environmentally and atmospherically."
Reed compares chasing a dangerous thunderstorm to trying to pet a tiger and not expecting it to bite you.
"These days, people are going to zoos that have no cages and they're walking up to the tiger and they're expecting to pet it and not lose their arm," Reed explains. "And that scraes me because people are getting hurt and now, in some cases, killed."
Just this month, two people in Henryville, IN, died when they continued to film an approaching tornado. There was every indication that they had time to take shelter and didn't. Another possible reason Reed believes more people clog the roads during severe weather is the advent of better technology like smart phones and tablet computers.
"The flip side is that it's given people the chance to believe that they are qualified to look at radar on their phone or their smart phone and jump in the family vehicle and go out."
Many professional storm chasers now stream their video feeds live on the Internet, which offers the public an opportunity to watch the storms from the comfort of their own homes.
"People need to understand they are really spinning the roulette wheel if they deliberately get in their vehicle and head out to try and see something," said Reed.