I am writing this blog because of recent events of storm chasing in Kansas and how the Kansas Law Enforcement seems to be targeting storm chasers. I have held an on the fence opinion about this for quite some time now but I feel its time to say a few words on how I feel about the situation. In regards to this blog, I am a long time storm chaser but I am also a long time certified Skywarn storm spotter and I have a degree in Criminal Justice and am a pro supporter of Law Enforcement which I hope to also do police work one day. I am also getting a PhD in the emergency management/homeland security field and I have some emergency management experience. So instead of just getting an opinion from a chaser’s point of view, I am giving you an opinion from a Spotter’s, Law Enforcement graduate’s and emergency management’s point of view.
This blog was created to voice an option in response to the news article New Hazard On The Horizon: Amateur Storm Chasers. The article is simply a rant and rave article between storm chasers and Kansas emergency response officials. Instead of fighting back and fourth on the media as if you are children fighting over a toy at the park playground, step back, relax and use some logic instead. Think about what you are doing before you turn to the media and make yourself look stupid. Yes, I am speaking about both parties on the topic of looking stupid as well.
First off, how can one define a professional storm chaser? Storm chasing is a hobby, there is no training and there is no licensing and there should never be any. A chaser is chasing at his or her’s own risk, learning how to safely do it should be up to them. If I wanted to go hiking up a cliff, should I be required to be a professionally licensed and trained hiker? No, that would be silly just as suggesting a licensing process for storm chasers is just that, silly. Storm spotters are doing their volunteer duties by reporting severe weather. I know because I have been a storm spotter for a long time and if I am chasing (no matter where I am), I will always be a storm spotter first and report the severe weather before I take pictures and enjoy the thrill of the chase. Now I hope Kansas police are not talking about the media chasers (chasers who work for news stations) as professional chasers because I could write several blogs about how the media and press has recklessly broken the law to get a story involving severe weather. They have blocked traffic, caused congested roadways and even trespassed on private property just to get that story so if that is what is meant by professional storm chasers, then I am sorry to say, you need to shut your mouth and research a bit before opening it again.
In 2011, I and several storm chasers from all over the country chased the EF-3 wedge tornado that hit Mapleton, IA. Once me and my chase partners got into Mapleton and saw the devastation, we flagged down a police officer and asked if he needed any sort of help at all. He said start going door to door looking for survivors. That town was overwhelmed with damage and there were few emergency response personnel because it was so rural. I watched a flocking presentation of storm chasers (most from out of state) come in to help the residents of Mapleton by search and rescue and even moving stuff out of the road for emergency vehicles to get by. One particular moment was when Andy Gabrielson (now deceased) and his team moved a large tree out of the road and shortly after, that road was being primarily used by emergency response vehicles once the help arrived. See, some of us storm chasers are still human beings and we want to help when we can. Its not about training in a disaster situation, its about people coming together and helping one and other and that is textbook emergency management! As an emergency management PhD student, to me, storm chasers would be perfect for help in response to severe weather. This is mainly because they know what to look for and they know what the severe weather causes. If I was EMA, I would meet all the chasers I could and get to know them because one day I might actually need their dire help.
Now, I suggest the emergency managers and police in Kansas get online and research storm chasers because trying to put idiotic tags and categories to them. Yes, there are a lot of young chasers just starting out that are doing things in a wrong way, I will admit that. If a police officer observes a storm chaser violating the law, then yes, they should take action BUT they should do that with anyone violating the law. However, I foresee law enforcement and EMA personally targeting storm chasers whether they are doing it safety or recklessly. With all this media coverage, it will only brainwash other agencies like it has those in Kansas. I am urging storm chasers to go low profile, make your vehicle look like just a passing vehicle on the road. Don’t pull over on the highway and stand in the road. If you get arrested, fight it in court if you were doing it safely, make them waste money on court costs because that is what they get. If your chasing irresponsibly, then you deserve to be arrested and cited for violating the law. I saw a video the other day of about 10 storm chasers on the road (highway) and a police cruiser had to go into the other lane to avoid hitting them. The cop was running full code (lights and sirens) and the chasers just looked at him and then stayed in the road and continued looking at the storm! THAT IS IRRESPONSIBLE STORM CHASING! Had that officer hit and killed one of those chasers, he would have to live with that for the rest of his life and he should not deserve anything like that, ever. Storm chasers like that are giving us chasers who use common sense a bad name…
I have been chasing storms for over 10 years. No matter what, I will always chase storms. If it became illegal, I would do it anyway and outright lie if needed to get out of being arrested over it and not feel bad about it because I would simply be overstepping stupidity. Shut up and chase storms safely or get the hell out of my way, that is my motto. I will continue to chase storms safety and if I am targeted, so be it, I am prepared to fight back just as hard!
The end… Please respond with comments, threats, hate mail, love mail and everything in between.