Safety in storm chasing

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Here in Southwest Georgia we are not imune to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, but while most are taking shelter during these events there are people who actively chase these storms.

Severe thunderstorms and the tornadoes they can bring are unmatched by any other weather phenomenon in shear fury and destructive power. Tornadoes have the ability to destroy large buildings, toss around railroad cars and even drive pieces of straw through a telephone pole. In spite of this deadly power a growing number of people flock to tornado prone areas to hunt for these rare yet deadly events.

Storm chasing has become a very popular activity in the United States, first brought to the mainstream in the 1996 disaster drama film Twister. This movie dramatized actual research projects and enticed many people to chase storms.

The type of people and their reasons for chasing storms can differ greatly, from skilled scientists hoping to increase scientific knowledge and to protect people, to thrill seekers wanting to test the strength of mother nature. FOX 31 recommend or endorse storm chasing; it can be a dangerous activity with the potential for damage to property, personal injury, disability and death. Chasing storms should only be undertaken by those who have excellent knowledge of severe thunderstorms, their dangers and a proper reason to chase such as passing on accurate information and ground truth about the event to the public to improve safety.

The National Weather Service and local media regularly depends on trained storm spotters for information on severe thunderstorms. FOX 31 works closely with storm spotters who also chase storms and they, above all, preach safety first.

Certified storm spotter Charlie Prochaska says that "yes, there is a lot of danger into this. It's not something that unless you have the training and experience and respect for it; I don't suggest anyone doing it."

Rick Lipscomb, also a certified storm spotter, adds that "if you wanna be a stormchaser learn about weather learn what it can do prepare yourself for what you may see. Safety is the main concern. Anyone can storm chase anyone can jump in a car and say here comes a storm lets go watch it, but do it safely learn about what you are going to hunt."

The National Weather Service regularly offers free storm spotter classes that can help supplement your understanding of severe weather but that is only a start to what you will need.

Prochaska adds, "Find somebody who is out in the field who is trained, experienced. Um, I'm willing to take anybody in fact i'm looking for a chase partner because i have too much technology to keep track of."

Chaser tools can vary by individual but there are a few highly recommended items you may need.

First of all is a good dependable vehicle to chase in and a convertible or motorcycle is not an option.

Cameras, cell phones, weather radios as well as a laptop computer with broadband connectivity and proper radar software are some of what you may need you may also want a helmet and high visibility safety vests for when you may have to exit your vehicle. With all the technology to keep track of, a chase partner can also be key so the driver can focus on the road.

So the bottom line in storm chasing is to be a safe as possible. Safe chasing involves being well prepared, driving carefully and planning an escape route. Have a good understanding of severe weather and the weather at hand before setting out on a chase and don't take unnecessary chances.

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