Storm chasers’ jobs are to get close to tornadoes and other severe weather with the goal of observing and making measurements for science. It’s a profession and hobby that only began in the 1940s, and it’s incredible how much we have learned about storms in that small amount of time.
Nowadays, there are several hundred people who call themselves storm chasers. Armed with laptops, anemometers and portable weather stations, they make their living on the road, with the end goal of measuring storm data and ultimately keeping everyone safer.
A typical chase day begins by checking data online. Satellite and radar maps show wind direction and storm strength, helping chasers plan their day accordingly. Chasers use the data to pick out potential targets for where storms may hit. Often times, the target is hundreds of miles away, which means a long day of driving is ahead.
Breakfast is essential, as it can be the only guaranteed substantial meal of the day, depending on how things pan out. Then they hit the road.
While driving towards their target, the crew will often check and recheck data on the storm. Current technology allows for chasers to be able to connect to wireless Internet while cruising down the highway, which has been a significant help in the industry.
Telltale signs can be found in the sky, and chasers look for those to determine where to position themselves. Ideally, they will get ahead of the storm, although sometimes end up “core punching” it, which means driving directly through it. This is very dangerous, as a storm core may be hiding a tornado.
If a chaser ends up catching a tornado, they take photographs and measure data with their equipment.
At the end of a day of chasing, it tends to be too dark and often chasers have to retire at a hotel close by. It’s somewhat of a tradition to have a steak dinner if the chaser was successful enough to catch a tornado.
Before going to sleep, chasers look at more storm data online, and will check weather reports on TV. It’s an exhausting profession, but when things line up in their favor, it’s a rewarding one as well.