Tornado Chasing: Our Elevation Of Insanity

seymour tornadoI am upset by the deaths of three tornado chasers Friday in Oklahoma. These were people who knew how to find tornadoes. They also knew how to avoid them. Their deaths are a tragedy, but I’m not sure the word accident applies. They were where they shouldn’t have been and they knew it.

The same applies to The Weather Channel’s Mike Bettes and crew who survived after their SUV was tossed a few hundred yards and destroyed.

Here’s the problem. Tornado chasing has become an extreme sport!

In the past I’ve written about weather live shots from hurricanes. Dangerous. Foolhardy. It sends the absolute worst message to the public we try and protect.

Until now I drew an exception for tornadoes. I’d never heard of a death or accident involving a tornado chaser. Knowing where not to be is fairly easy.

Chasing was something I wanted to do. That no longer holds.

More and more, TV glorifies people doing stupid things. This goes well beyond MTV’s groundbreaking “Jackass.” I’ve seen divers in the Bering Sea getting oxygen from garden hoses while wearing wet suits held together with duct tape! Now this.

Is this behavior 100% TV driven? Probably not, but TV is certainly part of the equation.

I mourn this loss of life. I mourn our elevation of insanity as entertainment.

10 thoughts on “Tornado Chasing: Our Elevation Of Insanity”

  1. I also mourn the chasers that lost their lives and thank heavens that Mike Bettis and his crew was not seriously hurt. This does go to show the unpredictably of weather. I will agree, Geoff, that there is a difference between chasing tornandoes for research etc. and those who do it “for fun”. I hope that is not a myopic view.

  2. Well…being a native OKIE and having lived in Moore for a few years, and my hometown is Broken Arrow, I grew up fascinated and terrified with tornadoes. It seemed when the sirens went off, it was off to the porch to get a chance to get a glimpse of these freaks of nature…but…also questioned our motives and then come to realize, these are designed to hurt. Luckily, we managed to dodge many, have a few closer than we wanted, and lastly, very minor damage compared to those who have lost everything and in some cases, family or friends. I’m not sure what the chaser’s purpose are at this time, considering the leaps and bounds weather predication has become lately. I would agree it’s the fueling of the rush you would get “chasing” these, but in reality, it’s more luck that you elude than thinking your outsmarting these…my money is to look, duck, and cover…your odds are so much better….RIP

  3. Wow… that really is tragic! I knew the story of the crew that were unhurt, but had not yet heard of the ones that perished! <:(

    I am thankful to live in CT where they are very rare. I sincerely PRAY that I *NEVER* see one in real life!! Just seeing pictures or video is terrifying enough! 🙁

    The SMART chasers kept BEHIND the twister, FOLLOWING it to study it, etc… what are they doing, now, trying to stay AHEAD of it?? It's random and unpredictable. That's like Russian Roulette with 5 bullets. NOT SMART! 🙁

  4. What is more appalling is the companies that offer “tornado tours”, taking vacationers into dangerous situations with the promise of “if you’re looking for adventure, you’ll love this thrilling storm chasing vacation holiday in America.” Tornadoes are not entertainment. They are a lethal force of nature that can wipe out people’s lives and entire towns in an instant. Profiting from people’s curiosity about them is despicable.

    1. One of the most dusgusting things I saw on TV about stormchasing was a couple getting ENGAGED while in the background a tornado was tearing into a town. Here they were and everyone else on the tour getting all lovey dovey while a mile or two away people s lives were being torn apart and quite possibly ending as a tornado hit them.
      There’s a time and place for everything but this was DEFINITELY not it!

  5. In 1995 or so, I visited St. Joseph, MO on business – as I drove there from KC, it looked ominous out and the radio was crackling. When I got to the non-chain hotel, the power was out and the desk clerk told me that there were tornados in the area. I asked if we should be in a basement or something. “Basement?! We are bringing beer and ‘pop’ to the roof to watch for them.” Idiot that I was, I said, oh of course. And I went up there. After one good gust of wind, I went downstairs. To the credit of the local citizenry, the folks I was in town to interview told me the next morning that this rooftop tomfoolery was not normal behavior.

  6. The team leader was Tim Samaras (WJ0G), a Ham of 40+ years, turned storm chaser. His son Pual was also killed along with a long time colleague Carl Young.

    I had a chance to hear Tim speak and he was NOT a cowboy storm chaser. In his speach he talked about getting too close to one storm and how that changed his own mind set on chasing too closely.

    What does bother me is the local (Atlanta) news that has thier very own storm chaser and rushes out to get us the video of passing storms.

    We do we WATCH?

  7. Another thing that has really disturbed me including the storm chaser disaster is weather prediction HYSTERIA. Last Friday WTNH went into full catastrophe mode regarding a tornado warning in northwest CT. They warnings were so ominous and dramatic that it took BOTH Steve MacLauglin AND Erika Martin to hysterically and breathlessly report that tornadoes were about to strike. In fact they were appealing to viewers in the New Haven area to be watchful even though the information that they were reporting did not even imply that the New Haven area was involved. I feel that showmanship and hype like this has NO place in weather broadcasting. First of all it scares the hell out of people and secondly it makes the station seem ridiculous. I wish you well in your move to the West Coast! Best of luck to you and to Helaine.

  8. I fell sorry for the mother/wife of two of them.I have a niece that lives in Del city and it took some time to find out she was ok

  9. IOt’s kind of a ‘He who lives by the sword will die by the sword’ kind of thing. If you do this long enough, statistically, the more likely it is one of these things will come along with your name on it.
    Storm chasing is dangerous for anyone but at least the professionals have a good reason to be out in them.

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