Few of us can truly imagine what driving right into the heart of a deadly storm is like.
Sure, we’ve all seen a thing or two when it comes to the weather. Flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes…all of these things can occur in locales all across this great nation of ours. But to willingly and wantonly saunter toward a force of nature with such magnitude takes an entirely different sort of human being.
These so-called storm chasers have been at it for decades with armored vehicles and armed with both cameras and weather instruments. Their job is two-fold: Provide scientific data that few are willing to go get themselves, and bring back video evidence to the rest of us wussies.
Now there is a new danger for these professional storm chasers, however, as mobs of thrill seekers have begun playing a dangerous game of keep away with the biggest and baddest storms in our nation.
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Journalist Matthew Cappucci explains:
I had heard grumblings about the downsides to storm chasing for a long time – poor driving habits, traffic jams as cars converge near violent storms, and the dangers of rogue chasers and hobbyists. It had always been on my mind, but four years of venturing to the Plains had taught me it was just something I’d have to live with. I always brushed it off as an unavoidable byproduct of chasing.
The list of offenses that he has witnessed is astoundingly frightening.
But Monday was different. I witnessed firsthand the practices that will drive me away from the sport I once loved with my entire being. The past week of storm chasing has been eye-opening. In just seven days, I’ve encountered:
–Chase vehicles parked perpendicular to roads blocking major intersections–Multiple chasers with red/blue police lights “pulling over” others to clear their path to the storm; in 70 mph winds and egg-sized hail and less than a mile from a tornado, this could have been deadly
–Traffic jams 200 cars deep
–Chasers parking on/in the road to take pictures, blocking traffic
–Chasers barreling down a one-lane road at 90 mph
–Chasers driving on the wrong side of the road
And storm chasers have caused fatalities before.
The perils have been manifest before. Three storm chasers were killed in an accident in Texas on March 28, 2017, when a pair of Weather Channel contractors blew through a stop sign at 70 mph. In 2013, veteran storm chaser Tim Samaras fell victim to a tornado near El Reno, Oklahoma; his son Paul and chase partner Carl Young also perished. A Weather Channel vehicle was tossed 200 yards, breaking the driver’s neck. Scores of other chasers cheated death that day.
Some believe that much of this anarchy is spawned by the industry of social media influencers who are competing with one another for “likes” and “shares”…much in the same way that the mainstream media channels compete with one another for advertisers and ratings.
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