Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Chasers! Please be SAFE! Report PLEASE! #Skywarn @NWSNorman @NWSWichita @NWSTulsa @TrooperBenKHP @OHPDPS

First, setting the record straight, this is NOT ANTI-CHASER.  It IS pro-safety.

The GOAL is a reduction in the loss of life and property.  While the numbers have trended down over the decades, there's never been a year where a storm doesn't injure or kill someone somewhere.

CHASERS!  The goal includes a reduction in the loss of life and property, including you, your friends, your chase vehicle.

In 2011, this note was sent by an emergency manager:

To: The WX-CHASE list

Since I'm not around ground zero this afternoon, I took some time to
watch some of the video samples available on the various video

I observed speed too fast for conditions (wet roads and hail),
following too close (can't you count one-one thousand, two
one-thousand after you pass a yellow line or pothole?), inattentive
driving (at least two left of center), one busted a red light, a
couple or three almost rear-ended the car in front.

Folks, if you are going to tell the world you are safely operating
your motor vehicle, the pictures need to match.  If you are going to
put a picture of you in the car driving, it helps if you pay attention
to what you do instead of dinking on the PC, talking on the radio, dig
for something on the floor or in the back seat, etc.  Don't you all
have partners?

Maybe it would be a better practice to NOT show video while you are
breaking the law.  After all, these end up on TV and you don't get

I'm getting the idea that this is too hard for some but, please, TRY
to be SAFE out there.  Tomorrow you are in Oklahoma.  I will be too
busy to watch but I bet someone in a clearly marked car will be.

Fast forward to a recent Skywarn safety talk by the National Weather Service office in Norman and the National Weather Service office in Wichita.  The goal is reinforced every year.

The Wichita Eagle reports:  

As storm chasing grows in popularity, so do the problems

There was hope this year at ChaserCon where folks from the Kansas and Oklahoma Highway Patrol joined a panel to talk about vehicle safety in storms.

There were positive results; one could hope they continue.

Then a ham radio fellow posted a video of a chaser willingly driving into debris in his effort to be a "free lance photographer".  The individual was not reporting anything to anyone who could actually warn the public. 

The online discussion went downhill from there. 

At any rate, for #Skywarn ACES is Awareness, Communication, Escape Routes, Safe Zones. is the training site. #wrn @WRNAmbassadors @Kia

Escape Routes
Safe Zones

All that's included in the online Skywarn class.

As one emergency manager once said more than once "Situational Awareness is a TERRIBLE thing to lose."

Willingly driving into an active debris field is dangerous and speaks to the loss of situational awareness.  Being in the area of a tornado and filming it, certainly speaks volumes to the lack of community spirit, when the tornado goes unreported.  

"We're all going to DIE" are the last recorded words of one veteran chaser crew.  Friends, if it can happen to them, it's pretty apparent we are ALL not bullet-proof.

For nearly 60 years, the only known chaser deaths were driving-related. The first was Christopher Phillips, a University of Oklahoma undergraduate student, killed in a hydroplaning accident when swerving to miss a rabbit in 1984.[26] Three other incidents occurred when Jeff Wear was driving home from a hurricane chase in 2005,[27] when Fabian Guerra swerved to miss a deer while driving to a chase in 2009,[28] and when a wrong-way driver resulted in a head-on collision that killed Andy Gabrielson returning from a chase in 2012.[29] On 31 May 2013, an extreme event led to the first known chaser deaths inflicted directly by weather when the widest tornado ever recorded struck near El Reno, Oklahoma. Engineer Tim Samaras, his photographer son Paul, and meteorologist Carl Young were killed doing in situ probe and infrasonic field research by an exceptional combination of events in which an already large and rain-obscured tornado swelled within less than a minute to 2.6 miles (4.2 km) wide simultaneously as it changed direction and accelerated.[30][31] Several other chasers were also struck and some injured by this tornado and its parent supercell's rear flank downdraft.[32] Three chasers were killed, two in one vehicle and one in another, when their vehicles collided in West Texas in 2017, bringing the total number of known traffic related fatalities to 7.[33] There are other incidents in which chasers were injured by automobile accidents, lightning strikes, and tornado impacts.[citation needed] While chasing a tornado outbreak on 13 March 1990, KWTV television photographer Bill Merickel was shot and injured near Lindsay, Oklahoma.[34][35]

Friends from Germany come to the USA to study storms and share mutually beneficial techniques in Skywarn.  These folks are very comfortable with autobahn speeds.  The reports received from them indicate more of a concern for chasers than for the storm itself.

A former volunteer (still friend) turned tornado tour guide offers similar observations.

The current average lead-time for tornado warnings is 13 minutes.

How would you like to live in a community where the lead time went from seven minutes to ZERO because a chaser is spending time videoing, without reporting, the tornado seven minutes away from the community that got NO lead time?  There's a video proving that.  

To rephrase the goal from a retired emergency manager, "NO one dies on my shift".  One of these days, he'll quit caring if you arrive alive or not.  Until then, please memorize this photo:

Image result for oklahoma highway patrol vehicles
Your Official Oklahoma Highway Patrol Tornado Chaser Chase Vehicle



KC5FM said...

This just in from @ohptraffic

Initial report of tornado damage in/around Mangum from our Troop down there: 3-5 structures severely damaged, others w/ minor damage, numerous powerlines down.
No Storm related Injuries reported at this time. One 2 vehicle injury accident involving storm chasers that ran together. Two cars reported off in ditches.
SH-34 has been reopened.

KC5FM said...

Washington Post item shows it's not getting better out there.

BE SAFE! Please!

KC5FM said...

From Facebook:

For those of you who do not know, there were 17 reported injuries in Douglas County Tuesday evening, 12 of those injured were from one accident. A storm chaser tour company was in southern Douglas County when two of their vans were blown off the road. We are very glad that none of those individuals were seriously injured or killed as the tornado blew them off the road. The tour company's Facebook page says "What we do carries a certain amount of risk BUT NOT AT ANY TIME do we INTENTIONALLY put ourselves or our guests or anyone else in the immediate chase area in danger."

Now while I am sure that this company does everything possible to keep their employees and customers safe while chasing mother nature, there is something that has been forgotten - the people who have to respond when mother nature does not cooperate.

Tuesday night as the tornado was tearing across our County, 23 emergency personnel from seven area first responder agencies were driving into the tornado and torrential rains to respond to a motor vehicle accident involving two vans that were storm chasing tourists.

Twenty-three emergency personnel, four medic units, one fire truck and 11 patrol or staff vehicles drove INTO this dangerous storm. The entire incident took three hours to clear and the four ambulances transported 12 people to Stormont Vail and Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Again, I am relieved that none of the storm chasers were seriously injured or killed and I understand that these people paid approximately $1600 per person for the thrill of chasing a storm. BUT I think it is important that the other side is presented, that being first responders were put in danger AND these important resources were tied up for three hours.

Douglas County is blessed that there were only 17 reported injuries, 12 of which could have been avoided.

The Washington Post did a story, no mention of first responders, but here is the link.

KC5FM said...

Folks, news like this is more than troubling. Please be safe and follow all the rules.

Police searching for “storm chaser” who pulled gun on farmers Not new but note worthy #Skywarn It's dangerous out there. #WRN

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