Be careful of the image your chase vehicle presents

Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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I've always used black vehicles for storm chasing. Mostly black Nissan Xterras. I have at least three antennas, one for VHF/UHF communications, a cell phone antenna and a scanner antenna. My windows have very dark tint because I live in Arizona where the sun generates at least 1.21 gigawatts. I don't use light bars, spotlights, etc.

Twice during my last two hurricane chases I was confronted by multiple individuals who thought I was law enforcement. The first encounter occurred in Glaveston, TX when an shady-appearing guy with a few prison tats walked by and said "fuc_ing pig" while flipping me off. He circled around the back of my vehicle and stood there for a few moments before moving on.

The second event occurred in El Paso, TX on my way home from Hurricane Sally. While I was pumping gas, a truck with two occupants stopped across from me. The driver delivered a brief, politically-motivated comment regarding current events and clearly directed towards law enforcement.

I did not have any "chaser" signage on my vehicle when these events occurred. This will likely change, as the impression you project could get you killed now days.
 
Dec 8, 2003
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Southeast CO
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If one does have a vehicle that could be mistaken for law enforcement (not me, that's for sure!) maybe it would be a good idea to avoid stopping in metropolitan areas, at least until, hopefully, the current feverish negative attitudes toward law enforcement subside. I wouldn't expect to incur such incidents in the majority of the traditional tornado-chasing alley. If you find yourself in Dallas, KC or Denver, e.g., head on out of there before stopping for gas or a meal or a motel room. 20-30 miles away from any city like that and the crime rate is going to be much lower, as well as the chance of running into scum like that.
 
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Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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If one does have a vehicle that could be mistaken for law enforcement (not me, that's for sure!) maybe it would be a good idea to avoid stopping in metropolitan areas, at least until, hopefully, the current feverish negative attitudes toward law enforcement subside. I wouldn't expect to incur such incidents in the majority of the traditional tornado-chasing alley. If you find yourself in Dallas, KC or Denver, e.g., head on out of there before stopping for gas or a meal or a motel room. 20-30 miles away from any city like that and the crime rate is going to be much lower, as well as the chance of running into scum like that.
I thought the exact same thing -- especially in Texas, where I never expected an issue. The problem is once you travel along highways and interstates, you encounter a wide mix of people. I'm keeping the yellow "storm chaser" magnetic signs on when I travel. Ironically, I've not had a problem in Tucson.... yet.
 
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John Farley

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Apr 1, 2004
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I used to think that business about black SUVs being law enforcement or federal agents was just a stereotype - until 4 years ago when I went to a really for a presidential candidate during the primaries. Won't say which candidate so I won't start a political argument. But I was amazed before and after the rally to see more black SUVs than I had ever seen in my life, all some kind of LE. Not to this day sure what agency or more likely agencies they all were. So having seen this, I would agree with Warren's advice. And I don't think it matters much where you are - in rural areas, they might be perceived as federal agents. My SUV is silver, but I do have a couple very worn Skywarn stickers, so I am good - if I ever get another storm to chase and/or a relatively safe pandemic situation for an over-70 traveller.
 
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Drew Terril

Staff member
I was actually in the drive thru the other day and was asked if I was a cop. I drive a Nissan Titan, and it does have extra antennas since most of the amateur radio stuff that I do has nothing to do with chasing. It took me by surprise though because anyone who's actually observant would know that police agencies almost exclusively order vehicles made by the "Big 3" (GM, Ford, Fiat/Chrysler). I know of a couple of areas near Nissan plants in Tennessee and Mississippi that have some Nissan trucks, and the same is probably true near Toyota plants, but that was the first time I've ever been mistaken for a cop by anyone since I started driving Nissans. Back when I first started chasing and Kentucky State Police still used 4th gen Camaros, I'd get mistaken for a trooper on occasion by the truckers, but they also make it a point to know which agencies run what cars on the lanes than they run.

I have a small RadarScope sticker on the back window, but I've otherwise tried *not* to look like a chaser in the field. I've even stopped running my SN beacon at times just to avoid being followed. With that said, I may have to reconsider that stance in light of what's going on these days, although I'd hate to have to do that just for my every day driving.
 
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Todd Lemery

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Jun 2, 2014
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Menominee, MI
Funny this topic would come up because I just picked up a new chase vehicle last week, a black Chevy Suburban. I can see where people might be a bit confused with a couple of extra antennas on it. Fortunately, the hail protection that will be added should clear that for everyone except for maybe the lowest IQ’d people amongst us.
 
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Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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Funny this topic would come up because I just picked up a new chase vehicle last week, a black Chevy Suburban. I can see where people might be a bit confused with a couple of extra antennas on it. Fortunately, the hail protection that will be added should clear that for everyone except for maybe the lowest IQ’d people amongst us.
This should fix your problem...

sc.jpg
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
If one does have a vehicle that could be mistaken for law enforcement (not me, that's for sure!) maybe it would be a good idea to avoid stopping in metropolitan areas, at least until, hopefully, the current feverish negative attitudes toward law enforcement subside. I wouldn't expect to incur such incidents in the majority of the traditional tornado-chasing alley. If you find yourself in Dallas, KC or Denver, e.g., head on out of there before stopping for gas or a meal or a motel room. 20-30 miles away from any city like that and the crime rate is going to be much lower, as well as the chance of running into scum like that.
I rent an SUV so hopefully it won’t turn out to be black, or maybe I can just request one that isn't.

Whatever the vehicle, given the current climate I would feel uncomfortable in any city even out in the Alley. Which is a shame, because during down periods I used to prefer staying in a nice comfortable hotel in a city where there was more stuff to do.
 

Mark Blue

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Feb 19, 2007
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I can vouch for Denver and Aurora as being safe if you don’t go downtown where protesters are found. Same thing in Aurora. Earlier this year they were on I-225 up by the Aurora Mall so pretty far north. I’ve always driven a low profile vehicle to avoid standing out but I agree about the SN icon. I’ve had two and three vehicles following me in years past and it’s a little disconcerting because I don‘t want anyone to get hurt following me down a gravel road or if I make a big mistake.
 
Mar 30, 2008
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Norman, OK
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When I had my 2011 black taurus I got pulled over by Texas DPS officer at night for a tag light being out. He pulls us over and asks for our department ID. What the heck? We're like "Uhh, department ID? we're not law enforcement, we're storm chasers"

I guess the ham antenna + computer stand + stuff on the windows made them think I was LEO.
 
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Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
I'm invisible in traffic with my soccer mom mobile (grey Kia Sorento). Only current antenna is the weboost sharkfin. I had a skywarn magnet for years but that disappeared somewhere in the plains and I've never replaced it. Otherwise, no other stickers, lights, or anything.

On the other hand, when I had my magnet, the locals/local police would usually see it and ignore me if randomly parked in a pull-off somewhere. Now I really just depend on the camera/tripod to casually inform people what I'm up to.

In the current climate, and really forever since I've been doing this, I don't go into cities when chasing unless I'm passing through.
 
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Michael Towers

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Jun 28, 2007
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Machesney Park, IL
My vehicle is inconspicuous, the only possible telltale sign that I’m a chaser is my vanity plate but even that is subtle and only likely understood by meteorologists and other chasers. I drive a Highlander and only have a small signal antennae for my amp so no worries about being mistaken for a LEO but sometimes I think having something that tells the world what I’m doing wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially when parked in a remote spot away from the hordes where locals might suspect I’m a stranger up to no good. I’ve heard of chasers being encountered by suspicious locals in a hostile way and that’s something I’d like to avoid but unless I’m decked to the max in storm chasing paraphernalia would a simple Skywarn decal or two even make a difference? Probably not so I’ll likely just continue with the status quo.
 

Randy Jennings

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May 18, 2013
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Funny you bring this up. I pulled of the highway in south Dallas on a chase sometime in 2019 in my silver Jeep (which doesn't really look like LE at all) and I got a few stares with my 2 cell antennas and ham antenna and laptop on a mount (it was night - so it was easy to see). It did occur to me that I probably did look like LE to some and I was in an area where LE probably wasn't universally liked. Keeping your head on a swivel applies to more than just the sky these days.
 
I have just two antennas on my silver 2008 Honda CR/V.
One for 10m-12m and the other for 2m/70cm
Because this vehicle also bears an Amateur radio callsign on my license plate, I have already been deemed a 'po-po'.
Fortunately, most all folks around here are OK with that.
Years ago, I put an ESpotter sticker on my windows, and several illegals thought I was part of the US Border Patrol.
It was a bit funny at times; but I took them off because people are very confused and ill informed.
But I'm OK with that, I will just volunteer for the local Sheriff Office anyway, and then they can have a reason to hate me.
 

Jeff House

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Jun 1, 2008
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Chattanooga, TN
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I don't want to look like either LE or a storm chaser. We usually take a sedan or small SUV. Neither look like LE. While the sedan lacks some height and visibility it blends in well. SUV is a model LE does not use.

I infer some (not all) people from rural areas or bigger cities back East are uncomfortable in Plains cities. Those of us who live in Heartland cities can say it's perfectly safe. Avoid civil unrest, obviously. However the only demonstration I saw was pretty laid back, more like a tail-gate party.

Again I avoid all of it. Even if one supports the cause, half the protesters don't take covid precautions.

However I'll stop in town for cheaper gas. I'll stay in town for a nice motel. I'll take-out food in town because we all know KC BBQ is the best! Also Wichita has some surprisingly tasty ethnic food (Vietnamese, Lebanese, Malaysian).
 

Drew Terril

Staff member
I don't want to look like either LE or a storm chaser. We usually take a sedan or small SUV. Neither look like LE. While the sedan lacks some height and visibility it blends in well. SUV is a model LE does not use.

LEs don't run Nissans either and I've been mistaken for one due to my ham antennas. First couple of times really caught me off guard as I thought it was common knowledge what makes get bought up by agencies.
 
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Drew Terril

Staff member
Think this was pretty much covered in a couple of threads below about those who need 5 lightbars and 50 amber lights on their Honda CRV
Speaking from my own personal experience, light bars have nothing to do with it. I've never run even an off road light on any vehicle I've owned, but have been mistaken before, much like Warren has. Most of the amateur radio stuff I do has nothing to do with chasing, so I probably have a couple more antennas than Warren does on my vehicle. I do use commercial radios (primarily Kenwood or Motorola) as it's much easier to sort frequencies into zones, but you can't tell that from outside the vehicle.

And yes Mark, I agree wholeheartedly.
 
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Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
I have a blacked out Toyota Tundra but I do not look like a LEO or storm chaser while out as I do not do stickers and I only have a small cell booster antenna on top. I do have a lot of hail damage since I got it in 2008 though lol. 🤣

I figure you are more of a target with stickers and such if LEO wants to do a Harper county on you, :mad:
 
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May 25, 2014
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Probably the same way it worked when that same question was getting kicked around on Hamsexy over 15 years ago.

Oddly enough, I've seen that truck before.

I have last-gen Ford Taurus that has a brush guard and a bunch of red lights and a siren on it. I have EMS tags, and a front plate that displays my Fire Police Captain rank. It has a bunch of antennas. If someone mistakes it for a police vehicle, I can't help their mental condition or inability to read. If someone wants to take it somewhere it's not supposed to go, that's what the gun is for.