Clash between Chasers and Spotters

Apr 14, 2011
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Alexandria, LA
The problem is.....most local nets are county based. They activate when the weather enters their county, and deactivate when it leaves their county. Since 1987, I was a traditional "spotter". I would wait all year only to activate twice and never see anything. Most "spotters" have never seen a tornado. When I listen to a local net, I hear so much bad information it is scary. Obvious scud being called in as a funnel. Overestimation of wind speed. I hear too many excited, scared, poorly trained people. The net controllers filter most of the junk out, but still....Also, the traditional "spotter" does not have GR3 in their vehicle nor other equipment. Chasers see more severe weather and gain more experience in one season than most "spotters" do in an entire lifetime. After just 3 seasons of all out chasing, I am a MUCH better asset to the NWS than I was after 20 years as a "spotter"!
Is that the NWS's opinion or yours?

You've got to understand that what chasers are, and what spotters are intended to be, are completely different.

The way the NWS rep explained it during the training session I attended, the function of the spotter is to simply provide ground truth of severe conditions. GR3 doesn't make a spotter any more of an asset - the NWS already has the radar and can see it just fine. What they want to know is, is there in fact 1-inch hail (bigger than a quarter?) or is there in fact 58mph wind (is foliage being torn up or is there structural damage?) or is there in fact a tornado? There's no special equipment you need to give these observations, or that would make them more accurate in a way that makes one spotter "more of an asset" than a spotter who doesn't have them.

Now granted, new people will make misidentifications and overestimations; but when was the last time you saw a tornado warning issued because somebody on a net reported "obvious scud" as a funnel cloud? It doesn't happen. And I'm sure plenty of newbie chasers have torn off down dirt roads and across fields in burning pursuit of shelf clouds.

If your passion is to see severe weather, you probably really shouldn't be a spotter; because that need to see a funnel cloud is what causes the misidentification.
 

John Wetter

SN President
Staff member
Dec 11, 2005
872
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Maple Grove, MN
www.WxChaser.com
You've got to understand that what chasers are, and what spotters are intended to be, are completely different.

The way the NWS rep explained it during the training session I attended, the function of the spotter is to simply provide ground truth of severe conditions. GR3 doesn't make a spotter any more of an asset - the NWS already has the radar and can see it just fine. What they want to know is, is there in fact 1-inch hail (bigger than a quarter?) or is there in fact 58mph wind (is foliage being torn up or is there structural damage?) or is there in fact a tornado? There's no special equipment you need to give these observations, or that would make them more accurate in a way that makes one spotter "more of an asset" than a spotter who doesn't have them.
The function of a spotter is to provide ground truth, but just as chasers have become more successful thanks to additions like mobile radar, so have spotters. It's about putting yourself in the right position to be able to report the different weather phenomena. I think you've mis-understood Mr. Tyler's post.
Now granted, new people will make misidentifications and overestimations; but when was the last time you saw a tornado warning issued because somebody on a net reported "obvious scud" as a funnel cloud? It doesn't happen. And I'm sure plenty of newbie chasers have torn off down dirt roads and across fields in burning pursuit of shelf clouds.
In answer to your question... Still far too often. It happens a decent amount on spotter nets if you listen enough. To say it doesn't happen is a gross exaggeration. Yes, I'm sure newbie chasers have also mis-identified cloud features, but it's just as often (I'd argue more-so due to inexperience) with local spotters.
If your passion is to see severe weather, you probably really shouldn't be a spotter; because that need to see a funnel cloud is what causes the misidentification.
Who is to say you can't be both? I think part of your post is from a false premise that you have to choose one or the other. Reading your post really shows a bias that is unfortunately fairly prevalent in the spotter community that chasers are not a helpful member of the warning process which couldn't be further from the truth.
 
Apr 14, 2011
310
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Alexandria, LA
Reading your post really shows a bias that is unfortunately fairly prevalent in the spotter community that chasers are not a helpful member of the warning process which couldn't be further from the truth.
It was a rebuttal to a post that pretty blatantly short-changed spotters; you didn't detect any bias there?

Just as there are advantages that chasers have over spotters, there are advantages that spotters have over chasers. For instance, spotters are able to detect and report tornadoes that happen to spawn by chance from unfavorable-looking storms whereas chasers by definition will follow or move toward storms they feel are more likely to produce tornadoes, leaving the rest unobserved; and spotters will observe and report non-tornadic severe conditions that many chasers rarely concern themselves with. And do not forget the elephant in the room here, which is that we're only even talking about chasers who actually do report - and there's a good many who don't, as evidenced by a thread I seem to remember in this forum last year. There's a lot of chasers who are there to get video, not warn; whereas reporting anything they see is the spotter's entire raison d'être. Don't think I'm saying that in a haughty judging kind of way; I'm not - driving around looking for tornadoes to snap doesn't obligate you to interface with NWS any more than bird watching obligates you to interface with the National Audubon Society - but it's a detail with relevance here.
 
Apr 10, 2008
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Wisconsin
www.proalert.us
I'll tell you Greg, one thing I've noticed, almost 100% without fail, no matter what area I've been in. If a red box goes up for the day, at least one spotter (or even chasers now) is going to find and report a tornado, whether there actually was one or not. I don't know if it's the higher expectancy because of the watch, maybe some sort of "perceived pressure" to not miss something that is definitely going to be there (after all, there is a Tornado Watch up, right?), or what mentality causes it. But I've seen it time and time and time again. I don't know what the answer is, I guess you'd have to figure out what psychology causes that to find the fix..
Dave, I have seen this every year from both camps, spotter and chaser.

Tim
 

J Tyler

EF3
Mar 6, 2010
247
9
11
Dallas TX/Born & Raised in OK
It was a rebuttal to a post that pretty blatantly short-changed spotters; you didn't detect any bias there?
.
Jake (and others), the purpose of my post was not INTENDED to be a slight against spotters. After re-reading it, I sure came across that way. Not my intention, and I apologize. As I stated, I was a spotter for close to 20 years. I enjoy spotting so much that I now drive insane distances to spot! LOL! My wife and I say we are not chasers, we are HIGHLY MOBILE spotters. Others enjoy getting the videos and pics, and thats cool. We really enjoy working as hard as we can to get accurate, timely reports to the local NWS office. Experience and equipment investment have allowed us to be able to put ourselves in the best location to be able to see any areas of concern and allow us to chase after dark when most people hang it up. My main point I was trying to make was.....after 3 years of all out chasing from Nebraska to Alabama, we have seen more severe storms and tornadoes than I had in 20 years of spotting. In the field, things rarely look "textbook". The more storms you watch evolve, the more you learn. The better you get. The more sure you are of what you see. The more opportunities you have to make mistakes and learn from them. And yes, on every chase we are on the ham radio and SN reporting because that is our main reason for going. No, we are not more prone to "wish" a tornado into existence. Personal ethics aside, nothing will ruin you in this community quicker than calling in a false alarm. So, yes, we are a much better asset to the NWS now than we were 4 years ago. Are all chasers better assets than spotters? Good Lord, NO. I know there are plenty of space cadet chasers running wild out here! LOL!

Now, an area where local spotters are an advantage is, they know the local landmarks. This is not a problem if they use Spotter Network or APRS, but if they don't, then I am at a disadvantage because I don't know that FM1344 is known by everyone locally as "Fish Hatchery Road". They know how to not get caught by rivers and bodies of water (few crossing points). They know to not count on certain roads because they know those flood with very little rain, etc. I am in an unfamiliar area, and that IS a disadvantage.
 

kmreid

EF1
Mar 3, 2011
89
1
6
Arkansas
I have been spotting for two years now and I am a Ham operator. I plan on embarking on my first chase this season. Fortunately, I am involved with our local RACES/ARES. It helps to know what to expect from the members and to be able to compare that to what the local spotter networks expect. I have not had any clashes between the two fortunately. When I check in on the net, I tell them that I am mobile and that I am available for a certain area if needed. I typically don't go out of my area unless no one else is available for an area of interest. Even then, I rarely vocalize which direction I am heading until I reach my target area. As others have stated, I don't think anyone wants to feel responsible for people who are suspected of going beyond "spotting". I think it is completely bogus, but what can you do? I will say that any certified spotters are given a number for their local NWS office, that they can call to make reports. If you continue to have problems, then that may be the route to take. I do agree that Ham radio is an important tool to be utilized during severe weather though.