Cloud 9 Tour Van Incident 5/4/22

Randy Jennings

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May 18, 2013
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FOX News is reporting a Cloud 9 tour van was invloved in an incident near Lockett TX.

"Video from the area showed what appeared a tour van off a roadway with its windows blown out during the storm.


The owner of Cloud 9 Tours said everyone in the vehicle made it out alive after debris caused significant damage to the van during the chase.

Charles Edwards, director of the tour group, told FOX Weather that there were only minor injuries after what appeared to be metal debris struck the vehicle."


Here is a tweet from someone on scene (who later said it did not flip like they first reported):

 
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Mar 26, 2022
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I was simultaneously watching radarscope and chaser livestreams today, and on a livestream from a chaser parked on the side of US-70 in Lockett I saw multiple tour vans (I do not know the company) pass the streamer heading eastbound on 70 in the dark in windblown rain and hail (wind was from the N or NW) based on radar this location was in the SW part of the FFD, ever so slightly north of the (narrow) inflow notch, and directly north of a rain wrapped circulation, which struck me as a bad place to be, reminding me of the positioning of many of the chasers who were impacted by the 5-31-13 El Reno tornado, but at night and with no north road options due to the lack of road crossings on the Pease river

I saw the tour vans multiple times throughout the day, and IIRC they hook sliced east on US-70 in hurricane force wet RFD to get into the aforementioned position, so when I saw this I wondered if the RFD caught back up to them and blew them off the road, but this radar loop shows the entire supercell turn north with the mesocyclone/tornado circulation crossing US-70 in lockett, so it seems likely it was the tornado itself that did this, especially given the fact that the vehicle took such damage without flipping (suggesting debris, which was not something I saw in the RFD, and this does not look like hail damage)
 
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Jamie H

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Feb 25, 2022
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Clearly something went rather wrong for this to happen, because you would not expect guided tours to be in extremely dangerous positions, though of course any tour is at the whim of those driving and directing it. Given this is only the second (I think?) time that a tour van has been damaged / impacted by a tornado, things aren't going too badly, but it would surprise me if these tours didn't think about proper seat harnesses, non-glass windows, and mandatory helmets and safety goggles for tourists? You're expected to be kept safe, but I also imagine all trips are at the risk of the individual paying the money.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Surprised to see this, as Cloud 9 is one of the oldest and original tour groups… My first chasing experience was back in 1996 with Marty Feely’s Whirlwind Tours - which was just one regular minivan - and Charles Edwards was already out there with the big, long white van, probably just one at the time… I don’t know which of Marty or Charles started first, but they had to be within a year or two of each other, and I don't think it would be a stretch to say that they might have been the first two tour operators.

Which is to say I am surprised that Cloud 9 was involved in something like this, especially after what should have been learned by the Silver Lining incident of 2019, not to mention El Reno 2013 as @Brian OConnell noted, which makes me wonder why Landon Moeller tweeted that the leftward deviation was “surprising,” unless it’s because the entire supercell made that hard turn north, which I don’t think happened in El Reno.

BTW @Jamie Simms the link you posted does not work.
 

Jesse Risley

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Apr 12, 2006
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Clearly something went rather wrong for this to happen, because you would not expect guided tours to be in extremely dangerous positions, though of course any tour is at the whim of those driving and directing it. Given this is only the second (I think?) time that a tour van has been damaged / impacted by a tornado, things aren't going too badly, but it would surprise me if these tours didn't think about proper seat harnesses, non-glass windows, and mandatory helmets and safety goggles for tourists? You're expected to be kept safe, but I also imagine all trips are at the risk of the individual paying the money.
It would appear that it occluded, detaching itself from the center of the parent updraft and moving more leftward by low-level wind fields. This is similar to what happened with the El Reno and Greensburg tornadoes, for example. Ironically, yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the Greensburg event too.
 

Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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They were lucky, period. Unfortunately, the "luck" factor will eventually run out in high risk chasing situations. Being north or NE of a strong tornado is a no-no, especially in the dark. I have seen posts on social media that there were serious data issues in the area, so that could have been a factor. That is why I use both cellular data and satellite-derived data from XM, as it can be a life saver.

If the owners are smart (being in an attorney family), they should not post anything. As with other tour accidents, I would not take their silence as avoiding discussion. There could be any number of issues that lead to the accident.
 

James Gustina

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A strong, cyclic supercell having on occlusion rapidly peel to the north is also what happened with the Salado tornado a few weeks back. Really reinforces why it's better to be safe than sorry with storms like this, especially after dark. That storm was in a bad road network for the majority of its life from west of King County all the way to Vernon, and as @Brian OConnell noted, there's no real crossings along the Pease out there outside of the US highways.
 
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Sep 5, 2019
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In the earlier days of storm chasing, that position was known as the "bear's cage." Chasing 101's first rule was, "never be in the bear's cage." I'm sorry that it seems to have been forgotten.
We have few details at this point, but IF the tour group was positioned in the Bear's Cage, it would be a particularly egregious mistake since that's exactly what happened to SLT in 2019.
 

Dave C

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Jun 5, 2013
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In the earlier days of storm chasing, that position was known as the "bear's cage." Chasing 101's first rule was, "never be in the bear's cage." I'm sorry that it seems to have been forgotten.
Agree that idea of staying in a safer position seems to be out of favor for many.

It seems like a lot of people out there today pride themselves on chasing from in/near path close up positions, at least according to their self declarations via social media and 'extreme' and 'insane' videos. I almost feel it is expected as the only way to chase by a certain faction and hope that is not the belief of tour operators that they must do this to get an experience for their guests over being cautious and backing off. I'm certainly not the chaser police and don't intend to tell others what to do, but I do see the statistics of taking such risk as meaning more eventual tragedy is a foregone conclusion.

In this particular instance, who knows if there was a vehicle mechanical or other issue, or if the positioning was intentional. If data or roads were bad in the area I would hope people would back off of being in or near path locations so that no surprises would get them into trouble.
In my humble opinion, viewing positions should be adjusted based on minimum needed response time to reach safety if surprises happen. Pilots manage flight emergency risk with very specific response pre-planning discussions on 'if this type of failure happens at this time, we do this" and I wonder if many chasers or tour operators do something similar or just react without a plan once an unexpected problem arises. I have been trying to think that way when I am out on risky storms; pre plan what could go wrong and what I would do. It is not like I haven't made errors or been surprised out there. I would much rather miss one view than all the views forever so this incident is a good reminder to stay safe.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Incidents like this are of obvious morbid fascination to all of us as chasers, but they also have serious ramifications on our shared avocation. I am particularly interested in the psychological and emotional aspects of chasing that are highlighted by incidents like this. For example, chasing has obviously become competitive. In some cases it is "real" competition - in other words, tour companies actually competing for customers by offering the most intense experiences (setting aside for a moment the fact that killing or injuring your customers is not good for business...); media companies competing for the best coverage; social media types competing for who knows what... But what's interesting is that the extreme experiences some chasers have had, can make us more competitive with ourselves... In other words, although I am technically not competing with anyone, an experience that may have satisfied me in the past, and made me feel "successful" in chasing, now seems like nothing... Feeling good about my own experience and footage, compared to some of these extreme chasers, is like a 5-year old bragging to a major league baseball player about his hit in T-ball. Despite all of my years in chasing, before today I had never even heard the term "zero-metering" (5/04/22 EVENT: OK/TX/AR). That's all we need, instead of a subjective "close" or "not so close," now we have an objective term that we can measure ourselves against... What can go wrong?


In the earlier days of storm chasing, that position was known as the "bear's cage." Chasing 101's first rule was, "never be in the bear's cage." I'm sorry that it seems to have been forgotten.
We have few details at this point, but IF the tour group was positioned in the Bear's Cage, it would be a particularly egregious mistake since that's exactly what happened to SLT in 2019.
Mike's post highlights the change that has taken place... In some ways, it's no different than other pursuits like surfing (what was a "big wave" years ago, no longer is, after Laird Hamilton and tow-in surfing...) or mountain climbing (what was a high mountain before, no longer is...) You get the idea... I'm sure there are many others.

Although I remain a relatively old-school and therefore conservative chaser (age alone tends to make one more cautious), and will probably be even more so this year, with my son coming with me for the first time, I actually don't think that *as a rule* one has to avoid the bear's cage. On an HP supercell and/or in the dark, for sure. But there are times it can be reasonably safe, and almost unavoidable if you want to see a tornado from even a mile away.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
A strong, cyclic supercell having on occlusion rapidly peel to the north is also what happened with the Salado tornado a few weeks back. Really reinforces why it's better to be safe than sorry with storms like this, especially after dark. That storm was in a bad road network for the majority of its life from west of King County all the way to Vernon, and as @Brian OConnell noted, there's no real crossings along the Pease out there outside of the US highways.
A poor road network likely contributes to incidents like this... Even the best intentions to be safe, fail when there just aren't enough road options... When the choice is to use the one good road that allows us to stay with the storm despite the dangers, or pretty much give up on the storm by ending up hopelessly out of position, it is very hard to choose the latter...
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,346
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Pilots manage flight emergency risk with very specific response pre-planning discussions on 'if this type of failure happens at this time, we do this" and I wonder if many chasers or tour operators do something similar or just react without a plan once an unexpected problem arises. I have been trying to think that way when I am out on risky storms; pre plan what could go wrong and what I would do. It is not like I haven't made errors or been surprised out there. I would much rather miss one view than all the views forever so this incident is a good reminder to stay safe.
Great reminder, this is absolutely a discipline that we should all follow... In another example of how chasing has parallels and transferability to other areas of life, your idea reminds me of other areas of risk management and tabletop scenario planning that have always interested me both professionally and personally, and this is a great reminder that it is hugely necessary and applicable to chasing. I will actually enjoy applying that discipline this year!
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Kind of a ridiculous video for them to post... Aside from potentially documenting legal culpability for themselves, it's not at all compelling... Some annoying whimpering (surprised there was seemingly only one voice, and not a bunch of passengers screaming), some wind noise, and mostly a black screen with only the words "for licensing contact Charles Edwards" visible...
 
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Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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Agree that idea of staying in a safer position seems to be out of favor for many.

It seems like a lot of people out there today pride themselves on chasing from in/near path close up positions, at least according to their self declarations via social media and 'extreme' and 'insane' videos. I almost feel it is expected as the only way to chase by a certain faction and hope that is not the belief of tour operators that they must do this to get an experience for their guests over being cautious and backing off. I'm certainly not the chaser police and don't intend to tell others what to do, but I do see the statistics of taking such risk as meaning more eventual tragedy is a foregone conclusion.

In this particular instance, who knows if there was a vehicle mechanical or other issue, or if the positioning was intentional. If data or roads were bad in the area I would hope people would back off of being in or near path locations so that no surprises would get them into trouble.
In my humble opinion, viewing positions should be adjusted based on minimum needed response time to reach safety if surprises happen. Pilots manage flight emergency risk with very specific response pre-planning discussions on 'if this type of failure happens at this time, we do this" and I wonder if many chasers or tour operators do something similar or just react without a plan once an unexpected problem arises. I have been trying to think that way when I am out on risky storms; pre plan what could go wrong and what I would do. It is not like I haven't made errors or been surprised out there. I would much rather miss one view than all the views forever so this incident is a good reminder to stay safe.
Great ideas... but the genie is out of the bottle. A few Veteran chasers tried to address these issues when they first became a problem, but the momentum of social media stardom, money, glory and the ability to chase full-time was more powerful than self-regulating behavior. The fan base also wanted more death-defying stunts and close-up footage, so it became the norm of chasing. The current mode of chasing will eventually give way to even more extreme stunts in order to remain relevant. The death toll of chasers will rise. This is especially true given the number of people now chasing in the deep south where visibility is an issue and amateurs try to emulate others.

As I noted before, I no longer care how people chase and it's a personal choice as long as they don't endanger other people. There are checks and balances that most chasers never consider: Kill someone by negligence and you are facing manslaughter and civil actions. Maim yourself with debris and be disabled for life.
 

Jamie H

EF0
Feb 25, 2022
19
24
1
United Kingdom
I am particularly interested in the psychological and emotional aspects of chasing that are highlighted by incidents like this. For example, chasing has obviously become competitive. In some cases it is "real" competition - in other words, tour companies actually competing for customers by offering the most intense experiences (setting aside for a moment the fact that killing or injuring your customers is not good for business...); media companies competing for the best coverage; social media types competing for who knows what...
It reminds me a little of the events on Mt Everest most recently covered by the movie Everest. The underlying cause of the tragedy was related to the exposure different companies could get from the media and how they could use it to run profitable businesses. If chaser tours are going to evolve from safe view of beautiful phenomena to extreme action (which sadly seems more likely than not) then these kind of things won't be rare events anymore and something bad will eventually happen.
 
Apr 25, 2022
14
53
1
North Carolina
We broke off our chase after Truscott/Crowley. There is no point to chasing in the dark IMO. I personally like seeing the structure with the Tor so also no need to "zero meter" for me (you are also not going to sell any footage with every chaser in the Plains on the same cell). Of course this is only my personal choice. My only regret yesterday was not being in the right spot to send out the drone. That screaming inflow would have ended that idea real quick.
 
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Michael Towers

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Jun 28, 2007
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If chaser tours are going to evolve from safe view of beautiful phenomena to extreme action...
I agree but I’m not sure that’s the case here, if so I’m sure it will come out. More likely poor road options, possibly poor data access and deviant tornado motion combined with poor planning and judgment by the operators are to blame. I’m not excusing or defending the company (nor do I know anyone in Cloud 9 or any other tour company) as they have a responsibility first and foremost for the safety of their passengers. I just think the issues noted above are more likely to blame than an extreme endeavor to satiate the appetite of thrill-seeking customers…which may only be a small minority of customers anyway.
 
Jun 19, 2005
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New Mexico
Great ideas... but the genie is out of the bottle. A few Veteran chasers tried to address these issues when they first became a problem, but the momentum of social media stardom, money, glory and the ability to chase full-time was more powerful than self-regulating behavior.
Many of these incidents are from "Veteran" chasers... How long has Cloud 9 or Silver Lining been operating?
 
Mar 26, 2022
73
39
6
Saratoga county NY
If this was the tour group I saw on the livestreams (which seems likely based on their positioning according to the GPS screen in the video), I cannot see how this was the result of anything other than a major mistake, I saw them hook slice from the west on an eastward moving storm, so they were knowingly putting themselves in a bad part of the inflow notch, and were coming from behind the storm, not simply overtaken by the storm after suffering a mechanical failure (the video also shows the vehicle driving normally until the winds become too high), the lack of good roads should not have been a surprise, as someone should have been navigating and had maps, they should have seen this and not put themselves in a position where they lacked good escape routs. Poor data access is not a sufficient explanation, as they should not have put themselves in a position where they are trusting their lives to radar data in the first place (I know no one died, but they easily could have), and the tornado motion was not that unusual, north turns are common when a supercell tornado occludes, the only unusual thing here is that the whole supercell turned north, instead of just the tornado, but this is irrelevant to the fact that they should have been prepared for a north turn
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Many of these incidents are from "Veteran" chasers... How long has Cloud 9 or Silver Lining been operating?
Exactly… I’m not sure how long SL has been operating (definitely long enough to be considered veterans in any case) but I know for a fact C9 has been operating since the mid-90s.

Well if we assume they did nothing “wrong” in terms of being “too aggressive,” it just goes to show the unexpected can happen and no one is immune from disaster, no matter how much experience you have…