Recap of our most exciting chase of the chase-cation

Jamie Winterstern

Enthusiast
May 22, 2019
8
9
1
Los Angeles
First let me thank everyone on this thread. Such unbelievable perspective from so many different angles & truly educational.

I like many of you have been drawn to the sky since as early as I can remember. My family had a condo in Florida for years; they'd be enjoying dinner at Cheesecake Factory, I'd be in the parking lot outside watching the sky light up in 5 minute increments not to totally piss off my parents. To this day, nothing gets me going more than a light show & there's no better place to enjoy light shows than on a humid evening over the atlantic ... or so I thought.

It seems like most people on here are seasoned vets, intimate in this small community and have stirred up quite a conversation that in my opinion should be published. But now let me give you my humble version of the story as a complete novice & someone that decided a few weeks ago to rent a car and drive 2500 miles through CO, KS, OK & TX to experience my first supercell, let alone tornado.

I'm guilty as charged. I'm one of those digital chasers; downloaded Radarscope the moment I got off the plane; made sure the rental vehicle was an AWD and fully covered & thanks to a newfound friend got just enough of the science & basics to make myself dangerous (I guess that pun's intended). Before I new it I was updating HRRR reading HWOs and picking targets. Traveling with my girlfriend and a buddy I guess you could say I was "responsible" since I had the most amount knowledge & orchestrated the trip. I tell you, I definitely didn't get it until May 26th when we drove directly from the Denver airport toward Lamar and arrived to an absolute circus of a caravan. All of a sudden it become real. A mixture of OMG I feel like I'm apart of something big, maybe even a movement ... to ... shit this traffic sucks.

Now I wasn't in Lawerence on the 28th, we decided to stay on a cell around Wichita that day, but our story begins the following day & our last chase day in Texas. It was around 3:30PM and we were pissed that this Dallas BBQ joint Pecan closed at 3PM. What kind of restaurant closes at 3PM anyway? After updating radarscope I saw two Tornado warned storms by Rockwell & spotted a third cell building to the SW of Canton. It was about only an hour away so we decided might as well. Sure enough on route that cell goes Tornado warned. Now maybe everyone that reads this can relate back to the emotions on their first tornado experience, but I will preface by saying YES we were naive, YES we were reckless & YES we were lucky.

I don't know how else to describe it other than outer body & pure adrenaline. We sped down wet roads, overtook vehicles, ran red lights, I think we even overtook a police officer. There was this sense of entitlement, that nothing else mattered because something greater was happening. I had this guttural fear the whole time deep inside, like this is wrong, we're too close. I think I even voiced it to my buddy but he didn't listen, he just kept driving toward the circulation. We ended up behind two police cruisers that were stopped on the road. The rain started whipping sideways and the clouds above were rotating fast. Suddenly a debris swirl tossed up dirt about 50 feet in the field to our left. All the bickering & screaming became dead silent. For about 20 seconds there was this utter helplessness. I mean we had two police cruisers within 15 feet from us and it had absolutely zero impact, we were there and it was happening. It happened so fast, it tapped the field and sucked back up heading NE. What we learned later that day was that we experienced a brief after birth of what was previously the EF2 Canton tornado. Here's the drone footage of it.

I had every intention to be safe and responsible, but when the tornado sirens started blaring & the clouds started rotating above a switch flipped and we ended up doing the exact opposite. Talk about human nature & safety. I'm sure someone can speak to this.
 
Jan 31, 2017
59
32
11
Joplin, MO & Iowa City, IA
I had every intention to be safe and responsible, but when the tornado sirens started blaring & the clouds started rotating above a switch flipped and we ended up doing the exact opposite. Talk about human nature & safety. I'm sure someone can speak to this.
The Optimism Bias. Bad things happen only to other people. Sure was a scary thing that happened to those chasers near Lawrence, but I'm not them. I'll be careful. I'll be fine.

Meteorologists talk a lot about it in trying to figure out how to spur people to take warnings more seriously. An NWS met said, "I haven't lived anywhere that people don't believe they're somehow magically protected from tornadoes." We shop for a forecast until we find one we like (the Confirmation Bias). Channel 7 says, "the tornado's coming this way." Channel 12 says, "the tornado's coming this way." Channel 14 says, "The tornado's coming this way." Channel 16 says, "it looks as if it might go south of us." Which forecast are people going to favor?

It's all human nature, whether chaser or non-chaser. Now, if someone can find a way to work *with* human nature to get a safety message across, that'll be big.
 
Nov 13, 2017
17
61
6
Illinois
I don't know how else to describe it other than outer body & pure adrenaline. We sped down wet roads, overtook vehicles, ran red lights, I think we even overtook a police officer. There was this sense of entitlement, that nothing else mattered because something greater was happening. I had this guttural fear the whole time deep inside, like this is wrong, we're too close. I think I even voiced it to my buddy but he didn't listen, he just kept driving toward the circulation. We ended up behind two police cruisers that were stopped on the road. The rain started whipping sideways and the clouds above were rotating fast. Suddenly a debris swirl tossed up dirt about 50 feet in the field to our left. All the bickering & screaming became dead silent. For about 20 seconds there was this utter helplessness. I mean we had two police cruisers within 15 feet from us and it had absolutely zero impact, we were there and it was happening.
Just wait until Fox News gets a hold of this.
 
Jul 16, 2013
214
102
11
Joplin, MO
I don't know how else to describe it other than outer body & pure adrenaline. We sped down wet roads, overtook vehicles, ran red lights, I think we even overtook a police officer. There was this sense of entitlement, that nothing else mattered because something greater was happening. I had this guttural fear the whole time deep inside, like this is wrong, we're too close. I think I even voiced it to my buddy but he didn't listen, he just kept driving toward the circulation. We ended up behind two police cruisers that were stopped on the road. The rain started whipping sideways and the clouds above were rotating fast. Suddenly a debris swirl tossed up dirt about 50 feet in the field to our left. All the bickering & screaming became dead silent. For about 20 seconds there was this utter helplessness. I mean we had two police cruisers within 15 feet from us and it had absolutely zero impact, we were there and it was happening. It happened so fast, it tapped the field and sucked back up heading NE. What we learned later that day was that we experienced a brief after birth of what was previously the EF2 Canton tornado. Here's the drone footage of it.
If what you're saying is true, then this is the most irresponsible, horrifying thing I've read. Running red lights, overtaking vehicles and even a police officer.. I'm not sure if this is factual or exaggerated. If factual, then that's just stupid and very irresponsible. When I was young and dumb and started chasing 24 years ago, I never chased in this manner. I didn't have the guts back then to drive in this manner, and admittedly I still don't, I would like to continue living. The thought of doing so never crossed my mind, regardless of the adrenaline rush that was pumping through me. Keep chasing like this and you'll be another chaser death we'll be reading about.
 

Jamie Winterstern

Enthusiast
May 22, 2019
8
9
1
Los Angeles
If what you're saying is true, then this is the most irresponsible, horrifying thing I've read. Running red lights, overtaking vehicles and even a police officer.. I'm not sure if this is factual or exaggerated. If factual, then that's just stupid and very irresponsible. When I was young and dumb and started chasing 24 years ago, I never chased in this manner. I didn't have the guts back then to drive in this manner, and admittedly I still don't, I would like to continue living. The thought of doing so never crossed my mind, regardless of the adrenaline rush that was pumping through me. Keep chasing like this and you'll be another chaser death we'll be reading about.
Just trying to give this forum an honest perspective from a first time chaser & shed some light on the psychology behind it all. This trip was my introduction to the storm chasing world & from what I experienced, I can assure you I wasn't the only car pulling these type of maneuvers and I definitely won't be the last. How do we change that?
 
Jun 4, 2018
45
41
11
29
San Angelo, TX
First let me thank everyone on this thread. Such unbelievable perspective from so many different angles & truly educational.

I like many of you have been drawn to the sky since as early as I can remember. My family had a condo in Florida for years; they'd be enjoying dinner at Cheesecake Factory, I'd be in the parking lot outside watching the sky light up in 5 minute increments not to totally piss off my parents. To this day, nothing gets me going more than a light show & there's no better place to enjoy light shows than on a humid evening over the atlantic ... or so I thought.

It seems like most people on here are seasoned vets, intimate in this small community and have stirred up quite a conversation that in my opinion should be published. But now let me give you my humble version of the story as a complete novice & someone that decided a few weeks ago to rent a car and drive 2500 miles through CO, KS, OK & TX to experience my first supercell, let alone tornado.

I'm guilty as charged. I'm one of those digital chasers; downloaded Radarscope the moment I got off the plane; made sure the rental vehicle was an AWD and fully covered & thanks to a newfound friend got just enough of the science & basics to make myself dangerous (I guess that pun's intended). Before I new it I was updating HRRR reading HWOs and picking targets. Traveling with my girlfriend and a buddy I guess you could say I was "responsible" since I had the most amount knowledge & orchestrated the trip. I tell you, I definitely didn't get it until May 26th when we drove directly from the Denver airport toward Lamar and arrived to an absolute circus of a caravan. All of a sudden it become real. A mixture of OMG I feel like I'm apart of something big, maybe even a movement ... to ... shit this traffic sucks.

Now I wasn't in Lawerence on the 28th, we decided to stay on a cell around Wichita that day, but our story begins the following day & our last chase day in Texas. It was around 3:30PM and we were pissed that this Dallas BBQ joint Pecan closed at 3PM. What kind of restaurant closes at 3PM anyway? After updating radarscope I saw two Tornado warned storms by Rockwell & spotted a third cell building to the SW of Canton. It was about only an hour away so we decided might as well. Sure enough on route that cell goes Tornado warned. Now maybe everyone that reads this can relate back to the emotions on their first tornado experience, but I will preface by saying YES we were naive, YES we were reckless & YES we were lucky.

I don't know how else to describe it other than outer body & pure adrenaline. We sped down wet roads, overtook vehicles, ran red lights, I think we even overtook a police officer. There was this sense of entitlement, that nothing else mattered because something greater was happening. I had this guttural fear the whole time deep inside, like this is wrong, we're too close. I think I even voiced it to my buddy but he didn't listen, he just kept driving toward the circulation. We ended up behind two police cruisers that were stopped on the road. The rain started whipping sideways and the clouds above were rotating fast. Suddenly a debris swirl tossed up dirt about 50 feet in the field to our left. All the bickering & screaming became dead silent. For about 20 seconds there was this utter helplessness. I mean we had two police cruisers within 15 feet from us and it had absolutely zero impact, we were there and it was happening. It happened so fast, it tapped the field and sucked back up heading NE. What we learned later that day was that we experienced a brief after birth of what was previously the EF2 Canton tornado. Here's the drone footage of it.

I had every intention to be safe and responsible, but when the tornado sirens started blaring & the clouds started rotating above a switch flipped and we ended up doing the exact opposite. Talk about human nature & safety. I'm sure someone can speak to this.

I understand trying to provide the forum with another perspective, but the way it was done, I'm afraid, may have backfired. Everyone here was a first time chaser at some point, but I imagine you'd be hard pressed to find very many others on this forum who have engaged in all those behaviors. The best way to chase safely is with a clear and level head, regardless of if its your first time or your 1000th. I get going a few above the speed limit, or getting frustrated with slow moving traffic in front of you. But it's kind of hard to see tornadoes if you are involved in an accident on the way. Even more difficult if that accident kills you or someone else.

Luckily you seem to know that how you were chasing isn't the way to go about it, and I'm sure you will correct it in the future. I just don't think the psychology of someone's first chase pushing them into erratic and dangerous behaviors is as common as you may think.
 
Jul 5, 2009
806
469
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
Just trying to give this forum an honest perspective from a first time chaser & shed some light on the psychology behind it all. This trip was my introduction to the storm chasing world & from what I experienced, I can assure you I wasn't the only car pulling these type of maneuvers and I definitely won't be the last. How do we change that?
I agree with Joey and Michael, pretty irresponsible behavior, especially for a first chase when, if anything, you should have been *more* cautious. You’re new to chasing, and also new to ST based on your “joined” date. Not sure how much time you have spent reading the existing content here, but there is a lot of contempt for unsafe and irresponsible chasing (not to mention, a lot of information on *safe* chasing, which you should read). Much of that contempt is directed at the generic, unnamed masses, but you have actually admitted to being one of them. On some level I actually respect and appreciate that you had enough courage to be honest about how you chased that day. Some of the things you mentioned, I agree, you are not the only one. I’m sure we have all broken the speed limit. And of course the roads may have been wet when doing so. Overtaking other vehicles may or may not have been OK, depends on the situation and how you passed. However, going through red lights or passing police officers is NEVER acceptable (except maybe going through a red light to escape a tornado, but you should never let yourself be in that situation in the first place).

I do understand the feelings that arise when in a tornado or potential tornado environment. I do understand how it can remove your inhibitions. But it comes down to self-control and self-discipline. You know, the same way I may lust after a gorgeous woman at a bar, feel my inhibitions weaken after a couple of drinks, but still have the self-discipline not to act on it because I’m married.

How do we change it, you asked? It’s up to each and every person to have the self-control noted above. It’s as simple as that. Think about it, as an anaology, our entire traffic system is based upon people obeying the rules. Theoretically, there is no way anyone can be physically forced to stop at a red light or stop sign. If we ALL decided we were going to stop following traffic laws, there’s no way the police could arrest or ticket all of us. It depends on a collective understanding that we are all going to follow the rules. Business ethics is similar. There are many things that are not illegal, but are unethical. If we ALL decided to abandon ethical behavior, the whole economy would collapse. And this community, our storm chasing community, has rules and codes of conduct. Learn them and follow them.

How else do we change it? Education, the same way the business community educates itself on ethics.

And the final thing we can do is call each other out on bad behavior. Which is what @Joey Ketcham and @Michael Norris did with you. And don’t be surprised if others do as well.
 
Last edited:
You are probably right that this won't be the last time this kind of thing happens, but you also asked how we stop irresponsible behavior. One way to stop it is calling out people who do it, as several people have done in response to your post. I hope you will take that as constructive criticism - things like running stop signs are dangerous and irresponsible. More people have died because of that kind of chaser behavior than the number of chasers who have died in tornadoes, and that kind of behavior needs to STOP. I hope you will take these comments in that light, and make sure you and your chase partners never do that again.
 
Jul 5, 2009
806
469
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
Thank you James for taking the time in giving a thoughtful response. I understand there’s a PC nature to life these days, but after reading 100+ posts on the SLT thread, I felt like this forum was a safe place to say something honest, even if unpopular.
You absolutely can and should feel free to say things that are honest even if unpopular. But that doesn’t mean other members are just going to endorse or condone bad behavior either. Even just silence might be considered acceptance. You asked how to stop this behavior, and this is how, by letting people (especially new chasers) know that it is not OK. It has nothing to do with being “PC” and as I said I respect you being honest about what you felt and did that day. But there was also no explicit acknowledgment that what you did was wrong and no indication that you recognized you needed to battle those feelings the next time and chase more safely. I do hope you realize this now.

We all just want to chase safely. If we take risks in the bear’s cage that’s our own issue, but none of us has the right to endanger another chaser or local resident by aggressive driving. It used to be reasonably safe to speed on those open roads, but with all the chaser traffic now, it’s a different ballgame.
 
We sped down wet roads, overtook vehicles, ran red lights, I think we even overtook a police officer. There was this sense of entitlement, that nothing else mattered because something greater was happening.
Be glad you didn't kill someone along the way just for a dumb tornado. When the chances of you harming someone is greater than a tornado there's something wrong.
I can assure you I wasn't the only car pulling these type of maneuvers and I definitely won't be the last. How do we change that?
There is no we. You change it by starting with you.
 
Nov 13, 2017
17
61
6
Illinois
Apologies, I'll take responsibility for that. I'll make my thoughts more pointed toward SLT & not my own. As I mentioned before, I believe there's a sense of entitlement in some chasing instances; when something as extreme as a tornado is occurring, judgement can & will slip. We strive to be our best always, but accidents happen & I agree with @Joey Ketcham that socially media is definitely a trigger.
Moving this over here since this is a direct message to you and only you:

I think it's cool that new people get into chasing. But this is why new people shouldn't be chasing without someone who knows what they're doing. You don't. Your judgment should and cannot slip when you're chasing a storm. Your awareness should be heightened and your thoughts should be organized. You should be resourceful in your movements, and you should always know your "I don't know what to do" move. When you don't know what to do, you should take whatever action that is. In most circumstances, that will be bailing back where you just came from, where you can safely spend some time to collect your thoughts from a distance, analyze the situation, and make your next move. You should feel an immense amount of respect toward the storm because they will kill you if you continue chasing with the mindset you have displayed here.

I halfheartedly hope you're trolling, but I know you're not. Stop thinking this way.
 

Jamie Winterstern

Enthusiast
May 22, 2019
8
9
1
Los Angeles
Moving this over here since this is a direct message to you and only you:

I think it's cool that new people get into chasing. But this is why new people shouldn't be chasing without someone who knows what they're doing. You don't. Your judgment should and cannot slip when you're chasing a storm. Your awareness should be heightened and your thoughts should be organized. You should be resourceful in your movements, and you should always know your "I don't know what to do" move. When you don't know what to do, you should take whatever action that is. In most circumstances, that will be bailing back where you just came from, where you can safely spend some time to collect your thoughts from a distance, analyze the situation, and make your next move. You should feel an immense amount of respect toward the storm because they will kill you if you continue chasing with the mindset you have displayed here.

I halfheartedly hope you're trolling, but I know you're not. Stop thinking this way.
Thank you. After all, I'm here the same as all of you & I want to be a better / safer chaser. I appreciate the constructive criticism and will apply it on my next experience.
 

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
1,941
239
11
38
Macomb, IL
www.tornadoguys.com
Thank you James for taking the time in giving a thoughtful response. I understand there’s a PC nature to life these days, but after reading 100+ posts on the SLT thread, I felt like this forum was a safe place to say something honest, even if unpopular.
Jamie,

It's good that you're honest and willing to open up dialogue about ethical behaviors when sharing the roadways with others, but a consequence of doing so can be becoming the recipient of full blown criticism in the court of public opinion. Personally, I'd also be careful what you put in writing in regards to admitting to flagrantly violating traffic laws and what could amount to reckless driving in some locales (this can carry the weight of a criminal misdemeanor if prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law where applicable).

As someone else already opined, most people have exceeded the speed limit while trying to keep up with storms. Overtaking vehicles is a nebulous concept. You can certainly pass other vehicle(s) when safe and legal to do so, as long as you are within the speed limit, it's a passing zone, and you're not passing more than the legally acceptable number of vehicle(s). However, no storm is worth your life. I'd say that most storm chasers reasonably respect traffic laws and don't recklessly pass multiple vehicles while dangerously doing so, but yes, it happens. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I'd also encourage you to respect law enforcement officers if a right-of-way is closed or they are sitting on the side of the road trying to mitigate a traffic hazard (see Scott's Law where applicable). You won't find very many people willing to extend accolades in a manner that condones driving behaviors that pose a risk to yourself or others. Just be safe while partaking in the hobby. No one wants to hear of more casualties.
 
Last edited: