Silver Lining Tours vans rolled in Kansas

Mar 2, 2004
2,263
267
11
Wichita, KS
www.facebook.com
People don't have to die but sometimes they do just like with horseback riding. Isn't it acceptable that activity sometimes hurts people or kills people? The only difference I can come up with is an emotional one... tornadoes are more scarry. But not to me, haha. It would be interesting to look up statistics on horseback riding deaths and injuries and then even horseback riding incidents involving groups of people that pay to go on guided horseback rides.
Oh, I guess that just makes it all okay then. Let me tell you something, those of us close to Tim, Paul, and Carl will never find that acceptable. Ask those in this forum if they accept that the careless actions of other chasers killed their friend, Corbin. Or those close to Kelly and Randall? There is absolutely NOTHING acceptable in that. Yes, drunk driving happens, too. Is that acceptable? Kids get gunned down in school annually. A lot more of them than have ever died in storm chasing. Is that more acceptable cause going to school suddenly now has the potential to be more deadly than storm chasing?

The idea that people are "sometimes going to die" does not just suddenly make it okay, or acceptable by any stretch. I don't accept the passing of Tim, Paul, and Carl, and I can assure you im not alone in that. All of them should still be here. Regardless of the circumstances or blame surrounding their deaths, all of them could have easily been prevented with a degree of caution. Hell, until them (aside from hydroplaning or other unrelated car crashes), no chaser had died while actively chasing. Until 2013, that was the case. People have been chasing storms without perishing for a long time til then. It didn't suddenly become acceptable after that. Storm chasing didn't get more dangerous. Storm CHASERS did. And that's the point.

I hope like hell you never have to experience the loss of someone, especially something that could and should be preventable. But perhaps I envy the hell out of you that you can simply accept it.
 
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Todd Lemery

Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
475
456
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54
Menominee, MI
Keep in mind that the majority of times that emergency services are called, it’s because someone did something that was preventable or known to be dangerous. Whether it’s drivers driving drunk or driving too fast, to people doing drugs or even going out on a river that’s flowing fast, people tie up emergency services all the time with preventable stuff. You can even argue that someone stuffing their face with Ho-Hos and not getting any exercise before they have a heart attack is a case of someone doing something that’s known to be dangerous and is preventable. To single out SLT because of one incident seems kind of silly to me when there are frequent fliers for every fire department and EMS provider in the country.
I know that they were responsible for their customers, but does any thinking person out there believe that Roger was actually intentionally putting his clients in harms way? It was a mistake only in the sense that they were unaware of the rapidly changing conditions. It’s not like they intentionally drove into a rain wrapped tornado in hopes of getting a better view.
The lawyers may have their way with this incident, but I consider them way less liable than the kazillion of knuckleheads every day who do things they know have a high probability of sending themselves to an ER visit. As far as I know they haven’t had any previous incidents like this and may never again. If that’s the case, then I think they deserve a little slack. Save the condemnation for those who’ve earned it by intentionally or repeatedly doing stupid stuff.
 
Jun 16, 2015
448
986
21
32
Oklahoma City, OK
quincyvagell.com
Apologies for not getting this video up sooner @Dan Robinson, but after being on the road for 15 straight days (chasing the last 13 in a row), I needed some rest and wanted to make sure I had timestamps and locations correct before I uploaded anything.

The point of this is to show what visuals I had to the west.

The video starts at 5:55 p.m. (the last 20-30 seconds of 5:54, but I didn't have a camera with accuracy to seconds) at the intersection of N 400 Road and County Road 1029, just north of Globe, KS. This is about 2 miles southwest of the south end of Lone Star Park, or approximately 1 mile south of the location where the van flip occurred. I will save any more commentary on my personal thoughts for another reply. This video will be left for you to decide what you see to the west.
Note that the red line shows the approximate angle at which the camera was pointing. It is a 170 degree field of view, for the record.
190528_map.gif
 
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J Holder

EF2
Mar 30, 2005
129
9
6
Osage city, KS
I am not passing judgment one way or another, just kind of thinking out loud here about how chasing has changed... When I started in 1996, it was frowned upon to even end up in the “bear’s cage”... Maybe back then the veterans did it anyway and it was just lip service, I have no idea, but it seemed like something you just didn’t do... Now of course in recent years people have gotten closer and more extreme. Sometimes there is talk on here about how this has created greater “competition” to get the money shot. Personally I have never had any interest in, or tried to, sell any footage or become a social media star. So for me there is no aspect of “competition.” Yet I cant deny still being influenced by the trend; it becomes part of the chasing culture, gets into your subconscious, and what you might have thought was a great experience before now just doesn’t seem exciting enough, adventurous enough, or like enough of a personal achievement because of the awareness of what others have seen and experienced.
I've been spotting/chasing locally for a few years longer than you and you're 100% correct. Once upon a time core punching was something noobs and fools did and doing same in a storm like this one was considered suicidal. I've tried to keep an open mind on this, but the more this discussion goes on, the apologetics pile up and other issues that seem to be a usual occurrence during high risk days I'm very concerned for the future and safety of storm chasing.

For those who think the government won't regulate chase tours, don't bet on it. Transporting persons for hire across state lines is textbook interstate Commerce and well within the Federal government's wheelhouse, along with it comes registration, maintenence inspections and recordkeeping, CDL's, mandatory drug testing, electronic logbooks, hours of service, etc. There are folks in Lawrence who are already comparing this to the Duckboat accident in Branson a couple years ago and these folks aren't above crying to their Congresscritters to do something.
 
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Jul 16, 2013
219
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Joplin, MO
When I started in 1996, it was frowned upon to even end up in the “bear’s cage”... Maybe back then the veterans did it anyway and it was just lip service, I have no idea, but it seemed like something you just didn’t do... Now of course in recent years people have gotten closer and more extreme.
I remember those days as well, and it was discussed a lot. In fact, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, I remember back in those days you and I were both a part of the WX-CHASE email list in which the topic of being in the "bear's cage" often came up, and like you said.. it was frowned upon. And Tony brings up a good point that until 2013, there were no storm chaser deaths that was the direct result of tornadoes.

What has caused this? Technology and Social Media, at least that is a part of the blame. As someone who has worked in IT for 19 years, and currently working in Technology in the educational setting, I see the effects Social Media and technology has on our society. Prior to 2013, Social Media was in its infancy so to speak, at least now where it is today. Sure, you had live streaming options available; wasn't great, but was there.

That technology has gotten better, Social Media has spread like a wildfire. Easy to make a name for yourself, and the more extreme you are the more likes, views and followers you get. And Storm Chasing is a great way of doing that; get close to a tornado, post your video on Social Media or whatever platform and suddenly you have thousands of views, comments and gaining new followers. Feels great, doesn't it? The

In part I think technology giving us the ability to make a name for ourselves by posting live on Social Media and live streaming, and the more extreme you are the more likes and followers you get. The more views you get, the more likes you get, the more followers you get... the better you feel. The dopamine your brain releases from seeing those likes, views and shares excites you and causes you to want to do more. I think Social Media and chasers wanting to make a name for themselves in the easiest way possible is why we're now seeing chasers chasing more irresponsibly than they did back in 1996. Of course, the ones guilty of this will be like any addict, and yes this is oddly a form of addiction in a sense, the guilty ones will be quick to defend themselves, say that I'm wrong, or say they can chase the way they want, blah blah blah. That's all fine and good, but until they admit that there is a problem, deaths will continue to happen. It shouldn't happen, it's very much preventable, but it's much like trying to tell an alcoholic that he has a problem and needs to quit drinking; it's ineffective. When an alcoholic ignores everything and continues drinking, eventually they will die. Continue to chase recklessly to gain likes, views, shares and followers; you will die. It doesn't need to be that way, really it doesn't, and we don't need anymore chaser deaths.. but I'm afraid it's too late, and it'll never change.
 
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I'm not qualified to comment on the specific situation that caused the accident but my long-term peripheral involvement with tours and solo chasing makes me want to comment anyway, FWIW. First and foremost, SLT is one of the best in the business conducting chase tours. I thought so in 2003 and still do today.

However, the very depth of knowledge and experience of chase tour operators tends to enable a greater degree of complacency toward severe conditions than the solo chaser usually has. It also adds an extra element of inertia when it comes to getting the whole group reloaded and re-positioned. Lastly, the tour vans are more vulnerable to cross-winds relative to standard vehicles.

Mr. Vagell's video pretty clearly shows a "robust" RFD blasting through the cloud layer several minutes before the incident. From the hindsight of an armchair and the fact that what Mr. Vagell saw was impressive enough that he blasted east, the dynamic situation seems clear enough to me. Whether gustnado or true tornado the resulting cross-winds were strong enough to flip two high profile passenger vans, and I'm so grateful and relieved that no one was apparently seriously hurt.
 
Feb 27, 2009
455
73
11
Texarkana, AR
Just thought I'd point out we are talking about the man, most tornadoes viewed world record holder. People join SLT to see.... tornadoes. The idea that SLT would not be in position to have eyes on developing *tornado* is a bit illogical, IMO.
HP storms are not just blobs of rain like you see on radar, with folks running around in there squinting through the rain. It can get like that but folks hang in there with eyes on the wall cloud or tornado while shooting through the rfd or heavier rain as necessary. It seems some here are commenting not understanding this is common practice. And I guess I assumed it was common for tour groups to do the same, at least with storms that were not yet full on HP. The only time rfd pass through doesn't work is when there is a freaking tornado in there like you see in Mr. Reynolds video. That is crazy. Storms are amazing and complex and some more than others. I do not understand how that could even happen really. This driving through rain around the main circulation is done thousands of times every year by chasers. Correct me if I'm wrong. The risk for tornado like that is extremely low and crazy low that you would actually cross paths. So I do not understand the logic of coming to the place of using the word "negligent".

Anyhow, I realize I'm speaking from a strictly rational point of view about the low risks. Others speak from a more emotional place and even may have deep emotional ties regarding this topic and I think that is reasonable and maybe the reason for some comments here. A few seconds difference in travel paths would have made all the difference. A very unfortunate incident. I can address Tony's reply more thoroughly later but I am not talking at all about traffic accidents. That is a completely different issue. I'm just saying that everyone that actually wants to ride a horse assumes a risk. If you want to ride a donkey it might be more safe but you should not insist everyone have your opinion.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
851
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
I remember those days as well, and it was discussed a lot. In fact, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, I remember back in those days you and I were both a part of the WX-CHASE email list in which the topic of being in the "bear's cage" often came up, and like you said.. it was frowned upon....

What has caused this? Technology and Social Media, at least that is a part of the blame....


... Of course, the ones guilty of this will be like any addict, and yes this is oddly a form of addiction in a sense, the guilty ones will be quick to defend themselves, say that I'm wrong, or say they can chase the way they want, blah blah blah. That's all fine and good, but until they admit that there is a problem, deaths will continue to happen. It shouldn't happen, it's very much preventable, but it's much like trying to tell an alcoholic that he has a problem and needs to quit drinking; it's ineffective. When an alcoholic ignores everything and continues drinking, eventually they will die. Continue to chase recklessly to gain likes, views, shares and followers; you will die. It doesn't need to be that way, really it doesn't, and we don't need anymore chaser deaths.. but I'm afraid it's too late, and it'll never change.
Joey, you are correct, we were both on WX-CHASE back then (in fact, the list is still around, there has recently been some renewed activity on it, but I posted there to say that everyone should come to ST!)

You are right about social media but the other aspect of technology that is a key driver of the trend is radar such as GR or RadarScope; being able to actually see the base velocity couplet gives a false sense of security while in the hook.

The addiction element is real, not just with social media but in general; I think we are all addicted to chasing in general, always hoping for more intense experiences. But it’s a matter of degree, and how we temper those desires. We can control them, or let them control us...
 
Mar 2, 2004
2,263
267
11
Wichita, KS
www.facebook.com
Having voiced my thoughts in regards to 'death is an acceptable consequence", I will try to hammer down my point in this discussion, which I think is one shared by many.

There is, and in MY opinion, should be a difference in how one chases solo/with a couple other experienced people verses chasing with a tour group or a group of inexperienced people.

People are trying to argue how chasers don't take risks, and that's obviously not true. I, along with most everyone here, HAS taken risks while chasing. But to use that argument against people who are advocating a safer method of chasing for those who are in charge of the care of a group of people, is (again, in MY opinion) not valid.

I think it's a given that most tour guests THINK they want the action of baseballs, close encounters, etc. It's like with anything else that has this adrenaline rush, people want to push those limits. But I believe if you survey an average group of chaser tourists, not ALL of them want to duck and cover when the windows are being blown out, or have that rush of being too close. And even those that say they do, how do they react to being rolled by a tornado. Sure, a couple may think that was the greatest moment of their life, but I foresee that number shrinking by a few.

Tour groups, or hell, I'll even scale it down, an experienced person with newbies in the car. I think (again, MY opinion) that you have to take a additional step or two for safety. People who are not experienced, no matter what they claim, likely do NOT know what they're in for. They're wanting to SEE tornadoes. They should not EXPERIENCE tornadoes. If you're alone, or you have a partner or two whom has been chasing a while, you're not held to the same regard of safety considerations when compared to a tour group.

You can't argue my opinion by saying to me, "well hell, you're taking risks and putting yourself in jeopardy", then compare that to being in charge of a bunch of people and saying they can take the same risks. No, that's not true. And you know that. The argument is weak. I ALWAYS step it back when I have someone with me who is less experienced. Hell, even with another experienced person in the car, I've changed my chasing. As I am being the wheel of my car, I take responsibility for those in my car, in my control. And if I am alone, it's just me. Now my level of "risk taking" is definitely several scales lower than some others, but I, of course, do take calculated risks in some circumstances, WHEN I AM ALONE.

When you start putting other people in my vehicle, whom are at the whim of my decisions, a lot of options immediately disappear. And those who have chased with me can vouch. We'll discuss the option, including the consequences. Ask Tom D and Jon V about our discussion the night of Greensburg. And myself and Jon being early in our careers, opted to NOT chase down the historical Greensburg tornado because we felt it was too risky to get into viewing position. We chose not to take the risk then. As young and inexperienced as we were then, and as tempting as such an event would be, we stopped, discussed, and opted to NOT. Instead, we returned to I-70 and shot lightning on other storms.

That has been a practice of mine for years since... and I have missed big events as a result. I turned away from the 2013 Moore day midway into the trip to the target area because I had concerns over chasing a high end event through a metro area in Oklahoma (and I was by myself in the car that day). Ask me why I never appeared in an episode of the final season of Storm Chasers (they couldn't find any "stories" for me). I can promise you the pressure was there to take risks for better TV. And trust me, there were four letter words exchanged with the crew in regards to my thoughts and decision making process.

Some of those decisions came in real time during an event, others in the hours before an event. There will be other storms, other tornadoes. No sense in risking it all for one. Now, does that mean I have not made a gamble? Absolutely not. But again, most of those risks were on me solo, or with discussion among those in my vehicle. And those in my car have pushed (including "employers" such as DC), and I did not proceed as I viewed the risk too great.

I am not just blowing hot air... I am speaking from experience in this matter. Experience of turning away from chase days/storms/tornadoes because I made the decision that the risk was too great. Again, I have taken the risks, but I have also stood down. Sometimes solo, sometimes with others. I am not perfect, I have made decisions that put me in risky situations. I am not innocent. Just like anyone here. But because it doesn't catch the flair of the extreme video, those stories of bailing on a chase/storm/tornado don't make the headlines as well as these. And that's just fine and dandy, whatever. It's boring, I get it. But again, I have made much less dangerous decisions when others are in the car with me than I do/would when I am responsible only for myself.

So chasing with tours... I think automatically, you have to build in an additional buffer in regards to safety of the clients in the vans. And you cannot take the same level of risks interacting with a storm as you would on your own. And for those of us who are advocating this point, none of us are claiming to never take risks. None of us. But we are saying that are methods will change when you introduce other people into those circumstances.

That is the point... it is not that none of us are risk takers. But when you run a tour group, or operate a business involving people, you need to step back in the interest of their safety. And situational awareness needs to have a huge factor in this. You cannot approach a storm like Dodge City or Bennington (1.0) in the same manner you approach a rain-wrapped, low visibility storm such as this. It's all situational based, and if you cannot see the differences in each situation and make those decisions based on those conditions, you should not be in charge of making those decisions. There are times to get close, and there are times to get the hell out of there. Accidents like this do not have to happen, and the track records show that these are isolated incidents. But as we know all too well, all it takes is ONE isolated incident to change your world. Regardless of the research put into this event by all of us outsiders, we truly do NOT know exactly what went down that afternoon. But what I think we can all agree on was that vans full of people, most of whom knew little if anything about the situation, we put into a dangerous situation which fortunately resulted in only minor consequences. I also think we all agree that some of us would've handled that situation differently. But the point I am trying to drive home, or the question we're trying to find an answer to, is where do you draw that safety line when you are in charge of other people out there in a storm environment. Do you/should you change your approach as a solo chaser verses a tour guide? Do you take the same risks with those guests as you would on your own? And the question to which we may never get the answer, did these tour guides push that envelop too far given the conditions at hand?

Complacent, a word I'm surprised hasn't been used more than I've seen, is a word we should all be very concerned about. And that word will continue to come up as we as chasers get more and more complacent, and things like this happen more often. You're in charge of people, whom largely do NOT have the experience to know the true dangers of these situations. Take responsibility for that, because one day this is going to happen and people are going to die, and God only knows what happens from there.


So that's my angle on solo/few people chasing verses group chasing/tourism. It's long-winded, I get it. And I know it's gone in one eye and out the other. But that's my point. My opinion. Many don't like it, many don't agree, and that's fine. But I wonder if you should to an extent. And was this tornado worth that risk given the circumstances of having full vans of people... that's where I say no. Lets agree to disagree. But that's the thoughts of one 20-plus year vet, one who has weighed risks based on who is with me... take it for what you will.



Just thought I'd point out we are talking about the man, most tornadoes viewed world record holder. People join SLT to see.... tornadoes. The idea that SLT would not be in position to have eyes on developing *tornado* is a bit illogical, IMO.
HP storms are not just blobs of rain like you see on radar, with folks running around in there squinting through the rain. It can get like that but folks hang in there with eyes on the wall cloud or tornado while shooting through the rfd or heavier rain as necessary. It seems some here are commenting not understanding this is common practice. And I guess I assumed it was common for tour groups to do the same, at least with storms that were not yet full on HP. The only time rfd pass through doesn't work is when there is a freaking tornado in there like you see in Mr. Reynolds video. That is crazy. Storms are amazing and complex and some more than others. I do not understand how that could even happen really. This driving through rain around the main circulation is done thousands of times every year by chasers. Correct me if I'm wrong. The risk for tornado like that is extremely low and crazy low that you would actually cross paths. So I do not understand the logic of coming to the place of using the word "negligent".

Anyhow, I realize I'm speaking from a strictly rational point of view about the low risks. Others speak from a more emotional place and even may have deep emotional ties regarding this topic and I think that is reasonable and maybe the reason for some comments here. A few seconds difference in travel paths would have made all the difference. A very unfortunate incident. I can address Tony's reply more thoroughly later but I am not talking at all about traffic accidents. That is a completely different issue. I'm just saying that everyone that actually wants to ride a horse assumes a risk. If you want to ride a donkey it might be more safe but you should not insist everyone have your opinion.
 
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Jun 4, 2018
63
56
11
29
San Angelo, TX
Having voiced my thoughts in regards to 'death is an acceptable consequence", I will try to hammer down my point in this discussion, which I think is one shared by many.

There is, and in MY opinion, should be a difference in how one chases solo/with a couple other experienced people verses chasing with a tour group or a group of inexperienced people.

People are trying to argue how chasers don't take risks, and that's obviously not true. I, along with most everyone here, HAS taken risks while chasing. But to use that argument against people who are advocating a safer method of chasing for those who are in charge of the care of a group of people, is (again, in MY opinion) not valid.

I think it's a given that most tour guests THINK they want the action of baseballs, close encounters, etc. It's like with anything else that has this adrenaline rush, people want to push those limits. But I believe if you survey an average group of chaser tourists, not ALL of them want to duck and cover when the windows are being blown out, or have that rush of being too close. And even those that say they do, how do they react to being rolled by a tornado. Sure, a couple may think that was the greatest moment of their life, but I foresee that number shrinking by a few.

Tour groups, or hell, I'll even scale it down, an experienced person with newbies in the car. I think (again, MY opinion) that you have to take a additional step or two for safety. People who are not experienced, no matter what they claim, likely do NOT know what they're in for. They're wanting to SEE tornadoes. They should not EXPERIENCE tornadoes. If you're alone, or you have a partner or two whom has been chasing a while, you're not held to the same regard of safety considerations when compared to a tour group.

You can't argue my opinion by saying to me, "well hell, you're taking risks and putting yourself in jeopardy", then compare that to being in charge of a bunch of people and saying they can take the same risks. No, that's not true. And you know that. The argument is weak. I ALWAYS step it back when I have someone with me who is less experienced. Hell, even with another experienced person in the car, I've changed my chasing. As I am being the wheel of my car, I take responsibility for those in my car, in my control. And if I am alone, it's just me. Now my level of "risk taking" is definitely several scales lower than some others, but I, of course, do take calculated risks in some circumstances, WHEN I AM ALONE.

When you start putting other people in my vehicle, whom are at the whim of my decisions, a lot of options immediately disappear. And those who have chased with me can vouch. We'll discuss the option, including the consequences. Ask Tom D and Jon V about our discussion the night of Greensburg. And myself and Jon being early in our careers, opted to NOT chase down the historical Greensburg tornado because we felt it was too risky to get into viewing position. We chose not to take the risk then. As young and inexperienced as we were then, and as tempting as such an event would be, we stopped, discussed, and opted to NOT. Instead, we returned to I-70 and shot lightning on other storms.

That has been a practice of mine for years since... and I have missed big events as a result. I turned away from the 2013 Moore day midway into the trip to the target area because I had concerns over chasing a high end event through a metro area in Oklahoma (and I was by myself in the car that day). Ask me why I never appeared in an episode of the final season of Storm Chasers (they couldn't find any "stories" for me). I can promise you the pressure was there to take risks for better TV. And trust me, there were four letter words exchanged with the crew in regards to my thoughts and decision making process.

Some of those decisions came in real time during an event, others in the hours before an event. There will be other storms, other tornadoes. No sense in risking it all for one. Now, does that mean I have not made a gamble? Absolutely not. But again, most of those risks were on me solo, or with discussion among those in my vehicle. And those in my car have pushed (including "employers" such as DC), and I did not proceed as I viewed the risk too great.

I am not just blowing hot air... I am speaking from experience in this matter. Experience of turning away from chase days/storms/tornadoes because I made the decision that the risk was too great. Again, I have taken the risks, but I have also stood down. Sometimes solo, sometimes with others. I am not perfect, I have made decisions that put me in risky situations. I am not innocent. Just like anyone here. But because it doesn't catch the flair of the extreme video, those stories of bailing on a chase/storm/tornado don't make the headlines as well as these. And that's just fine and dandy, whatever. It's boring, I get it. But again, I have made much less dangerous decisions when others are in the car with me than I do/would when I am responsible only for myself.

So chasing with tours... I think automatically, you have to build in an additional buffer in regards to safety of the clients in the vans. And you cannot take the same level of risks interacting with a storm as you would on your own. And for those of us who are advocating this point, none of us are claiming to never take risks. None of us. But we are saying that are methods will change when you introduce other people into those circumstances.

That is the point... it is not that none of us are risk takers. But when you run a tour group, or operate a business involving people, you need to step back in the interest of their safety. And situational awareness needs to have a huge factor in this. You cannot approach a storm like Dodge City or Bennington (1.0) in the same manner you approach a rain-wrapped, low visibility storm such as this. It's all situational based, and if you cannot see the differences in each situation and make those decisions based on those conditions, you should not be in charge of making those decisions. There are times to get close, and there are times to get the hell out of there. Accidents like this do not have to happen, and the track records show that these are isolated incidents. But as we know all too well, all it takes is ONE isolated incident to change your world. Regardless of the research put into this event by all of us outsiders, we truly do NOT know exactly what went down that afternoon. But what I think we can all agree on was that vans full of people, most of whom knew little if anything about the situation, we put into a dangerous situation which fortunately resulted in only minor consequences. I also think we all agree that some of us would've handled that situation differently. But the point I am trying to drive home, or the question we're trying to find an answer to, is where do you draw that safety line when you are in charge of other people out there in a storm environment. Do you/should you change your approach as a solo chaser verses a tour guide? Do you take the same risks with those guests as you would on your own? And the question to which we may never get the answer, did these tour guides push that envelop too far given the conditions at hand?

Complacent, a word I'm surprised hasn't been used more than I've seen, is a word we should all be very concerned about. And that word will continue to come up as we as chasers get more and more complacent, and things like this happen more often. You're in charge of people, whom largely do NOT have the experience to know the true dangers of these situations. Take responsibility for that, because one day this is going to happen and people are going to die, and God only knows what happens from there.


So that's my angle on solo/few people chasing verses group chasing/tourism. It's long-winded, I get it. And I know it's gone in one eye and out the other. But that's my point. My opinion. Many don't like it, many don't agree, and that's fine. But I wonder if you should to an extent. And was this tornado worth that risk given the circumstances of having full vans of people... that's where I say no. Lets agree to disagree. But that's the thoughts of one 20-plus year vet, one who has weighed risks based on who is with me... take it for what you will.
After reading this entire thread, I had planned to make a post with my view on it as well....but you pretty much summed up everything I was going to say and did so much more concisely than I could have managed. I'm just glad it wasn't any worse than it could have been, and I sincerely hope everything turns out alright for everyone involved. My biggest concern is that this won't be the last time something like this happens. As many others have said, it's only a matter of time before a significant tragedy strikes this community.
 
Jul 5, 2009
851
535
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
@Tony Laubach I agree with your post. As I posted earlier above, my first chasing experience was with a tour in 1996 and while I knew there was some inherent risk I certainly took comfort in going with an expert and being pretty confident he would not put us in danger. Wanting excitement or an adrenaline rush does not mean you expect to be in fear for your life and actually be close to death. A van rolling is a serious accident, think about it, many of those people may not have even been wearing seat belts.

I started chasing on my own (not literally solo, but meaning outside of a tour) in 1999, and have chased with the same partner since 2000. Recently, some other people I know have asked if they could come with me. I am thinking of having one or two of them come with me next year. I have never been a particularly daring chaser and, maybe because of that, not even particularly successful - I did not even target the Lawrence area on 5/28 because I didn’t want to be in the terrain or urbanized areas of eastern Kansas / Kansas City - but I know if I had complete newbies in the car with me I would be even more careful than I already am.

I don’t mean this at all as a personal attack or placing any judgment, but I just think logic, common sense, and pattern recognition leads to the conclusion that your use of the word “complacency” - maybe even arrogance - is spot on. The more success you get, the more risks you take that come out in your favor, the more you start to feel invincible. It’s a pattern you see in many analogous types of accidents. Not my place to see whether that’s the case here, but it has to be considered.

Also, a separate point on the first responder issue and the “do not resuscitate” idea - even if you are wearing that, the first responders have already used time and resources to come out and find you, before even seeing it.
 
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Feb 27, 2009
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Tony, I'm sorry for being so matter of fact with my replies and thank you for expressing yourself. I guess the thing that bothers me most is this blame or shaming in this incident when I'm sure that even among tour operators hanging out with a view of area of possible tornado development then going south through a rfd surge is common practice. If that is going to be considered bad then that same condemnation should fall on all tour operators who have done the same thing or hung out under the meso. Not just to this man that happened to be hit. It could have been anyone (who has ever been in that position). I'm sure this will change things somewhat with regards to tours, but I'm not happy that as a community we think we need to remove all risk or police what others do in regards to positioning. Braking the law though yes absolutely. In every activity there are those that push limits.
 
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Tony, I'm sorry for being so matter of fact with my replies and thank you for expressing yourself. I guess the thing that bothers me most is this blame or shaming in this incident when I'm sure that even among tour operators hanging out with a view of area of possible tornado development then going south through a rfd surge is common practice. If that is going to be considered bad then that same condemnation should fall on all tour operators who have done the same thing or hung out under the meso. Not just to this man that happened to be hit. It could have been anyone (who has ever been in that position).
"Tour groups, or hell, I'll even scale it down, an experienced person with newbies in the car. I think (again, MY opinion) that you have to take a additional step or two for safety. People who are not experienced, no matter what they claim, likely do NOT know what they're in for. They're wanting to SEE tornadoes. They should not EXPERIENCE tornadoes. If you're alone, or you have a partner or two whom has been chasing a while, you're not held to the same regard of safety considerations when compared to a tour group. "

"So chasing with tours... I think automatically, you have to build in an additional buffer in regards to safety of the clients in the vans. And you cannot take the same level of risks interacting with a storm as you would on your own. And for those of us who are advocating this point, none of us are claiming to never take risks. None of us. But we are saying that are methods will change when you introduce other people into those circumstances."

SLT has triggered this discussion, but my post CLEARLY is calling on ALL tours (and even goes a step beyond as I stated). I did not single out SLT. They, however, are the ones who got hit, which has clearly inspired myself and others to react.


I'm sure this will change things somewhat with regards to tours, but I'm not happy that as a community we think we need to remove all risk or police what others do in regards to positioning. Braking the law though yes absolutely. In every activity there are those that push limits.
"People are trying to argue how chasers don't take risks, and that's obviously not true. I, along with most everyone here, HAS taken risks while chasing. But to use that argument against people who are advocating a safer method of chasing for those who are in charge of the care of a group of people, is (again, in MY opinion) not valid. "

And again, because...

"And for those of us who are advocating this point, none of us are claiming to never take risks. None of us. But we are saying that are methods will change when you introduce other people into those circumstances."

And again, as I stated, YES, we push limits. And while I didn't use those EXACT words, I think it's clear that "HAS taken risks while chasing" would translate pretty easily to "we push limits". But again, you're missing the point. Do you push those same limits under the circumstances of having a large group of tour guests who you are exposing to that danger? That is the question? This isn't a broad-brush debate on chasers taking risks. This is a discussion on whether tour groups should try and limit those risks verses what solo chasers do BECAUSE they are responsible for the safety of many more people.
 
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Dan Robinson

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It seems this thread can be distilled down into one conflict: is it a.) never acceptable or b.) sometimes acceptable to position within the notch of a HP supercell, especially for a tour operator?
 
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....Do you push those same limits under the circumstances of having a large group of tour guests who you are exposing to that danger? That is the question?....
I don't think I have ever indicated that was my position. I hope I didn't say anything so that people would assume that. Seems to me it would have to be the general consenses of the guests and the operators coming to agreement where to draw this supposed line. But even that is fuzzy because storms don't have lines and aren't predictable. Anyway, my previous comments after my initial sentence were not directed specifically AT you, certainly not accusing you. I thought I was just continueing the discussion on why I think what I think about all this. Great points by all, really. Great discussion. Somewhere back a ways someone said something about other people or tour groups not being in that position on a storm and I was just wanting to point out, that has to be false. I could be wrong but I would bet every tour does that, maybe some more than others. I'm always open to correction.
 
May 24, 2014
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Just thought I'd point out we are talking about the man, most tornadoes viewed world record holder. People join SLT to see.... tornadoes. The idea that SLT would not be in position to have eyes on developing *tornado* is a bit illogical, IMO.
HP storms are not just blobs of rain like you see on radar, with folks running around in there squinting through the rain. It can get like that but folks hang in there with eyes on the wall cloud or tornado while shooting through the rfd or heavier rain as necessary. It seems some here are commenting not understanding this is common practice. And I guess I assumed it was common for tour groups to do the same, at least with storms that were not yet full on HP. The only time rfd pass through doesn't work is when there is a freaking tornado in there like you see in Mr. Reynolds video. That is crazy. Storms are amazing and complex and some more than others. I do not understand how that could even happen really. This driving through rain around the main circulation is done thousands of times every year by chasers. Correct me if I'm wrong. The risk for tornado like that is extremely low and crazy low that you would actually cross paths. So I do not understand the logic of coming to the place of using the word "negligent".

Anyhow, I realize I'm speaking from a strictly rational point of view about the low risks. Others speak from a more emotional place and even may have deep emotional ties regarding this topic and I think that is reasonable and maybe the reason for some comments here. A few seconds difference in travel paths would have made all the difference. A very unfortunate incident. I can address Tony's reply more thoroughly later but I am not talking at all about traffic accidents. That is a completely different issue. I'm just saying that everyone that actually wants to ride a horse assumes a risk. If you want to ride a donkey it might be more safe but you should not insist everyone have your opinion.
I take issue with your "rational" interpretation of risks here. The best people in the world for analyzing risk are insurance actuaries. You've had a tour owner tell you how hard it is to get insurance and how expensive it is. If the insurance companies have decided this is anything but low risk, then I'm not sure how you can call it a low risk activity.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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...The best people in the world for analyzing risk are insurance actuaries. You've had a tour owner tell you how hard it is to get insurance and how expensive it is. If the insurance companies have decided this is anything but low risk, then I'm not sure how you can call it a low risk activity.
That sounds logical but I’m not sure it’s necessarily correct. I can’t imagine there is much loss experience on chase tours to be analyzed (until now, anyway). Although actuaries are indeed expert statistical analysts, I am sure there is also some subjective judgment involved, especially if there are limited loss experience statistics available. Any person working at an insurance company that hears what a chase tour company does is of course going to assign a high risk score, just due to the uncertainty alone; it doesn’t necessarily mean that there are loss experience statistics that prove this out. I could be wrong, perhaps there is a ST member that works in insurance that can provide insight.
 
Feb 27, 2009
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I take issue with your "rational" interpretation of risks here. The best people in the world for analyzing risk are insurance actuaries. You've had a tour owner tell you how hard it is to get insurance and how expensive it is. If the insurance companies have decided this is anything but low risk, then I'm not sure how you can call it a low risk activity.
What I think really doesn't matter because there has been a huge emotional reaction to this and that always seems to trump logic. Insurance companies are people and tornadoes are scary. What do they know about van loads of people driving around tornadoes? What statistics do they have to look at? It sounds really scary. All I was essentially trying to say is that the risk of getting hit by a tornado in a similar circumstsnce as in this incident is low compared to other common activities that could cause injury or death. And maybe it is actually higher than I think, but seems those type of incidents would be more common. I'm sorry I have such a hard time communicating on emotionally charged issues. I still think my riding horses analogy is a good one. It is just accepted in that activity that people sometimes get hurt or die. And people don't say..."he should have never got on that horse." My point is mute. All tours will now be riding donkeys when it comes to HPs and probably the majority of chasers too after this is over. I saw one comment on FB that said, something like..." I always try to imagine the worst of what could happen if everything went wrong". My initial thought to that is you would not go chasing at all because a semi would plow you over turning out of your drive. Another acceptable higher risk we take everyday.
I know I'm different but emotional reactions to things annoy me.
 
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Dan Robinson

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I know we have a lot of outsiders and non-chasing types reading this thread, so here are a couple of spinoff discussions you might be interested in:

The definition of "close" or "extreme" varies wildly between different people. This is an attempt to clarify:

How does storm chasing compare to other higher-risk leisure activities?
 
May 24, 2014
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What I think really doesn't matter because there has been a huge emotional reaction to this and that always seems to trump logic. Insurance companies are people and tornadoes are scary. What do they know about van loads of people driving around tornadoes? What statistics do they have to look at? It sounds really scary. All I was essentially trying to say is that the risk of getting hit by a tornado in a similar circumstsnce as in this incident is low compared to other common activities that could cause injury or death. And maybe it is actually higher than I think, but seems those type of incidents would be more common. I'm sorry I have such a hard time communicating on emotionally charged issues. I still think my riding horses analogy is a good one. It is just accepted in that activity that people sometimes get hurt or die. And people don't say..."he should have never got on that horse." My point is mute. All tours will now be riding donkeys when it comes to HPs and probably the majority of chasers too after this is over. I saw one comment on FB that said, something like..." I always try to imagine the worst of what could happen if everything went wrong". My initial thought to that is you would not go chasing at all because a semi would plow you over turning out of your drive. Another acceptable higher risk we take everyday.
I know I'm different but emotional reactions to things annoy me.
When considering risk its not just enough to consider the likelihood of an event but also the damage caused if said event occurs. Many of us would consider a 1-2% chance of an event occurring as very low, but if the damage associated with that is life ending or severely life altering then the risk is actually very high.

I generally agree with you on the subject, but I also think that going underneath an HP circulation or into the RFD on an HP storm is a substantial increase above what I find acceptable for myself much less for a group of people. I also think that emotional reactions to risk are usually wildly illogical. People will go crazy about the chance of being in a victim of terrorism but not bat an eye about getting into a car. One of those is far more likely to be the cause of major injury or death and its not the one that has a much greater reaction.

Eventually we all just have to judge for ourselves what we deem acceptable, but I do find it telling that SLT has immediately changed their policy (although I think their new policy is probably an overreaction).
 
May 24, 2014
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That sounds logical but I’m not sure it’s necessarily correct. I can’t imagine there is much loss experience on chase tours to be analyzed (until now, anyway). Although actuaries are indeed expert statistical analysts, I am sure there is also some subjective judgment involved, especially if there are limited loss experience statistics available. Any person working at an insurance company that hears what a chase tour company does is of course going to assign a high risk score, just due to the uncertainty alone; it doesn’t necessarily mean that there are loss experience statistics that prove this out. I could be wrong, perhaps there is a ST member that works in insurance that can provide insight.
I'm not sure the actual methods they use honestly, so I can't comment. I just know they're the experts and I tend to defer to their expertise on the matter.
 
Recent update by Topeka NWS has a second (or rather, first) track added to the survey for this event. I’m currently unable to pull up the Damage Assessment Toolkit, but I believe the last damage point of the track was the flipped van or close to it, and the amount of injuries may be attributed to the van flipping. I know this track was hypothesized by several members in this thread. Here’s the twitter post about it:
 
Jan 31, 2017
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That technology has gotten better, Social Media has spread like a wildfire. Easy to make a name for yourself, and the more extreme you are the more likes, views and followers you get. And Storm Chasing is a great way of doing that; get close to a tornado, post your video on Social Media or whatever platform and suddenly you have thousands of views, comments and gaining new followers. Feels great, doesn't it? The
Bullseye! It's not so much the "money shot," but the "attention shot." Facebook in particular is seductive. I'm not a social-media person, but even I've been pulled in, checking in to see how many "likes" my photo has. It just sucks you in. The horse ain't goin' back in the barn.

What scares the bejeezus out of me is what happens when Warn-On Forecast becomes a reality. The NWS will be able to tell people there's a high probability that two or three specific counties will be under a Tornado Warning in 90 minutes. That gives all the spread-out chasers time to zero in on a particular spot, just as the locals are trying to flee. Am I overreacting?
 
Apr 18, 2010
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Recent update by Topeka NWS has a second (or rather, first) track added to the survey for this event. I’m currently unable to pull up the Damage Assessment Toolkit, but I believe the last damage point of the track was the flipped van or close to it, and the amount of injuries may be attributed to the van flipping. I know this track was hypothesized by several members in this thread. Here’s the twitter post about it:
So with the update they got hit by a tornado that was on the ground for 8 miles before it rolled their van? I'm not sure that sounds any better