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ATTN Chicago Chasers/Spotters! Need some help!

Hello all:

I've been talking via email to a gentleman in the west side of Chicago. He is on the Boy Scout council for that area and is trying to start a preparedness program and is having trouble. I've posted the email exchange below so you can see what he is looking for. If anyone in that area could help him out with footage, pictures or can donate some time to do a presentation or something, please email or PM me. [email protected] THANK YOU!


Hi, Shawna! Thanks again for your thoughts on distributing stuffed animals to storm chasers and emergency personnel. I'm starting to pass the idea around now that I have feedback suggesting that the storm chaser idea may be viable. But another issue: I see that you know about the 2008 Boy Scout camp disaster. I'm on the executive board of our Boy Scout council, which runs Scouting in Chicago's near west suburbs (42 towns). Since the Little Sioux Scout Ranch disaster, I've been pushing for development of a severe weather training program for adult Scout leaders and for the older Boy Scouts, who tend to be a very bright and capable bunch. It turned out that Boy Scouts of America - even at the local level - can be a heck of a bureaucracy, and it was not until last month that the program finally got a green light. Not a "green light and FULL speed ahead", but a "green light and you may take your first steps". So I'm looking around for sources of video and photos that we can use - and that is not strictly the usual weather material. My audience is not "weather people" - they do not want to know the meteorolgy of an event, they just want to know are they and the boys in danger and what to do about it. Some of the leaders are skeptical and I also have to overcome their active disinterest in this danger. So, I need material which reaches out and grabs their attention, and which illustrates real-life problems they may face. Here are some examples of things I have seen in the severe weather classes I've been taking as I try to get a handle on the problem. Storm chaser video of a tornado in our south suburbs, seen as kind of wispy, then a house blocks the view of the tornado for 8 seconds, and when it reappears in view, it's exploded - our point being to show how fast severe weather can develop. Video of a small tornado flipping cars around in a parking lot - our point being to illustrate the NWS rule of getting out of a car when a tornado approaches. Photo of lightning illuminating a supercell and revealing a tornado-shaped formation - our point being to show one way to be able to tell that a night-time tornado [our biggest danger] approaches. On a NOAA website, photos showing the 3 clean spots under an overpass which was hit by a tornado, the 3 clean spots being where the bodies were found - our point being to illustrate the rule of not going under underpasses to escape tornados. In a few sources I found photos of people with their hair floating in the air, shortly being before struck by lightning - our point being to illustrate one way to know that a lightning strike is imminent. These examples show what I need: videos and photos that will reach out to our audience, get their attention, and give them real-life hands-on useful information that they can then use to keep these boys alive. 45 dead and wounded Boy Scouts from a single mid-size tornado - that screams out that we've got to get working on this. I've taken a lot of your time here, but I hope I clearly laid out what I need, and I'm wondering where you think I can turn for such material. Jim Allsopp (NWS-Chicago - - I think you met him last year at DuPage Co.'s event) told me that storm chasers are often willing to provide their work product for such a purpose and give permission for its use - but I don't know where to even start to deal with storm chasers. What do you suggest? -Pete Schmidt

Hi Peter!

WOW! I can't believe that your troops don't already have a weather preparedness program in place, and that your plight is being met with resistance. I've worked with some local boy and girl scout troops here in KC. After our presentations, the scouts that attend receive a weather badge. So, let's get this going for you!

First of all, I commend you for your effort. I've heard about the issues with the bureaucracy in regards to the council, so don't give up. I'm also sorry to hear that some leaders are not on board.

In my opinion, it's quite easy to teach the scouts about basic weather issues and awareness. Training can be in one evening if need be, and should cover the following:

1. Severe storm dangers: lightning, flooding, hail, and straight line winds.
2. Tornado dangers: knowing how to interpret the watches and warnings, how to respond, what to do after. It's especially important to go over what to do when CAMPING as that is a large threat. The Sioux City day would be an excellent case example. These boys knew about the watch, received the warning and did what they were supposed to do before, during and after the tornado. If it hadn't been for inadequate shelter, all boys would have survived.

It sounds like you already have some great pics and video. You don't need the meteorology to teach your troops to be prepared. Just the basics will do (cloud features of a severe storm, mesocyclone, wall cloud, etc.) to give the boys an idea of what they are seeing if faced with severe weather. Knowing how to receive and adhere to the warnings are the MOST important part.

Yes, chaser and spotters are great about giving their time and / or footage to help with training scouts and the public. I will make a post on StormTrack about your plight and see if I can find a chaser or spotter near you that would be willing to help you out. You should also see if you can find a scout branch near you that already has a program in place to learn from.

I will forward any responses to you that I receive! I'm also here for you to help you through this! Good for you!

Shawna :)

Thanks for sharing this with us, Shawna. I'd love to help, but Pete sounds like he already has a great grasp on the materials and what to present. The images from the NOAA archives that he is referencing are good ones (better than anything I personally have0. He is more than welcome to use any of the pictures or videos from my website, and I'd love to help with the presentation as it looks like I'm just a few miles away. I'm not sure how much use I'd be though as the extent of my disaster preparedness knowledge comes from the same resources he's referenced, and my storm chasing based pictures and videos are probably not good safety examples. However, I'd love to provide any help I can.
Thanks, Skip! For some reason, I had a feeling I may hear from you as you are always there to step up to plate! :)

Pete sounds like he's pretty new to spotting / chasing, but has the pure passion, and cares about his community.

I'll forward him your website to look over (I see your email is on there). I'm sure he'd appreciate any advice or pictures you may have to help.

You Rock!

Hi Shawna, I may be available to help out as well. I don't have the resources to build any type of fancy presentation but Ive got local video of interest [6-7-08] and I wouldn't mind coming to talk. If you want send him a link to my site and he may browse around.
Thanks again guys! I think I've got all the info between all of you and Pete exchanged. Hopefully, this will work without too much inconvenience. I told Pete I'd continue to help from here (advice, etc.) as much as I can so you don't have to carry all the weight. You all ROCK! :)
Professionalism and Expertise


I wanted to add, as a teacher and a mother/previous leader of Scouts, often I may know the basics of what I am teaching or even more, but it helps to get the adults and students interested and motivated if the information is delivered from a bona fide expert in the field. Besides the excitement and experience you will bring to the presentation (not so much the fancy graphics etc) will encourage the boys and their leaders to remember it and apply it. I appreciate how this community is always there for educational purposes.

Thanks to each of you for your efforts to support education anywhere. In fact several times, I have used your exchanges of a weather event to explain or answer questions of students in my classes over the years. I haven't thanked you for that as well. The students are energized by reading your explanations (even though I have had to distill them to their language ability). My students are in elementary school but very bright. I can honestly say that your enthusiasm via this forum has inspired several students to consider meteorology or a similar science as a possible career choice. So thanks.... this just felt like the right thread to express this thought

That's wonderful, Belinda! I agree with you. The enthusiasm and knowledge elementary students have expressed to me when I give a weather presentation NEVER ceases to amaze me! Love it! :)
I passed my weather merit badge with flying colors and its amazing what some of the old books had in there. They had one odd thing where they thought that mammatus clouds rotated and then those became funnel clouds/tornadoes. Now that is some deep layer shear LOL. I am all about educating people and will be glad to share info and pics.
Thanks Brian! I haven't heard back from Pete lately, so I think he has plenty of help from the Chicago crew. (Thanks again, guys!)

Why am I not surprised to read that you passed your weather merit badge w/ flying colors? Knowing you like I do, I'll bet you were teaching your leader a thing or two back then. ;) Rotating mammatus? Wow! That is funny. :)
I heard back from him a couple times. He sounds like a busy guy and is still sorting out exactly what he wants for this presentation. He also hasn't fully gotten the green light to go ahead with the project.
Skip's right, he does seem like he's still trying to figure out how to get this going. I've been working with him this last week via email on some things. He said he's contacted Skip, but hasn't contacted the rest yet, but will soon. :)