Hurricane chasing

Apr 13, 2005
Jackson, Ms
Just wondering how many people out there do any hurricane chasing and what are some of your experiences????

It is now hurricane season and I have already made two trips to the plains and my chase season is coming to a close.

I have chased hurricanes since 1998 and love it! It is not comparable to tornado chasing, but IMO equally as fun. The roar of a hurricane is a very scary, dangerous, fun, exciting and an adrenaline rush that will truly make you respect wind. The ultimate is actually getting into the eye feeling the intense winds and rain and going to a complete calm with partly sunny skies and back in just a matter of a few minutes.

Hurricane chasing differs greatly. Since you can have a general idea of landfall about three days out and it is not difficult to pinpoint a location like forecasting a tornado. Also instead of watching the storm you are now feeling the storm. The most difficult and challenging part of Hurricane tracking is getting where you want to go before during and after the storm. There are many factors to picking your location to "hunker down". The most important things are building structure, elevation and position compared to the eye.

Number of hurricanes: 9
Number of tropical storms: 14
Strongest: Ivan, category four
most fun: Lilly (never rained to hard and really got to play in the 90 mph winds)
least fun: Georges, all I had to do to chase this one was stay at my dad's house. A 100 year oak tree split the house in half at 2am. Luckily it did not injure anyone but did cause over 100K in damage.
I chased Hurricane Isabel inland and got some great footage of a tree falling along with howling winds and blowing rain. I was then stranded for several hours on I-95 while additional trees blew across the road in the dark. I was lucky I wasn't squashed.

Hurricane chasing is fun but I don't like the lack of power, facilities, and difficulty in movement. One may need to camp for a while as these can be long term events.

For the tree falling video and description of my experience with images:

For the excitement of Hurricane chasing, I would recommend purchasing some of Jim Leonard's video or Weathervine/BNVN's Hurricane Charley video. Amazing stuff.

Bill Hark
I don't like the idea of not being able to decide when the "chase" is over (you don't chase a hurricane). Even if you get some amazing video, you're stuck there until the storm decides you're done. I like for myself to be in control of the chase/intercept, not the storm. That said, I would probably try it once with a group of friends (better to be nearly killed/stranded for days with buddies than by yourself).
Shane you are right about the hurricane having all of the control. Once you pick your spot your there for a while. I haven't ever tried to drive through hurricane conditions like Bill. That must have been a really bad feeling not being able to see trees being blown by your vehicle.

I always bring a generator and plenty of supplies. It makes the trip everytime! When the tree fell across my dad's house in Georges the only thing we took to our neighbors house was the generator.

As for your first hurricane chase, please go with someone that has done it before and don't start with anything stronger than a weak category two.

It is something everyone should try once and decide if they like it. You will either love it or hate it. It does make for some great video and memories.
I will chase a hurricane purely for it's mini supercell/tornado potential in the outer rain bands. Especially this year, when there has been nearly zero supercell and tornado activity in my area, the tropical systems will serve to provide a second 'season' so to speak, in particlar any that collide with a middle latitude disturbance or cold front. Chased one of the systems last September and saw one of the best defined rotating wall clouds I've seen with any spring time storm. As for the eye wall itself, after going through quite a few I now prefer to ride that part out at home, lol.
Hurricane "chasing"

I do plan on "chasing" any hurricane that threatens the USA this year, I have never "chased" a hurricane before so it should be a very interesting experience. :D
Here's your chance. Just heard about "Tropical Storm Arlene" on the news...hopefully, it'll develop into something in the next few days. *crosses fingers*

I am still debating on going. I've had my eye on Pensacola for a few days (so has Arlene) now and the only reason I am not there is because of the system for Sunday. If I drive to Fl it will just tack on an extra five hours to a fifteen hour drive and I would not make the Sunday/Monday chase unless I left during the storm. The other reason is the area is still in shreds from Ivan and law enforcement is going to be so strict and the people living in the Fl panhandle are not taking this storm likely eventhough it will probrably only be a category 1 hurricane with winds between 75-85. The next reason is most of the good areas to view the storm are already under mandatory evacuation.
I don't feel as though I can make both trips and since this will probrably be my last chance to storm chase until next spring I would like to see another tornado or two. I'm sure I will have plenty of other hurricanes to go after since hurricane season just started last week. I would love to hear any details from anybody that does go. I still might head out in a couple hours, but I doubt it. If any of you do go please post some pics! Good luck and be careful! Remember the wind isn't what kills you.
I have chased/intercepted tropical systems before but I just started two years ago. I was in Tropical Storm Bill in 2003 and Hurricane Ivan in Pensacola. I think it is fun and exciting but I don't like how you can get stuck in one place for a while. I only wish Ivan had come onshore during the day. It was pitch black and I could not see much. I am hoping to chase a hurricane if one makes landfall in the U.S. We almost chased Arlene but for now I am chasing tornadoes. :D
Derek Deroche and I were in Bill as well. We were in Cocodrie, LA. We figured we were teh only ones down that way. :wink:

And of course I was in Mobile for Ivan....

I kinda like it here, the storms come to me. :lol:
I was in Bill too. I spent most of the storm in my hotel in Morgan City. There was a tornado warning for an embedded cell in one of the outer bands that went right over us. Other than that it was pretty boring since the hotel would not let anyone in or out.

I was still thinking about coming down until a couple hours ago. Looks like it should be a fun storm without too much intensity. I am holding out on the tropics for one more storm chase in the plains on Sunday. Wish the system in the plains was held up one more day so I could have done both. It would be nice to see a tropical system and classic tornado in two days.

You guys have fun!
Be Careful Folks!!!

Hi all,

Long time reader (well, maybe not that long, only about 1 and 1/2 years), first time poster.

I have been a little disturbed by the growing interest in Hurricane Chasing that has been evident since lasts years storms. I live in Okinawa, Japan, and every year 6 typhoons on come close enough to warrant high wind warnings (wind speed of over 25 m/s or about 50 mph), and usually one makes a direct hit on the island with winds over 100 mph. Needless to say, people here are used to typhoons.

My first typhoon was a truly awesome experience. I am from Michigan and have seen funnel clouds, hail, and some awesome derechos, but nothing prepares you for the intensity of a tropical storm. For me, just the continous roar of the wind is enough trigger that "weather euphoria" that most people interested in severe weather seem to share.

The first strong typhoon I experienced was even more amazing. It was also almost my last. I was outside by "accident" as the eye passed, and I caught the full force of the eyewall (about 120 mph gusts) with only a North Face Gore tex jacket to protect me. I scrambled for cover, crawling to the lee of a building, as the wind was flapping my jacket strongly enough to leave bruises and making it difficult to breathe. When I reached cover I felt I was safe and would only have to wait out the strongest winds before I could trek back home. As that thought crossed my mind, a piece of debris knocked me out. I came to only 5 minutes later but with quite the headache.

My point here is that your should think very carefully about venturing into a hurricane's path. NO ONE CHASES HURRICANES!!! THEY CHASE YOU!!!
I know many people will try anyway and have unforgettable experiences. I hope you too have a wonderful and safe event. But please think very carefully before you decide to go after that cat 4 monster. Nothing can prepare you for it. And there are no escape routes, no EMTs or ambulances, no second chances if you make an error. It is very easy to wait just a little bit too long, to go just a little bit too far, and experience a horrible life-altering (or life-ending) event. I am not exaggerating in order to scare you or to be condescending, but rather speaking from experience. It is all too easy to get caught up in the awesome energy of the moment and make a regrettable decision.

I also worry about people chasing hurricanes because of the relative ease with which you can get to one. Unlike a successfully chasing a tornado, which is a combination of experience, knowledge, and luck, getting to a hurricane only requires a car with gas, time, and a hurricane. If as many people suddenly started after hurricanes as there are chasing after tornadoes, I think we could finally have our weather related first chaser deaths.

If you want to let that hurricane chase you, please do. It will be a great experience. But please follow my and other poster's advice earlier in this thread and go after a weaker storm, especially if you have never experienced a tropical storm. They are truly awe-inspiring events, but also events that require a great deal of respect.

All that being said, this is my first year with high speed internet, so I am trying to figure out ways to stream high quality live video so I can share Okinawa's typhoons with all of you this year. I hope to keep people posted about Okianwa's typhoons as long as there are people interested. Not quite as exciting as a successful tornado chase, but hopefully I can add some vicarious typhoons to all of your lives later this year.

Be Careful out There!

One other factor that may or may not have been mentioned is the fact that is would be a pain to have to traverse through the rubble AFTER the storm. It would suck to have to stay somewhere in the sweltering heat for a few days while the roads are cleared. I am intriqued with chasing a hurricane be it a strong or weak one. I think the debris and flooding would be my biggest concern.
The debris on the roads usually is cleaned up very quickly (outside of a large cat 4-5). Water is the biggest concern in a hurricane. You have to worry about the initial storm surge which causes extensive coastal flooding. A slower moving tropical system can put down feet of rain. This is true even which a T.D. not just a major hurricane so there is always local flooding and sometimes widespread flooding since some of these storms will put down 4-6 inches of rain over hundreds of square miles. You can never have too many supplies. I usually take a generator, first aid kit, penty of food and drinks, batteries, flashlights, gas, clothes and all my gadgets.
Tom I would love to see some live footage from some of the typhoons out there. I don't know how you could set it up but it sure would be neat to see live streaming video. One question though, how did you manage to "accidentally" get caught outside in the eyewall during the landfall of a cat. 3 storm? Were you tracking the storm or did it just hit near you?
I was studying at Ryukyu University and living in the dorms in Okinawa at the time (and I have since returned). There is no "chasing" per se in Okinawa. The Typhoons keep coming of their own accord.

The typhoon in question had about 100 mph sustained winds and a HUGE eye. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center calls it a "60 nm eye feature."
The eye passed over at about midnight and of course I had to wander around for a while. The "eye feature" was over head for about 4 hours. I wandered over to a friends apartment, figuring that when the wind started to pick up I could run home before the winds got too strong. It took about 25 minutes to enter the eye, so I figured it would take that long to exit it as well. I was wrong, and got onlyhalfway home before being flattened by a strong gust. I really didn't mind at first, as it was exciting, but then realized the gravity of the situation.

It was still an awesome experience, but then only reason that it wasn't more serious is because I was in Okinawa. I say this because things here are built for strong typhoons. For example, during that typhoon, we didn't lose electricity. Afterwards, while looking around, I noticed there were NO downed trees in my area. Lots of leaves, but no branches bigger than a quarter of an inch. No roofing materials, signs, or other really dangerous debris. Great for homeowners and idiots wandering around in typhoons, but it makes for boring video.

The local governments reported only minimal damage of less than $100,000, most of which was a internet company where somebody forgot to shut the windows and all their servers were soaked (oops!). Contrast that to the damages at Kadena Airbase: "Reports indicated that Kadena airbase suffered total damages of 2.7 million dollars for base facilities and $942,000 for military family housing." The contrast in building styles and attitudes couldn't be more different.

Here, people take typhoons rather nonchalantly. The shopping malls are usually crowded until the winds reach about 30 m/s (They report wind speed in meters per second...just double the number to get a rough estimate of MPH or multiply by 2.24 to be more accurate). There is no talk of "outer rain bands" or "embedded cells". I am looking for any indication that people have noticed tornadoes in typhoons at all. People just shut their windows, get out the candles and the UNO game, and wait. Ask most people wheter they like typhoons and they will say no. Ask why and they will say "because they are boring."! :shock:

Anyway, I am a little dissappointed as usually there are one or two typhoons in the spring season, and this there have been none. But when there are, I will keep you posted.

Have a great day!
I am a pretty big hurricane chaser myself, one of the chasers that works severe weather in the US Plains come May / June then picks up on hurricane intercepts thereafter (busiest in September / October).

Let me first disclaim on hurricane chasing - These storms are MUCH different than their distant tornado and thunderstorm "in-laws" in the plains! Hurricane chasing requires extensive knowledge of tropical meteorology and VERY careful planning (in addition to any forecasting)!

Things to consider before I go on...

1. A hurricane can have winds near or exceeding that of the core region of a significant tornado. A hurricane chaser must go THROUGH those dangerous winds. Hurricanes CANNOT be observed from a distance. An 80-MPH wind can knock you down. 120-MPH-plus winds can lift you clear off your feet and carry you through the air!

2. There are road closures / blockades and police checkpoints, even well before / after the storm. You are often turned away if you do not have the proper "credentials". If you lie about who you are, you will be arrested and / or questioned.

3. Curfews are often placed in hurricane disaster areas. If you violate (are simply on the roads) during a curfew and are caught by authorities, you WILL be arrested, no questions asked.

4. Roadblocks are not only caused by authorities. Trees fall and roads flood in a hurricane. You can be trapped for a very, VERY long time.

5. Gas stations are NOT open and / or will NOT have power. Storing gas in you car is also a VERY BAD idea. Low pressure in a hurricane can cause gas cans to leak with fumes and can even explode! There is NO roadside or emergency services during a hurricane (that means that if you get stuck and / or hurt, you are on your own)! Phone service, even cellular, often gets cut-off too.

6. Power often goes out in a hurricane. Stores are closed, most people leave the "hurricane target area". You must bring your own food, water, even medications (if any) with you for at least the duration of the chase, which can be 36-48 hours. Also remember, you cannot get gas if you run low!

7. Plan to not sleep during most of a hurricane chase. Don't fall asleep behind the wheel. Hotels are also CLOSED. Sound easy? Try staying awake for 52 hours straight - I did that in Hurricane Lili and was hallucinating until I finally got sleep!

8. Plan to get WET - Really wet. Cold and wet feet, shoes, pants, even in places you never imagined (the money in your wallet even gets soaked)! Plan on many changes of clothes. Raincoats and umbrellas simply dont work and / or get ripped apart by the winds. Rain drops feel like accupuncture and can even cause welts on the skin at 100-MPH plus!

9. Gear, such as radios, electronics, and camera equipment can suffer water damage easily. This type of damage is often NOT covered by any warranty, and can be VERY expensive to replace or repair.

10. Coastal areas flood during a hurricane with fast-moving salt water. You can drown, have your vehicle flooded and / or swept away if parked in an area prone to storm surge. Not all buildings / structures can handle an hurricane and it's surge. Don't get buried under rubble!

11. There is a lot of flying debris in a hurricane. Remember, hurricane chasing involves being INSIDE the wind field of the "vortex" (larger than a tornado). A worst-case would be getting hit with a chunk of sheet metal and killed, not because of the wound it may cause, but failure to get attention to that wound (such as bleeding to death) - Remember, no fire department or 911 operates in a hurricane! You WILL be with yourself and your wound. Chase with a person with training in CPR and have a first aid kit handy in the event you need it (this implies using the "buddy system").

12. Flood waters in a hurricane are loaded with all kinds of nasty things. In addition to debris and mud / sand, you often have dead fish, seaweed, grass, bugs, oil and gas spilled from cars or boats, bacteria, even raw sewage. Watch for snakes and even gators flooded out of their "homes" too by the floods!

13. Looting and public upset often occur during and after a hurricane. Respect property and land areas as if it was an ordinary day. Uptight residents during a hurricane can and WILL take the law into their own hands! I have seen residents with guns with them in hurricane chases of 2004, and a "storm chaser" can easily be mistaken for a "thief" and shot. Looting has its own dangers as stealing and / or violence can be introduced into an already bad situation.

14. The boss, neighbors, and spouse. Hurricane chasing involves a last-minute "impromptu" chase. You cannot give a 3-day-off notice in most jobs one day before you take the time off! Make sure your boss, and even spouse, understands as you will not be gone for hours as on a tornado chase. Also, plan on being "cut off" from these people because of power / phone outages too. Hurricane chasing often takes DAYS, not HOURS.

I willingly and logistically accepted all these risks and with planning and experience was able to chase hurricanes with minor incidences. Still want to chase a hurricane?

I was in hurrcane Charley in 2004 first hand (read the story of what that was like below)...

Plus a compelling story about it here...

Then there was Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne in the rest of 2004, each with their own attitude and aspects. You can read about these on my website at these links below...

Now, back to the thread on this wonderful subject ... I will explain in detail below the DIFFERENCES between HURRICANE and SEVERE WEATHER chasing a chaser considering chasing a hurricane must know. The story can also be found on my web-site at Check out the article I wrote below...

Tornado chasing versus tropical cyclone chasing ... We have all heard of storm chasers that chase tornadoes AND tropical cyclones such as hurricanes. I can name a few right off the top of my head, even myself! Does this mean that these two types of storms to chase are similar? No way. A tornado (or tornado producing supercell thunderstorm) and tropical cyclone are two very, and I mean very, different animals. They also require totally different methods to chase and forecast them.

First of all, tornados normally develop over land, and occur late in the day when the atmospheric heating is at its peak. Tropical cyclones develop only over warm ocean waters, regardless of the time of day, and rapidly dissapate over land. In fact, sometimes tropical cyclones intensify more at night than during the day due to the cooling of the cloud tops enhancing the lapse rates inside the storm. With a tornado chase day, they day begins with forecasting and preparations on where storms MIGHT develop. A tropical cyclone chase day forecast is for an EXISTING storm that is anticipated to strike a certain area, usually a coastline.

Preparations for tropical cyclone chasing often are spent getting into the target area, in the same manner as a target area for expected thunderstorms. The primary goal with a tornado chase is to simply document the tornado, if it develops, from a place that provides the best view without compromising safety. Normally, a chaser should not have to drive through (core punch) the thunderstorm producing the tornado (and certainly not the tornado itself). With a hurricane chase, the chaser cannot see the "vortex" as with a tornado because it is many times the size.

Conditions in a hurricane or tropical cyclone can be as bad, if not worse, than driving through a monster HP supercell. One can expect winds at or over 74 MPH, 10 or more inches of rain, and flooding in a hurricane chase. Tropical cyclone chases often involve driving (or "punching") through the most dangerous part of the storm. Visibility will often be zero and a chaser will get buffeted by heavy winds. The main goal of a tropical cyclone chase is documentation of the storm, as it is with tornado chasing, with SAFETY still a priority.

Tropical systems are given a name when their sustained winds reach 38 MPH, where they are called a TROPICAL STORM. At 74 MPH or above, they are called HURRICANES in this part of the world, and like tornadoes, they are rated in intensity from category 1 to 5. Most hurricane chases involve tropical systems with winds under 110 MPH (category 2 or less). Serious safety considerations must arise when chasing tropical cyclones considering issues with storm surge, flooding, road closures, etc.

Remember that a tornado only affects a small area where a powerful hurricane can inflict similar damage over a very large area. Hurricane Andrew back in 1992 was a category 5 storm with 165 MPH sustained winds. Regions over a 40 mile wide path received damage similar to a strong F-3 (or even F4) tornado (winds unofficially gusted to 212 MPH)!

I chased Andrew and it was not an easy chase. Since it was too dangerous to drive into, I observed the storm from a shelter. Much of the school I was staying in was destroyed and many cars in the parking lot were flipped. Another note on tornado vs tropical cyclone chases ... We all know that storm chasing involves long drives, but you haven't experienced the true determination until you chased a hurricane.

In a thunderstorm chase, you may drive hours to get into your "target" area and often get a hotel after chasing to stay the night or simply drive back home. A hurricane chase often requires a similar long drive, or even a flight to get to your target area! Often you will go a full 24, or even 36, hours without sleep while dealing with the core of the tropical system you are chasing. Hotels, gas stations, and stores often close and power is often the first to be disabled by the storm.

Tropical cyclone chasing is a very different activity that is carried out by only a small handful of avid storm chasers who also chase tornadoes. It requires a totally different "game plan" and requires extensive knowledge of tropical meteorology in a more crucial sense than that of a tornado chaser.

Thanks for all on the input to this thread!
I love the story Tom. I hope someday I can chase a powerful typhoon there. It sounds like it is much safer due to better construction. How do they police during storms there or do they? I know here the local law enforcement begins closing the major roads off well in advance and issue mandatory evacuations as much as 72 hours out. Do they evacuate there?
nice article chris! Its is true jus thow different the two differ. I really enjoy tropical cyclone chasing in that I feel that anticipation is greater than in severe chasing. Early on in a plains chase, sure tehre is some anticipation, but you are banking on teh storms forming and then you ight get a wall cloud and have that short time of anticipation for the tornado,again, if it occurs. With tropical cyclone chasing I find the anticipation just continually mounts form the time you first notice the tropical wave making its way across teh atlantic, untill teh time the eyewall is upon you. The anticipation and excitement can build over days, even a week and is one of the things that gets me so damn excited about these things. however, If i had to choose between the two, I'd pick severe weather chasing in the plains over tropical chasing. I truly believe it is less stressful overall but definately more expensive, at least or me since I live on the coast and i have a broad target for tropical systems. Currently i'll target, depending of strength obviously, from about galveston to Savannah including most of FL.

Also to anyone considering starting chasing 'canes: I suggest you actually chase a tropical storm of very minimal hurricane first. It's good practice and lets you get a taste of things before you target anything major. Also, like chris mentioned, with a very strong storm (upper cat 3 and up) you really cant be out in the thing. Cat 1's and 2's are more 'fun' in that alot of times you can be out in them (with shelter nearby) provided you maintain safety as priority #1. During Ivan I was here in Mobile, about 6 miles to the east of where I'm sitting at this very moment. With the expected track to be just to our west we were expecting a heavy surge to com eup the bay and flood downtown. Myself, Dan Robinson, Stuart Robinson, Doug Kiesling and Jim Edds were positioned in a parking garage in downtown to protect us from flooding and to serve as a substantial shelter for our selves and for the vehicles. As the storm took its more easterly jog we realized that we would not get the surge that we had expected and a few of us ventured down to the street level for an incredible experience.

Another note on parking garages, Before Hurricane Lili in LA,we consulted with one of the mechanical engineering professors at ULM and his opinion was that a parking garage is an incredibly strong structure especially nearly empty as in the event of a hurricane.

The garage in Mobile had quite a few cars in it which, as far as we could figure, belonged to people who evacuated and maybe had several cars but only took one to evacuate in. all were on the second level and above indicating their anticipation of flooding as well. we save several classic and rare cars in there with covers on them as well. I can tell you that even in the worst of the storm, winds were relatively light in the center of the garage. The ability for some of the wind to pass through and the relative emptiness during a storm i think is one of the primary contributors to the strength, as well as the way it is constructed with steel reinforced concrete and especially the newer garages with the tensioned cables in the floor.

I figure since we have a good discussion going maybe chris of Jeff G would like to touch on equipment and even personal protection if you are wanting to be out in it. I know Jim Edds has a skateboarding type helmet he wears if tthere is a chance of debris flying. Saftey glasses or goggles are a must in my opinion. especially since its better to face the wind to make sure you dont get nailed by a large piece of debris.

Also What about camera protection? I have been using ziplock bags and rubber bands around the eye piece and lense and then cutting that portion off. It work ok but Its time for me to step up to an underwater enclosure.
So you want to chase a hurricane.

Equipment I have for this years cane chasing.

Kevlar Body Armor Jacket

Life Preserver To Wear Under Armar Jacket.

Disposable Clothes, Lots Of Them. Several Pairs Of Boots.

Safety Helmet With Face Mask And High Impact Shooting Goggles
And yes, the wind was pulling my rain suit pants off.

Hand Held Emergency Strobe To Attach To Helmet

After last years hurricane season with four hurricanes in 45 days, Hurricane Chasing is not something to jump into. Hurricanes and chasing them is pretty much going out and sitting in the middle of an F2 tornado for hours with deadly debris flying at you.

Here is the demo video of our the Hurricane Charley DVD.

We were lucky to escape with our lives only because we had a lot of experience between all of us there and a lot of guts and some lack of common sense for the most part to stand out where the "UnOfficial Wind Report" just a half mile to the north was 150 knots at the medical center.

Pick your spot well because once the storms starts, you can't move. In most cases you will have to deal with the curfew and you could be hauled off to jail for just being there.

Last year in Hurricane Jeanne, another chaser that we met ended up meeting up with the local law enforcement and when they found that he was a chaser, they hauled him off for questioning. Turns out he lied to them about who he was, what he was doing there and why he was there in the first place. When they asked us what we were doing there, we told them the truth and had the info to back up what we were doing to prove we were with the media. The other chaser gave them false info and they asked us about him and we told them who he was

If your going to chase a hurricane, chase with someone that has chased them before. You can get hurt and if you do, there is no 911 or AAA to come and help you. There is a lot more to chasing the hurricanes but the bottom line, if your going to chase a cane, treat it like your going to be going to battle and bring everything you will need to survive.
Another Thing To Think About

Before you go hurricane chasing, think about this fact. How many people in the united states died in 2004 from tornadoes and not tornadoes spawned by hurricanes in September.

April Killer Tornadoes: 1 Fatalities: 8
May Killer Tornadoes: 5 Fatalities: 7
June Killer Tornadoes: 2 Fatalities: 2
October Killer Tornadoes: 1 Fatalities: 3
November Killer Tornadoes: 4 Fatalities: 4

These Don't Count - Hurricane Related
August Killer Tornadoes: 1 Fatalities: 3
damage associated with remnants of Tropical Storm Bonnie

September Killer Tornadoes: 6 Fatalities: 9
Hurricane Ivan and Jeanne

So you have 24 tornado deaths in April, May, June, October, and November.

With the hurricanes? 3132 Total Deaths Last Year acording to

On top of the total destruction and loss of life, as a chaser, your also now in someones home town after it has been destroyed and your really not welcomed.

When I posted this photo on Storm Track last year. People thought it was a joke.

But right on the site in there Hurricane Charley there is the same type of image

After hurricane Jeanne, Jeff told me he got run out of the trailer park on Hutchinson Island by someone with a shot gun and told me not to go in there because someone was seriously pissed off at the world that rode out the storm for the second time in less then a month.


So if you do go chasing, leave your tornado alley mind set at the door and get ready to enter a totally new world of storm chasing. Is it worth it? Depends on the person.

I will say this in addition to equipment.

Rental SUV, Full Insurance!
Good day everyone,

Let me first disclaim on hurricane chasing - These storms are MUCH different than their distant tornado and thunderstorm "in-laws" in the plains! Hurricane chasing requires extensive knowledge of tropical meteorology and VERY careful planning (in addition to any forecasting)! A detailed list of the "cons" of chasing a hurricane are outlined in an earlier post on this thread by myself. Be sure to read it as there are very important points in it.

Now, For the subject of camera protection, I developed this neat enclosure for small video cameras (MINI DV , Digital 8mm) such as the Sony TRV series. It is a 6-inch PVC pipe with lexan on the other end of it. There were two types made, one yellow painted as in the next two pictures, and a red one (see third picture below of Jason and Doug).

Here is view #1 of it...


Here is another view #2 of it...


A similar design (the red case to the left) I made for Jason Foster (N3PRZ, left) and Doug Kiesling (right). Doug is holding his own design which is thick, clear plastic into which he inserts a larger Sony VX-2100 camera. The front of the camera reaches a plastic front of the strong plastic "bag". The rigid PVC can go underwater, the "bag" type can get VERY wet and be operated easily...


Below is the waterproof PVC cases in action (Jason using red one, picture from video shot in the yellow one)!


Here is Doug's version too (Doug K is left) and jim Edds (with a modified case he bought retail) to the right...


The key is if a camera gets one, just one, spash of water on it, a dew light will come on and the camera can be damaged. If salt water, and just a drop or two, the camera can be permanently damaged.

I have also designed a large latching case to accomodate larger format cameras out of lexan sheeting (not shown), for cameras such as my new Sony HDR-FX1 and the like.

Now, you are probably wondering, how is the camera inside these enclosures controlled? The answer is that for Doug Kiesling's "flexible" housing, he can still press the buttons through the side or back of the plastic case (its a thick flexible "bag" - basically).

For Jim Edds, he has a specialized case that retails for a (high) price. It has a built-in LANC controller and external buttons to control the camera inside. The LANC is simply a way to hook up an external wired remote to you camera (controls zoom, focus, etc). Some of the retail cases have a built-in LANC interface and external buttons for it on the housing handles.

For the PVC cases I built, I could either buy a LANC remote and feed the wire through the unit and seal it. I did that with an external (waterproofed) microphone on the case where the wire runs inside to the camera mic plug. Now, I simply put the camera inside, then use the remote control for it wrapped in a zip-lock bag to control the camera! The same technique can be used for my larget lexan case for my HDR-FX1 as I am able to view the LCD screen too.

Keep all these ideas aside and remember SAFETY in a hurricane chase!
Here is Doug's version too (Doug K is left) and jim Edds (with a modified case he bought retail) to the right...


Ahhh Mobile Bay and Ivan. Notice the bright idea on the left side of my head on my helmet? Now you don't see that everyday in Kansas.
That's the portable emergency strobe in the photo so that people can find my head or whats left of me should something happen in the hurricane.

As Chris said, the water will get in everything unless its it sealed up. And not just ghetto chaser sealed up with a ziplock bag. It has to be able to take on being submerged in some waves and still come out dry.

And on the note of water getting into everything, Water will get into everything so bring lots of clothes and not good stuff but stuff you don't care about and can leave in the trash every few hours to stay dry. Why leave them? After I got back from Hurricane Frances, the few things I did bring back were covered in mold and were super heavy. So, its easier to just leave it and lose it.
yeah you can pretty much give up on trying to stay totally dry. rains suits seems to keep you fairly dry until the wind really starts blowing.

Ziploc bags, although crap for protecting a camera, are very valuable on a chase. I put every thing in them. Batteries, tape, film, my wallet, cell phone, etc.

I have found that if you put your cell phone in one of those snack sized bags that they are thin enough to be able to talk easily through them. Doug, when I talked to you during Arlene i was talking through the bag.

Chris, I really like the camera housings. I guess I'll be making one similar to the on in the link that i posted in the camera protection thread over in the chasing equipment section. I just want to be able to at least controll the on and off and start stop functions. all else if pretty much automatic. i can lockit in to infinate and be done with it.
I built a waterproof housing similar to Chris' design a couple of years ago (PVC pipe and plexiglass) for Hurricane Isabel. It worked great, kept the camera dry.

The problem I ran into was operating the controls of the camera. You can put the remote in a ziplock bag and operate the zoom, record start/stop and other basic things, but it is somewhat cumbersome to zoom quickly on something happening suddenly. There are other important functions that you can't operate. One of which is the main power switch, especially if the auto-shutoff cuts in if you haven't been taping for several minutes. Focus is also a problem, you must lock the focus on infinity or else the camera will constantly focus on the raindrops on the plexiglass. The audio is also pretty much unusable when the camera is in a housing like this.

I have preferred shooting hurricanes from inside my vehicle (in a parking garage at that) rather than walking around outside, but that's just my preference. I just point the driver's window away from the wind and have full camera control and clear audio. Of course, this limits my field of view if something happens behind me, but it's a little simpler - plus I stay slightly drier.