is but chasing about living on the edge?

Neal Rasmussen

Is but chasing about living on the edge?

I would have to say definitely no. I don't approach
chasing as an endeavor to prove my bravery or as a
contest to see who can get the closest to the tornado.

Done without the bravado of the Twister scene -where
they're driving down the road with the music going,
like a bad imitation of Apocalypse Now's "helicopter
and classical music" scene- can be as 'edge' pushing
as software engineering... Barring the lightning. But
inside the Faraday cage, and sanely keeping a safe
distance, and it becomes more of an "observation" than
a visit to Fear Factor. Fear Factor, BTW, is being
imitated while West Wing is being killed... Par for
course for 21st century... But I digress from my analogy...

Reminds me of a story... :) A friend's kids where
starting to be scared of lightning... Parents couldn't
figure out why as they chase.... one day the parents
show up at pre-school care/class thing... it happened
to be storming... well their kid's 'teachers', for lack
of another word, perhaps 'day care worker' is more titled,
had them huddled together saying such as, "Don't be
scared... It's only thunder..." well duh... If a kid
hasn't seen a Teddy Bear, and the adult is scared of a
teddy bears and put inflection in the voice when saying
"Don't be scared... it's only a Teddy Bear", well guess
what? Kid is going to be afraid of Teddy Bears.

And with that as a preface, I suppose it's all about
how one approaches it... How you form your own personal
reality around why you chase. If we try really hard,
we can psych ourselves into demented tasmanian devils
and whirl about in a mad rush to get within 100'!
Or one can relax a bit, armed with the comfort of a
safe distance, and with the knowledge of how to
chase safely. Which might be another thread perhaps...

nealras
oh ya...
Neal Rasmussen
http://www.nealras.com/invent.htm
 
Is but chasing about living on the edge?

Here's the view of a chasing novice....

It's not about thrill seeking for me.

From my perspective it's about experiencing what the camera can't capture. It's about experiencing nature and teaching my kids about the world that they live in.

If it were about thrill seeking, I'd have quit by now. The numbers aren't in my favor. Tornados are still a rare weather event. It's not like B.A.S.E. jumping or some of the other 'extreme' pursuits. Buildings and other structures aren't going anywhere.

I'm the hunter. The storm is my prey.

I view a 'failed' chase like a 'bad' day on my boat. It beats the heck out of being in the office. I'd much rather be sitting in the middle of nowhere 'torturing the numbers' than in the stale, sterile environment of the workplace anyday.

Compared to my daily commute and sharing the lake with drunken boaters, chasing is one of the safer things that I do.

brianb
N5ACN
 
Is but hurricane chasing about living on the edge?

Although I have never done it myself, it seems like the ultimate core punch.
 
And with that as a preface, I suppose it's all about
how one approaches it... How you form your own personal
reality around why you chase. If we try really hard,
we can psych ourselves into demented tasmanian devils
and whirl about in a mad rush to get within 100'!

I guess I'd think of myself and chasing as not very one-dimensionable. If anyone is psyching themselves into some false reality I would think it is those that really do chase to get close but who for whatever reason think it is better of them to not say that they do. I have ZERO problem with anyone wanting to get close and chase for the thrill of it, nor any other reason.

The one thing I know isn't part of why I chase is the science around it. I have never cared much about any of that. The original interest I imagine came from thrill more-so than even observing amazing structures, as I wasn't really aware of amazing features until the internet(no, not twister). The more I chase the more I see I chase for both, amazing structure observing and going and being "stupid" and getting a thrill by getting closer or driving into cores on purpose. When structure starts to wind down you can often find me driving right into storms for the THRILL OF IT. I do it often.

When I see a tornado I would much rather be damn close to it than watching it from a few miles away, though road type and precip don't always allow this for someone driving a rear-wheel drive Mustang. I certainly want to make more efforts to get close to tornaoes in 2006 even if I have to get tow'd later. Close encounters and footage just attacks your senses.

I wouldn't trade the thrill and footage of a close encounter for any structure stuff. In the end though I'd rather get both but that is hard. So I guess get structure views of non-tornadic stuff and get close to tornadoes. I want the best of each situation and/or what my mood is that day. I know one thing, getting thrilled by what I call, "experiencing the storm" will forever be a part of my chasing. Sometimes one just gets the urge to punch the things.




A demented tasmanian devil chaser(or at least an honest wannabe one)
 
The thrill factor can't be denied ... it's just a part of it. But for me, it's the same feeling that drives people to want to see Old Faithful erupt ... or the volcanoes in Hawaii ... or a massive waterfall. It doesn't mean that I'm going to go stand over the hole and wait for the eruption ... or do something stupid that goes against reason or puts life at risk. And that is where it is different from most thrill sports - - - there are some for whom the thrill itself is derived in the knowledge that their life is at greater risk and that they will make a name for themselves by being more daring than the next guy. For me, the thrill in chasing still comes more in seeing a forecast verify or witnessing the sheer power of the storm. You'll still have a great story to tell later - even if you are a couple miles further from the action than Joe Hotshot.

I remember a clip of Tim Marshall in a documentary one time when he talked about having a healthy fear and respect for what the storm is capable of, and it is that fear that keeps him from doing stupid things. Just seemed like balanced and smart thinking to me. I'd rather be around for the next 50 years of chasing, rather than trade-off for one extreme moment that ended it all. There is an undercurrent in chasing now that seems to carry the notion that a chaser hasn't really done anything special until they've gotten the bigger, badder, closer intercept than everyone else. While everyone can make their own choices, there is definitely still something to be said for wisdom.

Everyone has a distance they consider safe that is determined by a lot of factors. I can't deny that I like to be close enough to get a good view of what's going on, and would also take that over the structure shots at a distance. Every storm is different and presents a whole different set of choices for everyone involved. This isn't to say that something bad won't ever happen to me, either, because who knows - bad things happen to everyone. After all, we would probably be safer sitting on a couch in the living room ... but wouldn't have nearly as good a story to tell later.
 
Sure, storm chasing is thrilling. But just about everything people do in life for fun is because there is a thrill involved. Why do people go to football games? To amusement parks? Why do kids go down the slide at the playground? Jump off the diving board at the pool? Sled down the steep hill in the snow? Watch the action movie at the theater?

Thrill does not equal danger. Danger is not always needed for one to be thrilled. I think that's the main miscommunication non-chasers have with chasers. If it wasn't thrilling, who would do it? I'll bet even the serious research types at the very least are into the field because the thrill is what sparked their interest to begin with. I wouldn't spend thousands of dollars a year to do something boring.

I don't see chasing as being all that dangerous. I'd rather be a chaser during a tornado outbreak than an oblivious resident. You really have to work hard to get a storm to hurt you, IMO. I risk my life more when I go through the Oakwood interchange on I-64 in downtown Charleston more than I do chasing an entire season.
 
It seems like the thread met a fork in the road somewhere back. When Neal talked about "living on the edge", I took it to mean someone who was willing to risk being in the path of a tornado until the last possible second before jumping out of the way. A - your fine if you make it - dead if you don't kind of deal... proving bravery. Similar to a parachute either opens or it doesn't for a skydiver. I think that there are very few storm chasers that would approach it this way... and probably very few that view it as a contest with others. Although, some may see it as a personal contest of sorts.

When thrill seeking was brought up... I think it took in just about the whole chaser community. Although, there are a myriad of reasons that bring the "thrill". It could be as simple as someone getting a thrill out of seeing the Plains and any added storm is a bonus... all the way to being close /but safe/ to a tornado. For me, I get a thrill out of making a forecast and then getting to see if verify. A few years back, a forecaster at SPC (Rich Thompson I think) got to verify his own tornado watch. Now there is a thrill for a forecaster!

I get a different thrill out of seeing storms in general, supercells and tornadoes. And yes, the thrill increases further by being closer to a tornado. I look at it like watching a Lakers game. One could get a thrill by being in a $25 top row seat watching Kobe Bryant throw a monster block on someone and crash near the front row. But, the thrill becomes much more intense if you were sitting in a $500 row one seat hearing the crash and having Kobe's sweat fly on you. There's a reason that there is a $475 difference in price. If the thrill was the same in all seats - they would all cost the same.

I enjoy getting nice video on a tripod from 5 to 10 miles away... but I also like to get up close video when I can. I don't think it works to set a goal of either when heading out the door. The situations you find yourself in each time will dictate if you are going to get close video or not. In most areas of the high plains... you're not. Good luck finding a road for the tornado to cross in Cherry County, Nebraska! But, if a highly visible tornado - moving at a moderate forward speed - across a nicely gridded road network presents itself (say, a Hiawatha or Manchester)... I'll make the effort to introduce myself. Damn straight - it's thrilling!
 
I don't really think it is about living on the edge per se, I do it more simply because I enjoy witnessing some of he greatest forces on the planet. I don't really consider myself to be in any real danger as long as I know what's ahead of me, so that kind of rules out the "living on the edge". I personally perfer to liken it to a game of chess against the atmosphere - get yourself in position before it decides to make its move.
 
I really don't know why I chase. I just know I have to.

I totally agree. Try explaining it to someone who has never chased before, and they could really care less.

As for playing chess with mother nature, I'd have to disagree. Not two storms are alike, and you never know the curve ball she's going to throw at you. Unless you like putting yourself at a great distance away from the storm, well, you're really still not out of harm's way. You can't always get yourself into position before she makes her next move.

I like playing with fire.
 
From what I've seen and heard/read, some folks do prefer to 'chase on the edge' (that's my opinion)

The "edge" for me is a bit further away than some of the more aggressive chasers. Perhaps that's a lack of confidence or it's perhaps wisdom, but I think each person that chases picks his/her comfort level and attempts to stay within it.

The volume of driving we do is probably a lot more hazardous (wet roads, deer, other drivers, being tired, etc) than the brief period of time spent in dangerous storm zones.
 
I've been too close to that edge and its not pretty. Being certain of things you have control of is one thing...but if that control is lost...all certainty is gone. I learned this lesson back on Sept. 22, 2001. To this day, I still have nightmares occasionally about that crazy night. Sometimes it takes a hard dose of reality to realize that sometimes there is that point of no return. Just my thoughts.
 
Personally, I like to get as close as I can without losing the big picture.

What I mean by that is this: In a video of the Girard, KS tornado of May 4, 2003, a certain group of chasers were shown backing up at speeds >40 mph to avoid being enveloped by a 1/2 mile wide F4 tornado. Now, this tornado was incredible, but the video from this group's vantage point did not show this because they were TOO close. You couldn't see the whole tornado, or even an edge of the tornado. In my opinion, this video was nowhere near as entertaining (or thrilling) as other videos taken further back, which showed the incredibly violent circulation as a whole.

Now, for smaller tornadoes, you can almost get as close as you want because obtaining perspective is not as difficult. If you want to get the RFD and all of that, then further back is great. I'd like to see it sometime, but I'd rather be close enough to see trees fly. I hate to say it, but I think watching destruction is cool (as long as it isn't destroying houses and such).

Gabe
 
I call “the edge†“the thresholdâ€. It is like a doorway.

When I chase, it is in my mind always. The threshold moves, moment to moment, and I do my best to judge its location and orient myself accordingly.

Most chasers are keenly aware when they step over the threshold. You get the feeling real quick that you’re now a guest in Nature’s house. It’s pretty chaotic in there; she forgets to call the maid. I think we’ve all had that feeling on occasion…we pushed it, went over the line and ended up in her messy livingroom.

Lightning photography is different. Due to lightning’s unpredictability, the entire chase technically takes place beyond the threshold. The most dangerous position when shooting lightning is to assume you’re NOT on the edge, but safe and protected because you’re 10 miles away. When that happens, Nature will remind you. http://www.lightninglady.com/photos/LLCaprice.jpg

Realizing that chaos IS the norm, lightning photographers might act differently on a tornado chase. I can recall one time in Nebraska when I was shooting the rotation from inside the vehicle because CGs were hitting closeby. Some chasers stood in the grassy field. I did not feel overcautious.

The threshold is always there, almost as tangible as the dryline, but “the edge†is not the reason why I chase. There are many reasons, but that’s a different subject.
 
I've been too close to that edge and its not pretty. Being certain of things you have control of is one thing...but if that control is lost...all certainty is gone. I learned this lesson back on Sept. 22, 2001. To this day, I still have nightmares occasionally about that crazy night. Sometimes it takes a hard dose of reality to realize that sometimes there is that point of no return. Just my thoughts.

Yes Brian, I was thinking about this event just today. I have some thoughts that might make an interesting thread.
 
I know this is probably a dumb question, and many of you don't recommend it, but chasing is about living on the edge, right?

Just so the rest of you know, Neal clipped that phrase from a comment by Chris about chasing at night - so that is the context, and he made a new thread on just that idea.

Chris (fairly new to chasing I believe) assumed that chasing was about living on the edge, so the question is do we think that's what it's about?

For me to some degree that is true, but not for the purpose of putting my life at risk. I love my life and never have any intention of sacrificing it just for a thrill, or to put on a show, or to prove something to someone else. There are inherent risks with chasing, but it isn't risky all the time. It's probably difficult to put into words exactly why I chase, but I think mystery and wanting to fully experience life are part of it. Tornadoes are things which kill and which most normal people are terrified of and hide from. Instead we as chasers come out and actively look for that which would kill us. I think I do it because I want to understand these very rare, unique, and beautiful forces, and I am drawn to them because they seem very unreal - as if you are entering a new dimension of reality. Truth is we are all here living, but someday we will all die. Death is a part of life. Perhaps we want to stare that abyss in the face. We wish to look into the deep pit, the taboo, and walk away and perhaps try and understand what it is we see. So if by that you mean 'living on the edge' then yes I'd say that is partly it.

With that said, that isn't the whole part either. There are countless ways that chasing for me has become one of the best possible hobbies & endeavors totally unrelated to risk. Chasing comprises (or can comprise) auto mechanics, photography, meterology, computer (creation repair configuration), amateur radio, spotting / emergency services, forecasting, nature and the outdoors, travel to unknown new areas, community and comaraderie with others on the road and through internet forums, competition, adventure, the unknown. I'm sure there are other things as well. Some of us (such as myself) are pretty much involved in all of these things and others are involved in a smaller subset. I think one reason I am into it so much is that it challenges me at so many levels and ties together so many of my other interests listed above (scratch radio, and emergency work for me). Sometimes it is so much, and I get into it so much and want to spend so much time on it that it is a bit overwhelming. It can really take over for some of us if you aren't careful. I often hear of the chase divorce and that sort of thing. :) It can be tough on the family life.

I remember a line that my friend Geoff Mackley of Discovery Channel fame (aka Dangerman) always used: "If you're not living on the edge, you're just taking up space". I think he means life is short, we only have so much time, and there is so much to do. We will only be here once. Life isn't all about the day to day and 9 to 5 to be taken for granted as so many do. It's a very rare gift and we have the mysteries of the universe to discover together.
 
I have to admit that I do enjoy getting a bit of a thrill from a chase, I mean, who doesn't? I am not one who wants to be close to a tornado though. Not my kinda thing... I like keeping some distance because I feel I can see the entire picture more and see what's going on around. I get my "thrills" from the unknown. I also get them from seeing some neat structure or tornado that catches me by surprise. I think it's a pretty good feeling. Something that makes it addictive and you just want to do it all over again.

So why do I chase? That's a good question. Maybe it's just the fact that I am real interested in storms and curiousity drives me out there. I am one of those who like being "at one with nature". Chasing for me is like escaping from the everyday mundane life. I am in my own world when I am watching or chasing storms.
 
I take each storm/tornado as Nature presents it to me. Depending on the situation. I don't actively strive for exclusively up close or far away artsy fartsy shots. I don't want to bring home the same angle of every storm every time, I like it to be different. Mulvane was awesome and upclose, crazy. Dwyer was far away but ethereal...captivating. And then Kiowa was kinda both of those. I like getting different shots.

Of course if I end up within a half mile of 5 of my next 7 tornadoes, I'll be ok with it.
 
<div class='quotetop'>QUOTE("Bill Tabor")</div>
Originally posted by Chris Lott
I know this is probably a dumb question, and many of you don't recommend it, but chasing is about living on the edge, right?

Just so the rest of you know, Neal clipped that phrase from a comment by Chris about chasing at night - so that is the context, and he made a new thread on just that idea.

Chris (fairly new to chasing I believe) assumed that chasing was about living on the edge, so the question is do we think that's what it's about?

You're right Bill, I am new to chasing, but I believe my comments were taken out of context, or I should have said it differently. I have to admit that part of the reason I am into chasing is the excitement, the rush, the "living on the edge." I don't know too many people who want to get close to a tornado and not get pumped up about it. But I have been interested in storms for years. That's part of the reason I joined Stormtrack, so I can learn as much as I possibly can from the veteran chasers. Just so noone misunderstood me, I didn't mean that chasers are into chasing for the purpose of living on the edge, just for excitement. Without actually learning about severe weather, to me you don't know what you're looking at and then you'll get a thrill you don't want.
 
Originally posted by Chris Lott
Just so noone misunderstood me, I didn't mean that chasers are into chasing for the purpose of living on the edge, just for excitement. Without actually learning about severe weather, to me you don't know what you're looking at and then you'll get a thrill you don't want.

Yes, I think I understood what you meant in context with night chasing and 'pushing the envelope'. However it made a good opportunity for chasers to express themselves. I don't really have anything against any reason for chasing. We all have different things that motivate us.
 
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