Non-chasers probably biggest core-punchers

Aug 10, 2004
Dundas Ontario
Chasers are often critisized for taking unnessisary risks such as core punching, but I suspect that vehicles driven by the general public core-punch in much greater numbers than those driven by chasers. The bus mentioned on the post below is a case in point. That bus probably would have proceded even if there had been a heavy FFD pricip core. Many non-chasers no doubt don't even realize that they are core punching, as they often don't recognize supercell structure.

If one were to take a sample of core punching vehicles at a point where a supercell crosses a ordinary 2-lane highway one would probably find that one driver wanted to drive down to the corner variety to buy a pack of smokes, another would answear that they had to pick up a load of lumber at his brother's farm a few miles down the road, and another would probably claim they were just driving around to blow off steam after a fight with their spouse, instead of staying home and going ballistic. The last would probably answear that if they always pulled over every time it rained they would probably not be able to hold down a job, or be counted on to show up when and where they were needed.

At least chasers tend to pay close attention to storms and are much more able to understand what is going on then the general public.
Guilty as charged

The problem is that over vast swaths of the country, people can't afford to stay in their homes just because the SPC declares that their area is under some degree of risk. Bosses, families and tobacco addictions are often notoriously oblivious to the disintegration of the local cap. So Joe Public winds up punching cores or (God forbid) hiding under a bridge.
You go and say "punching the core or bears cage" and you will get a dumb look for the first one and a "the nearest zoo is that way" for the other.
I've always wondered about that myself.
I remember on May 12, we had picked Lubbock as a place to stay as we limped south along I-27 with plastic bags over the windows due to the previous storm. :D

Near Abernathy we noticed a new storm developing explosively just NW of Lubbock. The main updraft tower was building right over the interstate, corkscrewing like mad. Not wanting to get into MORE baseballs, we stopped on the right-hand shoulder, and then pulled across the grass median onto the service road to the west of the highway. We then bailed back north to Amarillo.

We got a bunch of funny looks from people as they continued south, apparently oblivious to the huge supercell looming immediately ahead of them. I wonder how many vehicles were damaged on the interstate that evening. I also wonder how often damage to non-chaser's vehicles on the highway makes it to the LSR's?

Here's a radar image of that storm just after crossing I-27....pretty mean-lookin:
Dave Lewison wrote:

The main updraft tower was building right over the interstate, corkscrewing like mad.......We got a bunch of funny looks from people as they continued south, apparently oblivious to the huge supercell looming immediately ahead of them.

I would imagine for the typical non-weather enthusiast, such a reaction (or non-reaction) has to do with lack of knowledge to recognize the critical distinctions of one storm vs. another, or awareness of the potential of the atmospheric environment on a given day. After all, there are many more thundershowers than severe supercells. Probably most folks recognize a "thunderhead" building, but without any further distinction, it may mean nothing more than anticipation of rain, thunder and lightening. Even corkscrewing or anvil features may not signify anything in particular (although I have noticed mammatus seems to get people's attention, for some reason.) Also, with an isolated cell - albeit building to severe - people may rationalize that, since 60% or 70% of the overall sky cover is still blue, how bad can it be? Now, when the sky becomes "very dark", or a gust front pushes through, I think the alarm bell starts to go off. Most midwesterners probably know in general that storms move from west to east, but don't necessarily recognize the structural features of the storm (shelf cloud, RFD, etc.), may judge the threat solely on how menacing or unusual the feature appears to the eye, and may not be aware of where the most dangerous locations within the storm are, let alone factor in storm motion to avoid those locations when driving. Even if within a watch box, I'm sure many folks revert back to old rules of thumb handed down to them from their ancestors: "since it already started raining, there can't be a tornado now" or "it wasn't humid enough today, this isn't tornado weather."

Of course, the flip side of this coin is that sometimes ignorance is bliss. As we were driving through a little Nebraska town last Saturday evening, right underneath an STP of 5 and also right underneath a beautiful twilight sky, there was a group of little ladies outfitted in their springtime best strolling across the street headed for a carefree evening out. The cap doubtless being completely outside of their awareness, I couldn't help feeling just a little silly by comparison!
I have to say this, but the origin of this post is obvious. If you don't know what is dangerous, you don't know what is dangerous (I'd be screwed in the jungle, as compared to a native). It's a matter of being informed and the reason the non-weather public core punches is because they are the non-weather public. Just because a storm chaser knows structure doesn't excuse them for core's their choice, just like the non-storm chaser. No offense intended, just felt like that should be pointed out.

There is also the mentality of people (especially cross country travellers) to keep going unless absolutely necessary. Why stop if it is just heavy rain, when slowing down will work. If it starts to hail, keep going until it gets to large (I don't see where a non-chaser would deviate from this thinking). I think the most dangerous part is when people do stop, have no idea what is going on and the worst part of the storm continues to approach them. The lack of knowledge for escape is where pile ups under overpasses happen and whatnot. The fact is, as entertainment systems grow inside vechicles (CD players, satellite radio, DVD players), there is going to be bigger problems with the public not knowing about the weather. Why listen to hit-and-miss radio when you can pop a DVD in for the kids in the van or just plug your iPod in and you have music for the entire trip? It's a lack of information and education (as best as the government and media try to disseminate it).

I the note of people leaving their homes to take shelter under overpasses, I think a large part of the blame lies in the (dramaic :roll: ) video of people under overpasses or the dramatic stories of those who took shelter there. People see others survive a tornado there, why can't they? People see that the hail doesn't fall there and damage vechicles, why not park there? In the end it's up to people to learn what they need to...past that, they're on their own.
I think there is a huge difference as to when a member of the general public core punches and when a storm chaser core punches: the chaser is doing it intentionally; he/she knows what possibly could be in the core, whereas a member of the public may not. Someone who knows nothing about storms might see a hail shaft and just think it to be heavy rain and go right in, whereas if a chaser (well, this is assuming a chaser who has basic knowledge of storm structure) saw a hail shaft and drove in, then he/she would have a much better idea of what he/she was getting into. Because of this, if both a chaser and a general member of the public both voluntarily punched a core and came out significant damage, then I would see the chaser as the bigger idiot because at least he/she knew what was coming and still chose to punch it.