Safety and the greatest threat while Chasing

Every Year I learn something new while chasing and this year is no different. It is amazing to me that none of us have been killed while actively engaged in a chase but this cannot go on forever. I honestly am quite sure that the first storm eaten chaser fatality will be caused by lightning. Tornados can be avoided, giant hail can be avoided provided the chaser not position his/herself under a mesocyclone, a flooded road can also be avoided. But lightning! how can we possibly hope to avoid a current that travels at over 60,000 miles per second, never gives us a warning of when and where out of the storm it will come and doesn't even have to hit the chaser directly to cause serious bodily injury. I don,t know about everyone else out thier but I think that terrible drivers or lightning are bound to take one of us out sooner or later. Even with the risks I've chased for over 9 years and I will never stop chasing, Please be safe out thier so we don't have any more bad publicity from the media on chasing.
 
There are usually more non-chasers out in a thunderstorm than chasers, except maybe on the barren outback roads of the plains. I guarantee you that a storm going through Dallas would have tens of thousands of people or more outside, far greater than any chaser convergence is capable of.
 
That would be a disaster and yes if we ever get a direct hit in Dallas thier would be a lot of chaos and panic from the mass of citizens
 
I'm talking about lightning. There are more people out in a general thunderstorm, with potential to kill, than there ever will be chasers. So odds of a chaser being killed by lightning are very very low, especially when compared to the number of people outside not chasing.
 
This is true and to make matters worse most people who stand around in thunderstors are totally unaware of the dangers of standing in the open or near power lines for that matter. Even if those of us who chase are aware of these dangers I still beleive that it is lightning that will get one of us in the future. It is just too powerful, unpredictable and fast too avoid. (Ive had some close calls already)
 
I think our vehicles are many times more of a risk to us than any storm related factor. Not to discount the storms, they of course do pose risks (lightning, high winds, etc). But I truly believe that the first chaser fatality (fatalities) during an active chase will be due to a car accident, and unfortunately I think it will be a nasty scene of tragic proportions and multiple casualties. I really hope I am wrong about this, but it is something I feel strongly about.

I see crowds of people on the side of the road all the time, some running across with cameras and tripods. Both drivers and runners are looking at the storm-tornado-wall cloud. I think it is a miracle that nothing has happened yet. I speak from experience because I have to admit I know how easy it is for an incredible storm to draw my attention from the road. Not to mention all of the distractions that can be present (cameras, laptops, radios, etc) I myself have almost drifted off the side road one too many times.

This danger is downright scary to me because it is so real. So much so that during a chase, I have shifted the priority of my safety thoughts to the road rather than the storm. Recently I have changed a lot of the ways I chase because of this. The storm poses risks, yes, but the threat from the road is much more ominous. I am just as guilty as anyone of lapses in chase highway safety in the past, but it is something I have resolved to give a lot more attention to.
 
If you add heavy rainfall to the mix then deadly crashes are even more possible especially in these infamous chaser convergence road side pile ups. We could always modify our chase vehicles with reinforced titanium alloy this can help protect us from large hail too. I guess the only thing stopping some of us from bringing in modded out chaase vehicles is money but I have seen a few Literally TANKED out chase units. Maybe they are all getting ready for a possible head on chase accident.
 
Tornado-don't drive into it.

Hail-stay out of it or stay in your car. If HUGE hail, cover your face, I'm sure you'll come out fine.

Wind-park under big trees if you really wish.

Lightning-very simple....stay in the car. Buy a window clamp instead of HAVING to get out for tripod stuff. Let Drummond do what Drummond does. Him or someone else that doesn't seem to respect it at all will pay for it...and guess what? The storms will still be there for me the next day.

At this point I pretty much don't care one bit what others are doing or do, so long as they don't drive into me. Their goal could be to run into a tornado and die and I'd be all for it. Just don't land on or near my cameras.

As far as regulation worries from what some other chasers might do- god I wish these laws and regulations would just freaking happen so I never have to hear about it again.

As far as I can tell there is no need to worry. The stuff to keep you from being hurt is pretty darn simple. You have to be having a very bad day to be hurt chasing. Look how much of it is done(and what has been done by many with no knowledge.....like me when I first started..and still some days...) and how often does anyone hear of serious injuries? I can't say I've heard from anyone that was putting forth any effort.

I think some just want to believe it is so risky and unsafe. Well I don't have 9 years under my belt yet, but what I've done I feel it is a safe hobby to have. Seems like when I hear such terrible concerns about safety and chasing it stems from those that haven't done much of it.
 
Mike H. has some very good points. As far as being involved in a wreck while chasing...the solution is very simple...be patient and slow down! That will mitigate that risk tremendously.

I'll have to admit that I used to haul balls down the highway when I was after a storm. But after some of the horrible wrecks that other people have been involved in, I came to the reality that hydroplaning is no joke. I'd much rather miss a storm because I was careful, rather than injuring or killing myself...or someone else.
 
Chasing is as risky or safe as you make it. If you're careless, anxious, impatient, overly aggressive or merely oblivious to the danger, then all sorts of bad things can happen. Complacency may be the greatest danger. Are you truly safe or have you just been lulled into a false sense of safety because nothing terrible has happened yet?

On the other hand, I believe that anyone who learns the basics of chasing safety and understands storm development and movement can stay out of harm's way. It's a matter of making safety the top priority and erring on the side of caution. Maybe that means missing the best photo opportunity to be certain of that escape route, or jumping in your car when others don't seem worried when a CG hits in a nearby pasture.

Personally, I decided that if I couldn't find and photograph great storms driving at the speed limit and chasing safely, then I would keep working on my skills until I could.
 
I,m glad I don't core punch these things as giant hail can be very hazardous to your chase vehicle and so very expensive.

Instability=Success
 
One thing that hasn't been mentioned. If you're really worried that much about your (or anyone elses for that matter) driving, get into a defensive driving course. This will help sharpen your skills as a driver and point out areas that you don't normally look at. It also has the added extra that some Insurance Companies will reduce your rate a bit after having completed the course.

A lot of Chasers (not all by any means though) have experience in driving emergency vehicles. Anyone who has driven an emergency vehicle will understand the distractions and most Emergency Vehicles have a myriad more distractions than most chase vehicles.

To those that don't want to go through Defensive Driving, or don't think it's worth your time... Be AWARE, Be PREPARED. It will happen to you. Never think "It's always the other guy" because one day it will be YOU!
 
My biggest fear is oncoming drivers on those single-lane state highways during the trip home...

I can't tell you the number of vehicles I've seen driving eratically late at night. The closest call was a large pick up truck which PASSED another oncoming vehicle at the crest of a hill. I had to swerve halfway off the road to assure we wouldn't hit. It took a few minutes for everything to sit in... a few seconds later, and I probably wouldn't be writing this. (How many 65+mph head on crashes with a pickup vs small sedan do you see people surviving rom?)

Aaron
 
Mike Hollingshead wrote: Let Drummond do what Drummond does. Him or someone else that doesn't seem to respect it at all will pay for it...and guess what?
Was that really necessary Mike?

I don't worry about it because to me that is like worrying about a volcano erupting or an asteroid hitting the earth. There are far more likely dangerous things to happen to me during a chase than lightning hitting me, despite the recent close calls. I suspect many have the close calls, just not everyone happened to catch it on video. I stand a better chance of winning the Texas Lottery than I do getting hit by lightning.

I live on the caprock and have most of my life, storms are a fact of life out here, we just accept them. IMO opinion, getting in the car to avoid lightning really doesn't help much. It just travelled through several miles of air, one of the greatest electrical insulators, does anyone seriously believe that 1/4 inch of glass is going to stop it from getting you if it wants you?

If a person really must take the fun out of their chasing by worrying that much about what is going to kill you, that effort could be better spent on things that you might accidently have some degree of control over, such as TRAFFIC and stupid drivers taking you out if you don't pay attention to them.

That said, no need to go standing under trees or tying a lightning rod to your head, but I just think if your THAT worried about lightning, perhaps your better off viewing the storm from 5 miles out with binoculars if you can see through the dust and haze.

Please don't think I don't know what it can do or respect it, I just accept getting hit by lightning as one of the many risks that aggressively chasing storms presents and live with it.

If your around the storm, and it wants you, nothing short of being in a vacuum is going to stop it from getting you.

Like other's have said, other drivers on the road, ESPECIALLY in the vicinity of severe weather, are by far your greatest danger to your life.
 
I do a broadway dance whenever I am in front of severe thunderstorms... I will likely be singing some tunes from "rent" during any storms I intercept in IL today... And in a speedo, too :eek:
 
Originally posted by nickgrillo
I do a broadway dance whenever I am in front of severe thunderstorms... I will likely be singing some tunes from \"rent\" during any storms I intercept in IL today... And in a speedo, too :eek:


That is a mental image that we didnt need and will burned into my brain for years until therapy can help ease the thought :shock:

:lol: :lol:


The big danger is Traffic accidents. We drive thousands of miles. Sometimes in horrible conditions. I dont worry about hail or lightning. I worry about the guy driving in the other lane at 11pm in the rain who is falling alseep as he barrels towards me at 70mph.If a chase is killed on a chase my $$ is on a car wreck. I think David hit it when he said you have a better chance of winning the Texas Lottery than being struck by lightning. Ofcourse us standing out in the field during a storm is like buying 1000 lottery tickets.. Our odds just went up a little :)
 
Originally posted by Nick Grillo
do a broadway dance whenever I am in front of severe thunderstorms... I will likely be singing some tunes from \"rent\" during any storms I intercept in IL today... And in a speedo, too

WUS20 KWNS 191740
SEL4
SPC WW 191740
KSZ000-ILZ000-

URGENT - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
GRILLO WATCH NUMBER 1
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1020 AM CST SAT NOV 05 2005

THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS ISSUED A
GRILLO WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF CENTRAL AND EASTERN ILLINOIS
EFFECTIVE THIS SATURDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING FROM 1200 PM UNTIL 600 PM CST.

...THIS IS A PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION...
BROADWAY TUNES SUNG IN CHROMATIC SCALES...JOHNNY DEPP LOOK-ALIKES...AND PASTY SKINNY BOYS IN SPEEDOS ARE POSSIBLE IN THESE AREAS.

:wink:
 
Quote:
Mike Hollingshead wrote: Let Drummond do what Drummond does. Him or someone else that doesn't seem to respect it at all will pay for it...and guess what?

Dave wrote:

Was that really necessary Mike?

I don't worry about it because to me that is like worrying about a volcano erupting or an asteroid hitting the earth. There are far more likely dangerous things to happen to me during a chase than lightning hitting me, despite the recent close calls.

Evidently it was, lol. I can't think of anyone that shows less respect for it, though I'm sure they exist(truth....not flaming anyone.....suprised you even care this much). Worrying about a volcano erupting is silly when you are never even near one. Standing outside in a cg barage and thinking this same way; well, apples and oranges. I could give a rats a$$ what you do, but I'm not going to then not call it like I see it. IMO anyone that kept standing outside on the Mulvane storm, in close proximity to it, has zero respect for it. I mean hell, Shane(who was with you) even got shocked by the one...it was THAT close. To then not say, 'hey, lightning means business' and keep on standing out in the open....well what the hell is a person that doesn't respect it to YOU then? Weren't you yourself shocked in TX outside during another cg barage storm(before this day I think)? But that is right a car offers ZERO protection in these cases. Lightning never travels around the frame. It is that much work to get in a car afterall. *sarcasm off*

I don't know, I myself am just amazed at the balls people have in some lightning events. I DO think they will pay for it. But hey, keep on not worrying about it. Think how many golfers or people running in the rain get killed in a given year. Sure they are out in it as are the thousands of others not getting hit but it isn't like they are probably around intense cg storms as frequently or as long as you each year...no? If a person dies in a house or a car from a cg then hey, I guess I'll say that was "god's will"....if he exists(lol but that is another thread on another forum). If they die with a video camera in their hand outside of a perfectly good car.....they were an idiot.

I've been caught off guard a couple times so I can certainly die an idiot, but I at least took the sign and got in the damn car. One time was June 22nd 03 on the Aurora storm. There were no cgs in our area. Then all the sudden it went crazy with 3, all within a mile, in the span of maybe 20 seconds. The first was only a couple phone poles away. It is now pretty hard to get me out of the car near any storm.

Sorry, I just have respect for lightning more than anything else, I always have. I guess it makes sense to me to give the most respect to something I have no control over and that gives me no lead time for some action. But if a car offers no help or protection then there is nothing anyone can do. I myself prefer metal over air.
 
To each their own... David's actions don't affect me, so I don't have a problem with it. I guess you could look at it this way: The average person views the storm chaser as a dare-devil idiot, putting themselves in harms way all for the "thrill" or photo... But does that stop anyone? Nope.

Do what you enjoy, and let others do as they enjoy - as long as it doesn't affect someone elses rights.
 
How about, chasing an F4 tornado, when all of a sudden....you run out of gas, and your in the path of the tornado...that's a thing isn't it?
 
To each their own... David's actions don't affect me, so I don't have a problem with it. I guess you could look at it this way: The average person views the storm chaser as a dare-devil idiot, putting themselves in harms way all for the \"thrill\" or photo... But does that stop anyone? Nope.

Do what you enjoy, and let others do as they enjoy - as long as it doesn't affect someone elses rights.

Agreed. And call what you think is stupid, stupid.
 
Originally posted by Mike Hollingshead

Evidently it was, lol. I can't think of anyone that shows less respect for it, though I'm sure they exist(truth....not flaming anyone.....suprised you even care this much). Worrying about a volcano erupting is silly when you are never even near one.

I intended to put worrying about that big volacano right here in the US that some thing may erupt someday ruin life as we know it around here. That didn't make it through the keyboard somehow though. The whole point was, worrying too much about something that is literally, completely, out of your control. Short of hiding underground with layers of concrete between you and the sky and you can probably not worry about lightning. Being indoors in a building away from windows and doors MIGHT give you a little more protection. But being outside, in the immediate vicinity in a store, I don't care if your in a car or not, I personally believe you stand just as good a chance getting hit. Honestly, I think the car stands a better chance, after all, most of them ARE metal.

IMO anyone that kept standing outside on the Mulvane storm, in close proximity to it, has zero respect for it. I mean hell, Shane(who was with you) even got shocked by the one...it was THAT close.

Well, first, Mulvane was an incredibly awesome experience, and like many incredibly awesome experiences, they often come with risks to life. I weighed the risk and chose to take it and now I have some of the most awesome video I ever shot as an everlasting memory of that day. Graham ended up with some incredible still shots that IMO opinion rival the Pampa tornado shots.

What you don't know was, myself and 3 others were crouched down in a low ditch during the worst of that. At the same time, Shane had taken shelter in the vehicle and he felt the zap no one else did. Not condemning Shane for that, he did what he's learned was supposed to be the right thing to do, yet he felt a zap while all of us down in the ditch did not. So that wasn't really a good case study to use Mike. If anything, it's one to prove MY point that lightning will be more likely to hit the vehicle than a person.

Weren't you yourself shocked in TX outside during another cg barage storm(before this day I think)? But that is right a car offers ZERO protection in these cases. Lightning never travels around the frame. It is that much work to get in a car afterall. *sarcasm off*

No you are very wrong here. When we got struck in TX, the storm had pretty much DIED. We stopped to fix an antenna and someone had to pee. The clouds still looked like SLCs (Scary Looking Clouds), but there had been no lightning or thunder for AT LEAST 30 minutes prior. The one that got us was a SINGLE LONE STRIKE. So.... how do you prepare for that Mike? Just NEVER get out of your vehicle when convective clouds are around?


Also, lightning does not always travel around the frame. I have seen several tires in the past where the lightning exited through the tire and blew it to the outside. Not long ago someone posted a pic on here where lightning took a dive through the back window of a car. I've seen a half melted windshield where one went through. Weren't you advocating using those glass mount cameras mountings? Window has to be down to use those.

I still contend that your just as vulnerable standing outside as you are sitting in the car. I know popular opinion and thought says otherwise, but my own experiences tell me different. All that said, you make it sound like I am out doing the supercell dance coated with electrically conductive grease holding a 10 foot lightning rod.

Every single shot I ever got of a close strike was either a freak thing like that Texas one, I was down in a ditch or on my knees as low as I could get like I was in Mulvane, or *surprise* was shooting from the window of a vehicle. Even the one earlier this year that nearly hit all the chasers out there, nearly everyone in the area was standing outside. At least a couple dozen chasers and nearly as many vehicles with antennas. I would think the odds of hitting a chaser/vehicle were as high as they get at that point, yet it chose to bypass a nearby powerpole and take out a fence post.

In summary, yep, I think some chaser, someday, will take it in the skull by a direct hit, probably kill em too. But then if it happens tomorrow, it will be the very first time it happened to a chaser since Roger Jensen started this nearly half a century ago. Far more people have been seriously injured and killed and many more broadly accepted activities. Heck, you stand a better chance of dying from cancer or getting a blood clot from deep vein thrombosis from riding in a chase vehicle all those ungodly hours than you do from getting hit by lightning.

Again, I am not going to worry that much about something that IMO is a very remote possibility. Doesn't mean I don't respect it for what it can do, I just acknowledge that the possiblities of it happening are WAY out there and if it does decide to happen there isn't a single thing I can do to prevent it.

It's just like any other extreme hobby or sport. Each participant has to weight what they want to get out of it vs. the risks involved to do so, and decide if it's right for you or not. Some of us ski the bunny slopes, others like to ski the devil's tail slope.

If it does get me some day, at least I died doing one of the things I enjoy most in life, which is a much more attractive thing to me than dying of some disease in a nursing home some day. Then you can come and make sure they put on my tombstone what an idiot I was Mike.
 
Originally posted by Andrew Khan
How about, chasing an F4 tornado, when all of a sudden....you run out of gas, and your in the path of the tornado...that's a thing isn't it?

Yes put very well I have this on our site in chase humor (famous last words) "Great just Great !!!man I TOLD YOU WE NEEDED GAS!!!" :shock:
 
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