• A friendly and periodic reminder of the rules we use for fostering high SNR and quality conversation and interaction at Stormtrack: Forum rules

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Safety and the greatest threat while Chasing

Keeping tabs on what is required to keep our chase vehicles up and running is one of the most vital responsibilities we have while out on the road. Lightning, however, is the most unpredictable aspect of a storm (as far as location is concerned) and taking simple precautions, such as staying inside one's (properly maintained :) ) chase vehicle, are all we can do to avoid being struck.

As I write this, my town is testing its civil defense sirens....oooooh I cannot wait until spring!
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?

Or get stuck or slide into a ditch....some very well known and respected chasers had that happen with a tornado near them.

Don't get me wrong guys, I am all for safety, but I am about practical safety, not the kind of safety where you safe yourself out of any enjoyment of the activity. Practical safety is taking precautions about some of the things you CAN usually help prevent.

I guess it's cuz I grew up during a time when you rode your bike without helmets and pads and yes you got a scar or two, or worse you rode barefoot and got a toe caught in the chain. You rode your skateboard bareback, and you even built stuff without safety goggles. But you weren't safety-ed out so much it wasn't even fun any more.

I personally don't enjoy sitting inside a vehicle to view/experience a storm. I ride way to many hours in one to get there in the first place.

By all means, if it makes you *feel* safer staying in your vehicle, please do so, I just don't want to be crapped on because I decide not to.
I mean really, lets all start wearing helmets and kevlar (wait someone around here does that already) and full police riot gear....you know, just in case something extreme MIGHT happen. I am sure all of that stuff is comfortable.

As I have always said, my style of chasing isn't comfortable for some people, neither is it recommened for most people. But it's the way I enjoy it and I love it and that's just the way I am. Sometimes you gotta go against the grain.
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.

Yep, they certainly are which as you know is a conductive.

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.

According to that thinking I stand no chance to capture and see amazing events from inside my car. What AM I doing wasting all this gas.

I helped prove your point? LOL, hardly. I just popped the video in. It is even more against your thinking now that it is fresh. Shane is clearly out of the van standing next to a standing Graham. He is not at all in the vehicle like you say here. The actual cg does not hit incredibly close. At the same time as the flash you can clearly see something affected his camera and he jumps and says owe. Then about a second later you hear thunder. I'd be willing to bet some fashion of a leader tried to reach upward right through him and he is damn lucky he was not at the end of a return stroke and something else was. I bet Graham would have enjoyed that with Shane. So if this is true, which it seems to be, would you say had he been sitting inside the van not standing on the ground the same thing would have been as likley? But hey, one has to be out of a vehicle to get incredible stills and video. Shane is incredibly lucky and did the smart thing by getting right in the vehicle while all others did not.

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?

I never said I was perfect and nothing could ever get me. I'm talking about stuff you can TRY to prevent and the fact a vehicle is better than your feet on the ground.

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.

Brother. I'd rather a charge builds up on my car and have the chance it'll take the path of least resistance rather than knowing I have NOTHING around me for that op. Should I use magical floating mounts? Using that window mount is a worse bet than standing outside with you and a tripod? If so I think you should start a whole new thread on this one.

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.

Well I guess that answers my question. So you are as safe without another object around you?

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.

This was never about odds alone. Maybe smokers don't stand a better chance at lung cancer. I can't help but think the reason chasers aren't dieing from lightning is because the fact most are smart enough about it...most.

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.

If you say so.

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.

And what about standing out in lightning do you get that achieves devil's tail level? If this is the angle then maybe you should go to that next level and carry that electrically conductive greased 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.

Good thing you were crouching on Mulvane.

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.

Naw, I'd probably just say I wish you would have listened and tired to shoot from a car when you could. Then you'd still be able to chase like you love to while not being sick in a nursing home.
BTW, I don't hate anyone who doesn't mind a little lightning. This thread is ironic to me. I can't stand safety threads yet here I am. I just have a tremendous respect for lightning and its flukeness. I didn't use Drummond to be attacking him. I thought he'd laugh about it when I said, "let Drummond do what Drummond does". Like, let anyone that doesn't worry about lightning not worry about it, but as for me, I really worry about it. I wish one could disagree on here withouth the world thinking they are trying to talk the world into agreeing and/or that they are attacking someone they don't like. I like Dave and honestly thought it'd be more humorous than offensive. Maybe there is respect there but I just never saw it from my own stance on it all. I rarely respect the speed limit and am not trying to claim to be some perfect chaser. Just saying what I think about lightning. I think lightning is more dangerous than speeding, lol. There, now I'm way open to be called stupid.

But anyway sorry for my talk here if it is seen as blasting Dave. I never set out to do that.
All is cool Mike. I found out today someone that was like a grandmother to me passed away at age 98, so I am a bit on the sensitive side today.

Anyway, I have always looked at the "stay in car, you're safer there around lightning" thing just like I do the whole "get in a ditch and out of your car" around a tornado thing.

All I have seen, and all of my experiences tell me that just isn't the case at all. I have seen chaser convergence upon chaser convergence, and far more of those chasers are standing outside than are inside. I see it all the time, nearly every chase, every year. The fact that in half a century of chasing almost, no chaser has ever been killed or seriously injured by lightning that we know of.

Same thing for the "get in the ditch" deal. I acknowledge that in the worst tornadoes, a car is a horrible place to be, that being F3 or greater. As we all know, the vast majority of them are F2 or less. And I know you don't know until it's over how strong it's going to be, but given the odds, I will take the car over a ditch when nothing more substantial is available every time. I have seen far too many ditches FULL of all manner of deadly debris, even in some of the smaller tornadoes.

All any of us really have is our own experiences, and in all these years of chasing, and I guess a little bit of cavalier attitude about it, I just would rather play the odds and live the experience.

You asked what I couldn't get from Mulvane in the car that I did on the ground. I can't explain that, but it's the whole experience, the site, the sound, the smell, the barrage of lightning. It's more of a 3D experience outside of the vehicle and a 2D seen through the "big screen TV" of the windshield inside the vehicle. Being able to set up camera and sticks was a bonus to having a great souvenier of that day, but not a time goes by when I think of that day that I don't vividly recall the sound of the thunder and the feeling of the wind while that awesome tornado was going on.