Andrew Pritchard

Location: Urbana, Illinois
Started Chasing: 2001
Tornadoes: Literally no idea. 100?
Web site: http://SkyDrama.Net

Bio: I always had my head in the clouds as a kid. Instead of watching cartoons in elementary school, I was watching BETA and VHS videos of tornadoes that my dad and the chief meteorologist that the TV station where he worked would bring home for me. I got my first film SLR at age 10 and was a walking waste of film. I decided I wanted to add the video element and got a paper route at age 12 and bought a Sony 8mm video camera with the money that I saved up. I’ve gone back and forth between whether I like the photography or videography aspect better – but think I have found a happy spot right in the middle with timelapse photography. It requires patience, but sitting in an open field for hours with the wind at my back and my camera clicking away is when I am at my happiest. As my parents resisted for some time, I was limited to photographing storms locally around town, but my dad finally took me out on my first storm chase when I was 15. Once I got my drivers license a year later I was off on my own with some paper maps and a weather radio, making a lot of mistakes, but also being forced to learn a lot of things the hard way. Eventually, to learn the “why” behind what I was seeing, I attended Parkland College where I received my A.S. in Earth Sciences, and then Northern Illinois University for my B.S. in Meteorology with a Minor in Geography.

Favorite Storm Chasing Photos

Favorite Chase Video

Chaser Q&A

How did you realize your love for weather?

It was never not there. I was attending tornado preparedness seminars at age 3 and proud of it. My Saturday morning cartoons were tornado videos that TV stations had sent home with my dad.

How long have you been actively chasing?:

I have been actively chasing on my own since I got my drivers license, which I guess was back in 2003.

Do you chase for a reason?

I chase because I have to. It’s what has been in my blood since childhood, and I am not at peace with myself unless I get my time in under the sky. It isn’t a need to see tornadoes, or film tornadoes specifically. It’s just a need to be out there experiencing the weather in new ways.

Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?

I went through a phase of chasing strictly alone. The whole “too many chefs in the kitchen” deal. I had to be the one making every decision. If I screwed up a day, it was going to be because I did it on my own. I also liked there quite, and me-time aspect of it all. I still chase alone a good deal, but I have a small group of friends that I have known since I was a teenage that I’ll go along with, usually just one or two at a time.

Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?

I will be dabbling in the tour business for the first time this summer, leading a tour for TVN in June.

How do you feel about the current state of storm chasing?

The way that I feel about the state of storm chasing can best be seen by my removal of the term “storm chaser” from my entire web presence.

Which era of chasing would you prefer to exist? Old-school or new-school?

Old school. And I mean that in the least snobby way possible. There is too much going on in the new-school method. I started chasing with paper maps and a weather radio. And with the necessary addition of a cell phone, that’s still how I am doing it. No streaming, no position tracking, no dome cameras. There is nothing wrong with them – I have tried most of them and determined they are not for me. I am a pretty even-tempered guy, but when I start getting frustrated messing with technology rather than focusing on the weather of the day, the point of me being out there starts being diminished.

How far are you willing to travel for a good set up?

I have seen a tornado in North Dakota one day, and then seen a tornado in the Texas panhandle the next. I’ll do what it takes.

Are you more likely to hang out with other chasers while waiting for initiation, or sit alone on a country road watching the sky?

Definitely sit alone on a country road. I love hanging out with other chasers. Especially after a chase day. But beforehand, it’s about channeling me and the weather, and there’s no way I can do that better than being alone in an open field where I can feel the atmosphere.

How did you learn what you know about forecasting and meteorology?

Experience in the field and in the classroom. You can’t learn without failing a lot on your own. I also learned from some of the best at NIU.

Do you stop your progress toward a storm for a great photography opportunity?

They go hand in hand. I am always scoping out a great view or foreground when deciding where I want to stop next.

Should storm chasers feel more entitled to be around storms than law enforcement or locals?

This question is why I don’t call myself a storm chaser publicly anymore. You chase storms. You aren’t that important. And to think you deserve to be there more than someone who actually lives there, or better yet, is there to protect the public is really silly.

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