Name: Ben Holcomb
Location: Norman, OK
Year you started actively chasing: October 2007
Number of tornadoes documented: over 175
Web site: http://www.oklahomachaser.com
Bio: Ben Holcomb chases violent weather all across the great plains each year. He began chasing in October 2007 and has observed over 175 tornadoes and logs upwards of 25,000 miles each season in search of the most violent weather nature has to offer.
Favorite Storm Chasing Photos
Favorite Chase Video
How did you realize your love for weather?
I’ve always been interested in weather since I was a young kid. Weather always fascinated me, and as I grew up I wanted to witness more and more of it. It eventually lead to me moving to Oklahoma in 2010.
When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?
When I first saw some video of a tornado on The Weather Channel from Warren Faidley in the 90s. I always thought it would be cool to see that and I made it a goal in my life.
How long have you been actively chasing?
Since October 18, 2007
Do you chase for a reason?
To see and experience tornadoes
Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?
Passion is a great thing. People should follow their passions.
Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?
Generally I prefer to chase alone, but I do have a few people I love chasing with. It’s good to split expenses.
Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?
No. Not if I had to pay.
How do you feel about the current state of storm chasing?
It is what it is. People will do what they want. My goal is to see tornadoes. Some people may have a goal of science, photography, videography, structure, or even to draw attention to themselves and get on TV. Whatever their goal or desire may be, we all share a passion for weather.
Which era of chasing would you prefer to exist? Old-school or new-school?
New school. I love technology and it keeps getting better and better.
How far are you willing to travel for a good set up?
12,450 miles, or anywhere in the world.
What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?
I love chasing in Oklahoma obviously. The Texas panhandle and the caprock is also pretty awesome. Most of Nebraska has very good roads and cell data as well, and I’ve had some very good chases there. Central IL is also quite great. Least favorite places would be Southern Indiana, Southwest Wisconsin and the Ozarks.
What is you favorite type of set up to chase? Least favorite?
South 850s, 500mb jet over 50 knots and dewpoints of at least 60. My favorite 500mb jet pattern is what I’ve termed “Ski Jump Jet” where it looks like a ski jump. Memorable days include 5/31/13, 5/20/13 and 4/3/74
What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?
Moore tornado 5/20/13 or Bowdle 5/22/10 were my most memorable. I have so many least memorable chases. There’s also a few chases I’d rather forget.
Have you ever feared for your life?
Just when Adam Lucio is driving
Are you afraid to make dangerous maneuvers while chasing? (I.E – core punching/hook slicing/living in the bears cage)
Depends on the setup. I will hook slice or core punch to see a tornado unless it’s a really high shear/cape day, then I proceed with caution. I also will probably call it off if I get into some baseball size or bigger hail, but maybe not.
Do you have any superstitions?
Would you sacrifice a salaried job with full benefits, but only 2 weeks out of the year to chase for a paycheck to paycheck life with unlimited chasing?
I have a salaried job with full benefits and then some and still live pretty much paycheck to paycheck to chase. I’m getting a good balance of both, but it is always a struggle to juggle real life with our way-out-there hobby.
Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?
Yes. I work as an IT Specialist for the School of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.
Have you ever been to ChaserCon?
Went every year from 2008-2014. 2015 was my first year I did not attend, but attended 2016-2018.
Are you more likely to hang out with other chasers while waiting for initiation, or sit alone on a country road watching the sky?
I usually try to hide at a gas station or nice pull off just outside of a town with good road options. I’m not a big fan of hanging out at a gas station with a 100 other chasers.
What is your favorite storm chase and why?
May 24, 2011 was my best and favorite storm chase. It was an incredible setup day and throughout the afternoon it looked like I wouldn’t be able to get out of work to go chase. I was about to just quit my job and walk out when my boss finally said to just go, and go I did. I ran down to Chickasha and witnessed one of the most incredible tornadoes I’ve ever seen in my life. It reminded me of a day I have been fascinated with for years – May 3, 1999. To add a cherry on top, I witnessed a beautiful rope tornado that was almost as good as Mulvane, KS hit a semi truck on I-40 near McLeod, OK later that evening.
What date burns in you (think bust) and why?
June 5, 2010
June 17, 2010
May 19, 2013
All 3 days I picked a great target and for one reason or another did not stick to my target and busted hard core while friends saw amazing tornadoes. June 5, 2010 my target was Monmouth, IL but I ended up getting drawn west into lie-owa. June 17, 2010 I was stuck between a North (I-94/Fargo) and South (I-90) target. A whole bunch of things fell into alignment and I chose the south target, then second guessed myself and bailed to the north target missing the Wadena tornado by 10 minutes or less. May 19, 2013 was just a huge failure. I chose Shawnee as a target the night before and somehow we ended up in Wichita looking at a shelf cloud we followed to El Dorado. Major fail
Do you always know why you made the wrong or right decisions to chase a particular day?
This is a huge part of storm chasing for me. If I screw up a day, I try to look objectively at why I screwed up. Did I make a poor road choice? Did I make a poor forecast? Did I make poor adjustments? Did I miss something in models or observations? I am constantly going back and looking at previous chases to understand how I could have done better. There are not very many days I can say I played perfectly and wouldn’t change a thing.
How did you learn what you know about forecasting and meteorology?
Experience was the main teacher. I also had some help from David Drummond in getting into forecasting basics.
Do you consider the day a success even if you don’t witness a tornado?
Depends. If others saw a photogenic tornado and I did not, it was a bust. If it was a structure day and nobody saw a tornado, I can consider the day a success. The tornado is goal #1. All other goals are secondary.
Do you feel short changed if you see a tornado from a greater distance to you than you prefer?
Sometimes, yes. If it was just because I didn’t get there in time, I can be frustrated. If it’s because I made a poor road choice, that is something I will improve upon in future chases.
How do you feel about the post “Storm Chaser” generation?
I don’t have a problem with them.
Do you feel like the scientific community should get the same respect as emergency vehicles around storms?
How you do you feel about the media in regards to the weather and chasing?
I like it when the media is interested in purchasing my videos.
Who are the most influential people to you out in the field?
At this point I can’t really say there are any influential people to me, at least where storm chasing is concerned. I don’t try and model myself after any one nor do I want to.
Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?
I wouldn’t ever consider having children.
What do you fear most about a storm?
Undercutting cold fronts/cold pools
What type of storm do you prefer to chase? [Ugly HP/sculpted LP/classic/squall line”>
Tornadic Classic Supercells
Do you stop your progress toward a storm for a great photography opportunity?
Depends. If I think it’s going to produce a tornado, no, I’m pedal to the floor to get up to the tornado. If it’s a structure day, sure.
How do you feel about law enforcement immediately around a tornadic supercell?
I dislike rolling road blocks or just road blocks in general. It is good to have trained personnel nearby tornadic storms to respond to casualties if there are any.
Should storm chasers feel more entitled to be around storms than law enforcement or locals?
No. Everyone has equal rights to the roads. Law Enforcement or any other emergency vehicles have priority if they are running lights/sirens
Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?
Officially no. SoM has a strict no chasing policy for students, but also runs many chasing/research projects
Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?
I guess my parents think it’s cool. They don’t give me money to chase, though.
How long do you plan on chasing?
Till I croak