Blake Knapp

Location: West Chester, PA
Started Chasing: 2009
Tornadoes: 53
Web site: http://weatheradventures.com

Bio: I started out my life in chasing with a ten day tornado tour back in 2009 as part of a bucket list. When the trip was over I realized I didn’t need the rest of the list. I’ve been operating tours for four years now, and currently own and operate my own tour company, Weather Adventures. I take pride in chasing without the hype, letting my photographs, video and adventures speak for themselves.

Favorite Storm Chasing Photos

Favorite Chase Video

Chaser Q&A

How did you realize your love for weather?

It all really started with that first trip back in 2009. What began as a curiosity very quickly and unexpectedly became a passion. Storm chasing combines photography, travel, problem solving, science and nature. That first trip was transformative for me, and I endeavor to bring that same experience to my guests – seeing the looks on their faces, hearing the excitement in their voices – that’s the big reward for me now, with a good photograph or video as a bonus.

When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?

2008.

How long have you been actively chasing (in years)?

7

Do you chase for a reason?

It’s as essential to me as breathing.

Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?

With friends and tour guests.

Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?

All the time.

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

The convergence can be a real problem – it’s changed how I operate on big days and around larger population areas. Instead of labeling noobs and deriding them, I’d like to see more of an effort by veteran chasers to educate the newcomers, give them advice for how to better operate in the field, offer different choices they might not consider when they make mistakes. Conversely, I’d like to see newcomers enter chasing with a lot more humility – asking questions and behaving more respectfully in the field. It’s the only way forward.

How far are you willing to travel for a good set up (in miles)?

1,500

What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?

Favorites: Colorado, western Nebraska, the Dakotas, eastern Wyoming, New Mexico.

Least Favorites: Texas, within 20 miles of metro areas, Canada, Iowa, Dixie Alley, the Jungle.

What is you favorite type of set up to chase? Least favorite?

Favorites: Long shots and off-the-beaten-path stuff. Give me 2%-5%’s on a Wednesday in late June somewhere up north. And June 17th of any year.

Least Favorites: Moderate and High Risks, especially on weekends. Anything in Iowa.

What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?

I’m really torn between the Fall River County, SD tornado on June 22, 2012 and Pilger, NE on June 16, 2014. Only a handful of people witnessed the first, which is easily the most photogenic I’ve ever seen. The hail with the storm is actually more vivid than the tornado itself – softball/grapefruit size was getting thrown sideways, with some of them bouncing and (I swear) going back up. The latter is the most rewarding. We woke up late, had a nice breakfast and just hung out as we were already in my target area. Later we drove 7 miles east, saw four tornadoes, including the Stanton wedge and tornadogenesis of both of the Pilger EF4’s. We assisted with search and rescue until emergency personnel had the situation under control then headed west for some beautiful storm structure and a bonus tornado at dusk.

Least favorite was El Reno. Moved early enough to avoid the worst of the traffic, but I can’t remember feeling so much dread while chasing, and that was before learning the fate of Twistex.

Have you ever feared for your life?

On my first storm of my first chase day of my first chase tour. I remember heading out for my that trip and thinking to myself “if I die, it’ll be doing something I enjoy.” That all changed as the tour van I was riding in started getting hit by debris from the Kirksville, MO tornado on May 13, 2009. The guide wasn’t as experienced as he should have been, and we got far too close to a tornado that eventually killed three people. Less than a half hour later, it happened again. I credit that experience for shaping my approach to chasing now that I’m a guide – things don’t have to be extreme to be memorable, I’ve promised I’ll never put my guests in that situation.

Are you afraid to make dangerous maneuvers while chasing? (I.E – core punching/hook slicing/living in the bears cage)

Won’t do it. It doesn’t need to be done. With good forecasting and a bit of foresight, you can be in much better position on storms. Sure, sometimes that might mean you won’t see the tornado, but I’ve seen plenty of photogenic tornadoes without making those moves.

Do you have any superstitions?

As ridiculous as I know they are, I have more than I can count when it comes to chasing. I think it’s the familiarity of those things, and the memories of them that I enjoy reliving more than the belief that they will affect anything I’m doing. #ButJustInCase

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?

Yes

Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?

I own and operate Weather Adventures, a storm chasing tour company. I enjoy being able to run things and chase storms the way I feel they ought to be done, taking what I’ve learned from past experiences and making what I offer during my tours better as a result.

Have you ever been to ChaserCon?

Yes

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

Weather Adventures is inclusive, not exclusive, unless the real world equivalent of Jonas Miller is around. Them we can do without.

What is your favorite storm chase and why?

The last two weeks of May in 2013 were pretty special. 14 tornadoes in 14 days, including Bennington and El Reno. My favorite during that period was the little known Fallis/Wellston, OK wedge on May 19th – it was one of the strongest tornadoes that nobody’s heard about, although we could literally hear it from a few miles away.

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

I initially learned by going on a few tornado tours and asking questions, more questions and even more questions. I combined that with reading and re-reading several books and publications about severe weather and forecasting.

What really made the difference was operating the chase tours. Unlike many chasers who only go out on favorable setups, I’m chasing almost every day throughout the spring. That means I have to make more nuanced forecasts with marginal setups and that I see lots of storms that don’t get it done, which translates to a ton of field experience. What I’ve learned from those chases is probably even more valuable than being on storms that do produce tornadoes.

How you do you feel about the media in regards to the weather and chasing?

Today’s media is a double edged sword. It’s not 50/50, and the media leans towards stories that will earn better ratings or sell more newspapers or magazines, but it serves its purpose.

Who are the most influential people to you out in the field?

There aren’t many people I look up to these days. Probably the most influential people are the other chasers I see making poor decisions out on the road. They inspire me to strive to never be part of the problem, and to lead by example. I never want other chasers to see me in the field and think, “look at those idiots.”

What do you fear most about a storm?

Inaccurate mapping software and/or bad roads. I’ve started avoiding unpaved roads except in ideal conditions. Far too often, the software indicates roads that do not exist, and I’ve been on decent roads that end abruptly or that deteriorate to a quagmire on the other side of a hill.

Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?

Nobody’s mother ever wants them to do anything dangerous, but she’s come to know that I’m pretty good at what I do. Both parents are very supportive – my dad even joined me for a tour during my inaugural season.

How long do you plan on chasing?

For life.

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