Location: Rockledge, Florida
Started Chasing: 1997
Tornadoes: Dozens of photogenic ones, far more if you count everything.
Web site: http://skydiary.com
Bio: Chris Kridler is a writer, photographer and storm chaser who documents storms at SkyDiary.com and whose books, blog, video and photos are featured at ChrisKridler.com. She is the author of the novels “Funnel Vision,” “Tornado Pinball” and “Zap Bang,” storm-chasing adventures in the Storm Seekers trilogy. As a journalist, she’s covered a variety of topics, from space to lifestyles, and was a longtime columnist for Florida Today. Chris’ photographs have appeared in several magazines and books, including the covers of The Journal of Meteorology, the book “Winderful,” and Wallace and Hobbs’ “Atmospheric Science” textbook. She’s been featured in Popular Photography. Her short film “Chasing Reality” won the best documentary award at the Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival in Florida in 2011; she won best animation in 2013 with “The Chase.”
Favorite Storm Chasing Photos
Favorite Chase Video
How did you realize your love for weather?
As a kid, I was always interested in storms, and even growing up in Pennsylvania, I remember hiding in the basement during tornado warnings. I was also a big fan of “The Wizard of Oz” and its tornado.
When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?
I knew about chasing from the famous “Nova” special but had no idea how to get started. I was doing a search for tornadoes online in 1997 and came across Cloud 9 Tours. I took a tour, and that got me hooked on chasing. I learned as much as I could so I could chase on my own and with friends in the years to come.
How long have you been actively chasing?
Do you chase for a reason?
Many reasons: An intense curiosity about the storms; an artistic need to get a great photograph; and the freedom of traveling around the beautiful Plains, at the whim of the weather.
Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?
I enjoy being with a group, especially when waiting for storms to fire and comparing stories later. I also like finding my own spot to take photographs. And there’s nothing like the satisfaction of having your own forecast verify.
How do you feel about the current state of storm chasing?
I’m sure I feel how previous generations felt when I started: There are way too many people getting into the game. As long as chasers have respect for life, property and one another, I think we can all get along. But the truth is, there are too many people chasing now to make the experience one of pure enjoyment. That said, I don’t see myself giving it up anytime soon.
How far are you willing to travel for a good setup?
Every year I drive out to the Plains from Florida and commit two or more weeks to chasing, putting thousands of miles on the car. So I’m willing to go the distance.
What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?
I love the Texas Panhandle. Kansas is wonderful. And Nebraska is beautiful. Central Oklahoma has become a nightmare in terms of traffic and the media circus, plus any storm that moves into eastern Oklahoma is horrible to chase, thanks to the hills.
What is your favorite type of setup to chase? Least favorite?
I enjoy a good dryline, “Panhandle magic” chase. And a warm front is always promising. I’m not fond of plunging cold fronts.
What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?
Let’s stick with most memorable: Attica, Kansas, May 12, 2004. Our group filmed multiple tornadoes, including a house destroyed at close range. That tornado, we saw from its beginning, as the funnel formed in a field. As it gained power, it got closer and closer to us. We had to scoot up the road, and as we looked back to our west and filmed it, it destroyed a house as it crossed the road, just a quarter mile away from us. Big hail was falling, and another tornado was forming to our east, threatening to cut us off. We called a friend and asked him to try to get through to emergency officials fortunately, the family in the house survived. We caught up to the next tornado, which became very large and started dropping small satellite tornadoes around the edges of the circulation. One dropped on the road right in front of us. It dissipated quickly, and we zoomed east and got out of the way.
Have you ever feared for your life?
That moment with the satellite tornado during the May 12, 2004, Attica storm was pretty scary. More frightening was being stuck in traffic during the El Reno, Oklahoma, chase of May 31, 2013. While I wasn’t close to the huge tornado, I was in the path of additional circulations in a southbound traffic jam. It showed me that even if the tornado seems avoidable, other people can be just as dangerous.
Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?
I’m a freelance writer and photographer after several years in newspapers, so I have some flexibility when it comes to chasing storms. I consider chasing part of my life and work; it was the subject of my Storm Seekers trilogy of novels, and my storm photography has been featured in art exhibitions.
Have you ever been to ChaserCon?
What date burns in you [think bust”> and why?
On May 11, 2000, my chase partner and I were on the Waterloo, Iowa, tornadoes, but from too far away. We’d turned off the GPS at one point, and that decision, among others, conspired to keep us from the best position on the storm. It wasn’t a bust, but it was frustrating.
How did you learn what you know about forecasting and meteorology?
Several chasers over the years have been generous with their time and knowledge in helping me learn chase strategy. The rest I’ve learned from reading up on the topic and experience in the field.
Do you consider the day a success even if you don’t witness a tornado?
I consider it a success if I see a good storm and get good photos, but if I missed a tornado, I’m still annoyed.
How do you feel about the post “Storm Chaser” generation?
“Get off my lawn!” Seriously, I welcome anyone who chases with their brain and is considerate of other people. The pure adrenaline junkies mystify me. There’s so much more to chasing.
Do you feel like the scientific community should get the same respect as emergency vehicles around storms?
Lifesaving efforts come first. The rest of us have a right to be there, as long as we’re not in the way.
How you do you feel about the media in regards to the weather and chasing?
Chasers ARE the media at this point. And anyone with a cell phone is a member of the media. I do worry about chasers who will do anything to get “the shot,” no matter how stupid it is. Guess what? The farmer with a cell phone is still going to get a better shot eight times out of ten.
What do you fear most about a storm?
Lightning worries me, especially because I’m fond of lightning photography. It’s the most dangerous element of chasing. I’ve also become hail-avoidant since having a couple of cars remodeled by hail.
What type of storm do you prefer to chase? (Ugly HP/sculpted LP/classic/squall line)
A picturesque LP or classic supercell is the best, though Florida shelf clouds are gorgeous.
Do you stop your progress toward a storm for a great photography opportunity?
Absolutely. One thing I’ve learned is that always driving, driving, driving to get closer means you miss some great shots. If I see a great shot, I try to resist the urge to keep driving and stop to shoot it. These days, so many people are trying to get under the belly of the beast that a unique photo is more desirable to me than grungy footage that a bunch of other people got, too.
How do you feel about law enforcement immediately around a tornadic supercell?
Officers of the law can fulfill an important role as storm spotters. I worry that they don’t always fully understand what the storm is doing and may block traffic unwisely, so training is key, but they’re just trying to do their jobs.
Should storm chasers feel more entitled to be around storms than law enforcement or locals?
“Entitled” is a loaded word. I do think that people who have no idea what they’re doing (locals, primarily) should be seeking shelter, not taking the kids out for a joyride to film the tornado with their cell phones. Uninformed gawkers put everyone in danger.
How long do you plan on chasing?
As long as I like driving 10,000 miles in two weeks!