Craig Hilts

Location: Swift Current, Saskatchewan Canada
Started Chasing: 2006
Tornadoes: 35
Web site: http://www.prairiefirephoto.com

Bio: When I was younger I was terrified of storms, but a close call with a lightning bolt when I was 12 changed all that. Since that time I have been fascinated by them and loved to go out and watch them whenever they came close. In 2006 I took up actively chasing storms and just love the experience and catching that perfect moment.

Favorite Storm Chasing Photos

Chaser Q&A

How did you realize your love for weather?

When I was 12 I was at a friends house and a severe storm rolled into town. I was terrified of storms at this time but my friend convinced me to open his garage door and sit and watch the storm from inside the garage. The storm was really intense and it was fascinating to watch. Then there was a crack like I had never heard before and a blinding flash of light. Needless to saw we both jumped probably 10 feet in the air and ran like hell into the house. After the storm we went out a looked and found a black mark at the end of his driveway from where the bolt had hit. Ever since that close call I have been fascinated with storms.

When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?

2006 was the year I decided to actually storm chase. Up until this point I liked just going out to the edge of town and watch the storms come by and be what I call a storm enthusiast. I decided I needed to see storms more than the odd one or two a year so decided that I wanted to chase them.

How long have you been actively chasing?

Every year since then so 10 years now.

Do you chase for a reason?

I chase mainly for seeing some of mother natures most beautiful moments and I love to take photographs of the storm. I also feel it is important to provide spotting and warning when I can to help.

Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?

Mostly good

Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?

I’m a bit of both. When I’m alone I love just having the experience, no expectations and I can focus a bit more on my photography but I love hanging out and talking with other chasers and love the laughs and great times chasing with my friends.

Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?

I went on a few tours in 2011 and 2012 with Roger Hill to learn from a real pro and amazing storm chaser. This was also the first times I chased down in the US where it is a totally different experience.

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

I feel a little like storm chasing is being taken over by a lot of people only in it to seek fame or glory. So many new chasers are reporting false funnel clouds, false wall clouds and false tornadoes. I love that other people want to experience it but please do it responsibly. Just slapping a logo on your vehicle and running around claiming everything is a tornado or wall cloud does not make you a storm chaser.

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

Old-school. I love making my own forecast and getting it right without all the help of the tech

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

As far as I can with time and money.

What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?

I love chasing in my home province of Saskatchewan and also in Kansas. My least favorite is Manitoba in Canada and Missouri in the US

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

I actually love the more late season setups in June and July as they tend to produce some amazing structure and very picturesque storms. I hate high CAPE low shear setups or days with an iron cap what a waste.

What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?

To many great memories to commit to one and I’m quick to forget my horrible busts that I have had. If I had to chose one my first really successful chase. I intercepted the F4 tornado at Pipestone, Manitoba on June 23, 2007. This was my first official tornado intercept. I was chasing by myself committed to driving 8 hours based on my forecast and I remember driving down a road and a local stopped me driving the other way and told my that I didn’t want to go the way I was going as there was a tornado. I just smiled rolled up my window and said to myself “That is exactly the way I want to go then” I intercepted the tornado running parallel to the road I was on and it was such an amazing experience.

Least memorable June 16, 2014 having to head home from a chase vacation just three days before this event as another person chasing with us had to go back to work. Oh well can’t chase them all.

Have you ever feared for your life?

On a couple of occasions I have second-guessed myself if I have made a bad decision and my heart rate goes up but I have never feared for my life.

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

I have core punched more that I should have but always when the threat of a tornado is low but generally I will stay on the safe side and not take to many risks. There will always be another tornado there is only one me.

Do you have any superstitions?

I have a few superstitions/habits that I like to do while storm chasing. It can’t hurt right?

Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?

No

Have you ever been to ChaserCon?

No, but some year I will make it down for this

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 will hang out with other chasers when I can but prefer to be alone to work on my own forecasting and strategy.

Do you always know why you made the wrong or right decisions to chase a particular day?

Yes I always think back on my chasing and analysis what I did or didn’t do right.

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

Reading, Reading, and more Reading. When I started there weren’t a lot of chasers that I knew of so just started looking for as much info as I could. I did find some old school chasers to be able to talk with and learned a lot from them. It was chasing with Roger Hill that really taught me so much of what I use today that has helped me become a much better chaser. Even today I’m constantly reading and trying to learn as much as a can to help me with my forecasting.

Do you consider the day a success even if you don’t witness a tornado?

Yes there is so much more to chasing then just tornadoes

Do you feel short changed if you see a tornado from a greater distance to you than you prefer?

It all depends on the day. Sometimes the most amazing sites are a bit further away from all the action.

How do you feel about the post “Storm Chaser” generation?

I think there are a lot of people out to try and get a bit of fame or glory and there is a lot of flash with no substance. I think if you’re out there to experience these storms good for you just be responsible and respectful and everything will be great.

Do you feel like the scientific community should get the same respect as emergency vehicles around storms?

Personally I think priority one beyond anything else is safety for the public so I think emergency vehicles trumps everything

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

I wish the media would be better informed about weather and chasing. So many times I see them posting pictures claiming funnels or wall clouds or tornadoes that aren’t. I think they rely way too much on the social media reports without actually confirming or using trusted sources. I don’t think this helps at all as it is creating a lot of false information out there. Also blowing things out of proportion or over hyping events

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

I really respect a lot of the great chasers out there, guys that have been doing this for a long time and just love chasing and seeing the storms.

Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?

Yes when they are ready. My kids came out for the first time with my last year and almost got a tornado on their first chase. I’m looking forward to them chasing with me more in the future.

If you didn’t know anything about storm chasing, how would you react if your child said they wanted to be a chaser?

All I ever ask for my kids is to live life to the fullest. I would be nervous for them to start but happy that they are living life.

What do you fear most about a storm?

Lightning is the thing I fear the most. I have had a few close calls and it is so hard to predict but some beautiful at the same time. I give lightning a lot of respect and don’t try and temp fate to much

What type of storm do you prefer to chase (Ugly HP/sculpted LP/classic/squall line)?

Sculpted LP and classic are my fav, hate chasing ugly HP

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

I always love a great photographic opportunity.

How do you feel about law enforcement immediately around a tornadic supercell?

If they are out providing warning and spotting I’m fine with it, if they are out there to catch careless chasers good, if they are out there to just harass they can stay home.

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

I don’t think entitled is the right word. I think responsible knowledgeable chasers should have a priority as we can provide accurate and timely warnings to help keep the general public safe. Law enforcement should be as well to provide warning and first response. The local public should stay close to home and not be running around in their cars chasing not having a clue what they are doing. If you want to chase learn first, go with someone experienced or take a tour.

Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?

Yes

Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?

Yes

How long do you plan on chasing?

As long as I can

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This