Bio: I work in the web design field in both a contract and freelance capacity. I got my start in storm chasing with lightning photography in Pennsylvania and later West Virginia. I made my first trip to the Great Plains in 2001. I moved to the Midwest region (St. Louis metro) in 2010 to be closer to storms. I enjoy all aspects of weather and sky photography year-round.
Favorite Storm Chasing Photos
From left to right: The Bennington, Kansas tornado; the Sanford, Kansas tornado; lightning behind the Gateway Arch; triple Chicago skyscraper lightning strike; the Rozel, Kansas tornado and lightning
Favorite Chase Video
When and where was your first chase?
My first chase was in Washington, Pennsylvania in mid-July 1993. I drove a few miles outside of town with my new Pentax K1000 SLR film camera to shoot an incoming storm using techniques I’d learned in a book about lightning. I got several nice shots of lightning that night, and was hooked from then on.
What is your favorite aspect of chasing?
There are many things I love about chasing – the main thing being able to witness these rare displays of nature’s power. I also love to be on the road and roaming the country without any plans or itineraries.
How did you realize your love for weather?
I had always had a fascination with books and TV shows on storms through my childhood. I vividly remember watching the NOVA specials and wishing I could do what some of the chasers on that program were doing.
When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?
It was my grandparents’ gift of my first SLR camera and Dr. Martin Uman’s book about lightning that inspired me to go on my first chase in July of 1993. From there, my involvement gradually progressed to where it is today.
How long have you been actively chasing?
I went on my first chase in 1993, and have been on at least one chase every year since.
Do you chase for a reason?
I chase because it is enjoyable, interesting, challenging and rewarding.
Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?
It is a double-edged sword. I’ve voluntarily made many life concessions to be able to do what I do, things that some – or maybe most – people would not understand. But I cannot imagine life any other way. To me, success is not defined by how much ‘stuff’ you accumulate and luxuries you enjoy in life, especially if it means toiling 9 to 5 in a cubicle for a company that has near complete control over you every day. That type of life would drive me insane, and it wouldn’t matter how posh of a house/apartment/condo I lived and how nice of a car I drove. To me, freedom is the ultimate luxury.
Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?
I very much enjoy chasing with friends. However, in practicality, I like to maintain control over where I go without considering the wishes of a group. Many times I will begin a chase day with a group of friends, but break off on my own once storms get going. I do not like caravanning while in storm intercept mode, as it is dangerous and nearly impossible to stay together.
Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?
I might have considered it during my first one or two seasons on the Plains, but I’m glad I chose to go out on my own and learn many essential lessons early on.
How do you feel about the current state of storm chasing?
I think storm chasing has come of age as a legitimate pasttime, and is more mainstream than it ever has been. I think that is a good thing. I know there are problems, like some of the dangerous driving habits and the sheer traffic numbers, but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think they are critical problems. Every hobby and pasttime has its issues. All things considered, I think it’s a great time to be a chaser.
Which era of chasing would you prefer to exist? Old-school or new-school?
I’m nostalgic for the old ways of chasing, but in the end, I’m thankful to live in the technology age. It’s much easier to see what a chaser wants to see these days, which is what it’s all about anyway.
How far are you willing to travel for a good set up?
I will travel as far as I can afford to go.
What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?
I love anywhere from southern Nebraska through Oklahoma and Kansas to the Texas Panhandle. I also love chasing in the Midwest – Illinois, Missouri and Indiana. I don’t like chasing anywhere there are hills/trees and sparse road networks, and there are spots like that in all of the good chasing states. Eastern Oklahoma and even parts of northwest Oklahoma have some very bad terrain and roads, for example.
What is you favorite type of set up to chase? Least favorite?
In the Plains, dryline storms are the greatest. I also love Midwestern MCVs, surface lows and warm fronts.
What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?
It is hard to choose one, as there have been many memorable chases. I would have to say that my intercept of the Bennington, Kansas tornado on May 28, 2013 is my all-time favorite. It was a large, slow-moving, high-contrast tornado that I was able to watch, photograph and enjoy for a long time at various angles and distances. My entire 2003 season is one I’d just as soon forget, as I logged some of my highest annual chasing miles that very active year and yet saw zero tornadoes.
Have you ever feared for your life?
I’ve been in real danger a couple of times, but in those cases, I didn’t really fear for my life. I was more worried about getting hurt and seriously damaging my vehicle. In retrospect, in at least one case I probably should have been fearing for my life, but it wasn’t on my mind at the time.
Are you afraid to make dangerous maneuvers while chasing? (I.E – core punching/hook slicing/living in the bears cage)
Yes and no. It depends on what one defines as ‘dangerous’. No, I do not want to do anything that presents a high chance of getting hurt or damaging my vehicle. Damage and injuries ends the chase, takes me out of commission for additional chase days, and uses up my precious storm chasing funds. I will ‘core punch’ a storm if I believe I will miss the biggest hail, and I’ll hook slice if the tornado is highly visible. I will avoid situations where I can’t be certain of what’s really going on (rain wrapped tornadoes or unknown large hail areas).
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?
Absolutely. That’s essentially what I’m doing right now. I do much better than living paycheck to paycheck, but my collective incomes are less than what I’d make at a standard 9 to 5 job. I’ve turned down several opportunities for well-paying 9-to-5 jobs for this reason. It doesn’t mean much to me to have lots of extra money if I’m not living the way I want. If I was married and had a family, my answer to this question would be much different, as I’d obviously put a well-paying job and my family’s provision as top priority. But since I’m single, I’ll take full advantage of choosing to live how I want until my situation changes.
Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?
Other than licensing photos and videos occasionally, no.
Have you ever been to ChaserCon?
I have been to three of them – 2004, 2005 and 2006.
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 enjoy both. It just depends where I end up in a target area.
What date burns in you (think bust) and why?
There are many. I have to go back to 2003 though, as I chased hard during one of the most active tornado weeks in history, and came up empty handed.
Do you always know why you made the wrong or right decisions to chase a particular day?
Sometimes, yes. Most of my busts were either from inexperience or from not sticking to my well-thought out original target. Other days, however, I can’t see how I’d have done it differently if given another chance.
How did you learn what you know about forecasting and meteorology?
I’ve learned from a combination of experience, reading (internet sources and books), seminars and classes and being around experienced chasers.
Do you consider the day a success even if you don’t witness a tornado?
It depends. I love lightning, so if I come away with a great lightning shot, it’s not a complete bust. But, I have many lightning chases throughout the year. If I go out on a tornado day looking for tornadoes and I don’t see one, it’s more or less a bust.
Do you feel short changed if you see a tornado from a greater distance to you than you prefer?
In general, no. Seeing a tornado at all is a score to me. There are times that I’d wished I had better contrast, but by no means did I consider the chase a bust.
How do you feel about the post “Storm Chaser” generation?
I don’t see any problems with a newer generation being inspired to chase by newer things. I do think that many latecomers enter the hobby with a much different/more stringent outlook and set of expectations than earlier generations, and have a much more narrow scope on what they would consider a good chase.
Do you feel like the scientific community should get the same respect as emergency vehicles around storms?
That’s an interesting question. I think it’s fair to give established researchers room to do their jobs.
How you do you feel about the media in regards to the weather and chasing?
With each passing year, I become less enthused about the media. So many media outlets are looking to take advantage of people and drive a pre-determined agenda. Chasers fall victim to this many times.
Who are the most influential people to you out in the field?
The true veterans of the hobby that have been out there since the 1970s and 1980s have helped shape my view of chasing the most.
Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?
Absolutely, if they have a desire to go.
If you didn’t know anything about storm chasing, how would you react if your child said they wanted to be a chaser?
I’d encourage them to pursue their interest, and maybe even look into studying as a meteorologist.
What do you fear most about a storm?
I don’t really fear anything about a storm, aside from possibly seriously damaging my vehicle by hail.
What type of storm do you prefer to chase? (Ugly HP/sculpted LP/classic/squall line)
Classic supercells, hands down.
Do you stop your progress toward a storm for a great photography opportunity?
Yes and no. I prefer to get a great contrast shot of a tornado rather than a great storm structure or lightning shot. If the storm isn’t close to producing a tornado, I’ll stop to shoot its lightning or structure – otherwise I’ll continue on until I’m in the position I want to be.
How do you feel about law enforcement immediately around a tornadic supercell?
I think it’s a good thing to have someone in their own community aware of what is going on and relaying information quickly to agencies that chasers may not have immediate access to.
Should storm chasers feel more entitled to be around storms than law enforcement or locals?
No – everyone has a right to be there.
Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?
Yes – my employers have been excellent in allowing me the flexibility to work at home and set my own schedule.
Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?
My family is in general support of what I do.
How long do you plan on chasing?
As long as I’m able! Hopefully for the rest of my life.