Location: Lexington, MA
Started Chasing: 2008
Web site: http://isaac.zpato.net/places.html
Bio: Isaac began chasing while he was a meteorology undergrad at OU. He is a member of Basehunters chasing, along with Kevin Rolfs, Colt Forney, and Scott Peake. He has documented numerous historic tornadoes, including the 2011 Joplin tornado. During the offseason, Isaac teaches sailing in Boston.
Favorite Storm Chasing Photos
Favorite Chase Video
How did you realize your love for weather?
As a kid, I enjoyed literally everything about highways. When I got old enough to start reading road maps, I would spend hours planning road trips across the United States and Canada. Soon, I started reading any map I could find, and I particularly enjoyed looking at weather maps in particular because it was very exciting to wait for the predicted snow, thunderstorms, or hot weather to begin. My interest in weather grew into a full-blown passion while I was in high school. I read anything I could get my hands on about weather, especially severe and unusual weather.
When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?
Thunderstorms were the most exciting things the life of a little kid at summer camp. While I was at summer camp in Concord, MA in 1997 or ’98, there was a particularly strong thunderstorm, likely severe, with frequent to at times continuous lightning. All of us had to stay in our cabin for about an hour while the storm raged outside. A few CGs hit nearby and caused minor injuries to a few campers down the hill from me. It was the loudest thunder I had ever heard, most kids screamed but I was like “give me another one!”
After that point, I started to seek out thunderstorms. I was a kid, so I had no control where I was, but any time I got the opportunity, I always went outside during thunder and lightning. My parents generally didn’t stop me, but they did warn me not to stand under trees and whatnot.
As a young teenager, I volunteered at a community sailing center. The staff monitored the radar so that we could close for thunderstorms. Many times storms would just miss us by a few miles, and naturally I wanted to be where the storm was. So on a few occasions I would try to take the T (Boston’s subway) towards afternoon thunderstorms with little to no success.
While in high school, my web searches on severe weather lead me to Mike Hollingshead’s website, www.extremeinstability.com, and I was so amazed by his photos that I decided that I needed to experience supercells/severe thunderstorms in person. Thus, I went to OU to chase, oh and study meteorology on the side 😉
How long have you been actively chasing (in years)?
Do you chase for a reason?
I chase mostly for personal enjoyment, but am interested in opportunities for research.
Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?
I prefer to chase with at least one other person so that the driver can focus on driving.
Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?
I have considered working for a tour company.
How do you feel about the current state of storm chasing?
This is a loaded question. I think storm chasers have a responsibility to be safe behind the wheel. This is the most dangerous part of storm chasing, and one where negligence could hurt innocent parties.
Which era of chasing would you prefer to exist? Old-school or new-school?
How far are you willing to travel for a good set up (in miles)?
What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?
My favorite areas are the plains area of OK, all of KS, and NE. I also like eastern CO, and the Texas Panhandle, though road options are not as good.
I don’t particularly like chasing in areas with hills and trees. The Ozarks and Dixie Alley are a challenge, but I will still go for the right setup.
What is you favorite type of set up to chase? Least favorite?
My favorite setups are classic dryline days on the plains. Although I like the high risk days, chaser convergence can cause extreme headaches on the roads. So for that reason, my favorite days tend to be slightly more conditional and slightly more SLGT risk.
My least favorite setups are days with messy, fast-moving storms, low visibility, and high stress. But I guess busts are worse.
What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?
Sadly, Joplin is my most memorable chase, simply because of the horrific damage and suffering that we saw there. I have been on numerous truly joyful chases that have been quite memorable, but I don’t think anything will quite shake what happened in Joplin.
Least memorable? Probably February 10, 2009. I was new to chasing, and it was my second MDT risk, it wasn’t an epic bust for us, but it was a bust where we just didn’t position correctly.
Have you ever feared for your life?
I have a healthy respect for tornadoes and the rapidly changing conditions around severe thunderstorms. There have been a few moments where I felt I was too close and needed to move, and I do my best to learn from my mistakes.
Are you afraid to make dangerous maneuvers while chasing? (I.E – core punching/hook slicing/living in the bears cage)
With proper situational awareness, I will partake in these activities. On the really wild high CAPE/high SRH days, I prefer to err on the side of caution, though am still kicking myself for a mistake or two that I made by being too conservative.
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?
Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?
I have weather decision-making responsibilities at the sailing center that I work at in the summer. I worked as a forecaster for a year, but quit because I did not like the job or lifestyle. Plus, it REALLY got in the way of chasing!
Have you ever been to ChaserCon?
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’ll probably be hanging out with other chasers at a KFC, eating popcorn chicken.
What is your favorite storm chase and why?
March 8, 2010 was my first tornado and though many chases have come after it, this one was special. It was the first chase where my closest friends and I all chased together. It was the reason Basehunters was founded. Oh, and it was a
totally unexpected long-track sigtor!
How did you learn what you know about forecasting and meteorology?
I learned through a combination of college, self-driven reading and research, and from my friends and peers.
How you do you feel about the media in regards to the weather and chasing?
If you want to sell video to help cover chasing expenses, the media is a valuable ally. I enjoy having a platform where it is possible to air helpful severe weather safety tips, and share my knowledge and passion.
Who are the most influential people to you out in the field?
Mike Hollingshead, Tim Marshall, Andy Gabrielson, Reed Timmer, and many others.
What do you fear most about a storm?
That it will gust out.
Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?
Yes and no. I’ve been teaching sailing and bartending in Boston. So although I could take a day to chase, there is nothing closeby. However, hourly pay offers the advantage of taking vacation time more or less at my discretion. Selling
video offsets loss of income.
Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?
My family is supportive of my passion and choices. I just wish they would come along with me!
How long do you plan on chasing?
For the rest of my life.