Jason Persoff

Location: Aurora, Colorado
Started Chasing: 1992
Tornadoes: I have no idea how many tornadoes I’ve seen–at least 20 highly photogenic tornadoes and many other less exciting witnessed
Web site: http://stormdoctor.com
Blog: http://stormdoctor.blogspot.com

Bio: I am a father of three brilliant children, husband to an amazing wife, erstwhile stand-up comedian, and contemporaneous Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine in the Hospital Medicine Group at the University of Colorado. I am board certified as an internist, but also have a strong background in disaster medicine.
As a chaser, I’m most known for my role in educating chasers about the medical aspects of storm chasing, and have presented at Chasercon 3 of the past 4 years. My chase partner Robert Balogh and I were present in Joplin during 5/22/2011 tornado and rendered aid at the hospital there. (See: http://radiorounds.org/the-eye-of-the-storm-doctor/ for a podcast). I have been a technical consultant on several books about storm chasing, and have appeared on TLC and Discovery in several television shows. I have had the opportunity to share my experiences as a chaser from Bangladesh to Israel and in between (through magazines, radio shows, and the like). I am a storm chaser. The atmosphere and the terrain over which it forms are my spirituality.

Favorite Storm Chasing Photos

Favorite Chase Video

Chaser Q&A

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

Absolutely. As a photographer, if there is a shot, I take it then. There’s no going back and doing it later with storm evolution being what it is. I am also there to experience the cloudscapes in ways I enjoy photographing. Truth is, very few tornadoes are truly photogenic, so it is the supercell +/- the tornado that matter to me.

What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?

Two days in particular stand out as my most memorable chases: One is Quinter (2008). My partners and I used the full strength of our combined forecasting and navigation strategies to nearly perfect effect. We captured both Quinters I&II and it was amazing. The second is Campo (5/31/2010). My forecast area of Goodland, KS, definitely was not panning out, but a stationary supercell in SE CO was cooking. We abandoned our target and headed to the cell–it took us 1 1/2 hours to drive there, but the cell was courteous enough to remain right where it was. We cleared the RFB to experience the next 40mins of amazing storm structure and tornado.
My least memorable chase was the 2006 season. I chased rainbows that year. It was dead out on the Plains, and back then I had to fly out to the Plains to chase 2 weeks a year. My two weeks were duds.

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

ABSOLUTELY NOT. Though potentially assisting in models that will save lives, there is a whole higher level of accountability for emergency vehicles which researchers–no matter how good the research–cannot begin to justify. I also cringe when I hear chasers talk about how they’re helping “research” tornadoes by chasing storms. Many are pompous that way: yes, it helps to relay reports to the NWS, and photos help with post-hoc analysis, but that is not research (y’know, where you formulate a theory?). Data gathering has a place, but many chasers will extrapolate that as an opportunity to place others at risk. This is unfortunately the same argument I have about yellow flashing lights.

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

ABSOLUTELY NOT, AGAIN. That sense of entitlement is a manifestation of pure ego and disrespect. Remaining humble is not only a sound spiritual goal, but also means that you respect others more than you place value on yourself. The ego in storm chasing is staggering to me: people literally show disregard to local speed limits, people’s property, and people’s privacy in an effort to aggrandize their experiences. Chasers would be wise to consider how their actions also reflect on other chasers as there has been an increasing uproar by municipalities to curb chasing in part, likely, by the behaviors of the biggest egos in the bunch. Chase gently and respectfully, and consider karmic service to the communities through which you travel (helping rebuild or rendering aid to tornado-stricken communities) as a way of paying back for the successes you have had.

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