Jeff Hawkins

Location: Chicago, IL
Started Chasing: 2009
Tornadoes: 2

Bio: Tornadoes became a part of my life when I was just a toddler. I saw a stovepipe tornado in Nebraska one Easter Sunday coming at the house, and I pointed at it and said “Mommy, what that?”…next thing I remember we’re in the basement under the pool table and I had no idea why everyone was scared! From that point on I had this gnawing curiosity (and learned fear) of tornadoes and thunderstorms. Once I could read, I read every book I could find about them…multiple times. Watched movies about them…multiple times. But never was satisfied because no one ever explained how they formed or how to tell when things were right for them to happen (given this was in the 60’s and 70’s when all the current knowledge was just research and theory). All I knew was that if there was a thunderstorm, there could likely be a tornado! So most of my childhood and early adult years involved fear anytime there was severe weather. 15 years pass and I’m in my early adulthood at college and along comes the internet. One day I’m surfing and think “I wonder if there’s anything about severe weather out there”…and I commence to learn all the missing info I’d never been taught as a kid about weather and storms. It was an epiphany!! My fear turned to amazement and curiosity and passion for learning more. I start doing some local chasing with squall lines and such…not really knowing what I’m doing but fascinated by the processes at play nonetheless…and along comes Stormtrack where I further learned about the minutia of severe weather. I was also introduced to the hobby of storm chasing which I didn’t realize there were people that even did such a thing! So I figured I’d hook up with someone or seek out someone who could help me learn how to do it. Along comes Fabian Guerra (who I dedicate this hobby to), who taught me the first lesson: stay safe! and got me in touch with the Storm Chaser’s Handbook. From the first formal season in 2009, it’s been an adventure every year. One of the most awesome hobbies out there that I’m thankful to be a part of.

Do you chase for a reason?

A hobby. I pull no punches…not “research” or “science” or “to save people”. As a hobby. Nothing more.

Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?

I’ve done it both ways. Each has its advantages. I enjoy the social aspect as a group, but also the freedom and responsibility going solo.

Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?

Yes.

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

A hobby that’s been popularized recently and now is slowly returning to normal.

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

Wherever the money and time will take me that’s reasonable. 50 miles…500 miles.

What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?

Haven’t been to enough to make a call on that yet.

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

Favorite: good roads, favorable dynamics. Least: bad roads, poor dynamics. Makes sense, huh?

What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?

Too early to say. Give me another 10 years.

Have you ever feared for your life?

Close once…not for my life but for being in a bad spot with 1 road out and having to core punch north through a tor-warned storm to get to safety. Made it OK, but was nauseous for 2 hours.

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

Having learned some basics, yes. “Live to chase another day”

Do you have any superstitions?

No.

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?

No.

Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?

No…except where I work they have floor to ceiling glass windows…and they ask me if they should evacuate to the hallway when there is a storm.

Have you ever been to ChaserCon?

yes x4

Are you more likely to hang out with other chasers while waiting for initiation, or sit alone on a country road watching the sky?

Have done both. Whatever the situation demands.

What is your favorite storm chase and why?

My favorite is EVERY storm chase…out there…on the road…freedom and adventure

What date burns in you [think bust”> and why?

2009 chase trip end of May…death ridge (omega block pattern) which I didn’t know about at the time…lots of ‘touring the land’ that season when I went.

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

Nope…but I try to learn a lesson…even a little one

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

Absolutely! I consider lightning shows the ‘default benefit’ of any chase. Amazing to watch.

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

Not so far…I hope to see one clearly…from a safe distance…if that’s 1000 feet great…but 2-3 miles is great too if it’s safe.

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

Not sure what’s implied here. Chasing is individual.

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

I want them involved and continuing to be a valuable resource for public safety and information, not sensationalism.

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

Wow…name them…there’s lots.

Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?

n/a…no children….yet!

What do you fear most about a storm?

The potential for rapid change and evolution without concurrent awareness to be able to respond quickly.

What type of storm do you prefer to chase? [Ugly HP/sculpted LP/classic/squall line”>

Any type as long as I can be in a safe viewable position…squall lines I like to see from behind (tornadoes are too flippant to bother positioning for).

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

No…photography isn’t my thing.

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

Public protection first. They got their job to do. I’d hate to think I was responsible for a LEO or FF getting to someone and them dying because of it. Blocking chasers? Only if there’s good reason.

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

LEOs? Nope. Locals? equal access.

Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?

variable.

Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?

Nope.

How long do you plan on chasing?

As long as safe and feasible.

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