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John Farley

Location: Pagosa Springs, CO
Chasing Since: 1995
Tornadoes: 26 definite (2 were non-chase), 10 possible
Web site:

Bio: I am a retired professor of sociology. I grew up in Waterloo, IA (born in 1949) and have been fascinated by weather since I was a child. I used to sit with my dad in our west-facing garage and watch storms roll in and pass over, as long as the rain did not blow in and soak us. Began actively chasing in Illinois and nearby areas; now mostly chase the high plains since I moved to Colorado after retiring. Besides chasing I my hobbies include skiing, photography, and fishing. In addition to supercells and tornadoes, I also enjoy documenting intense winter weather events, including the thundersnow events that are fairly common in Colorado and northern New Mexico. I hve been married to my wife, Alice, since 1997. I have an adult daughter and stepdaughter and two grandchildren.

Favorite Storm Chasing Photos

RIGHT TO LEFT: Chama, NM, 9/29/14; Trinidad, CO, 6/6/14; Rozel, KS, 5/18/13; Rozel, KS, 5/18/13; Manchester, IL, 8/19/09

Favorite Chase Video

How did you realize your love for weather?

As noted above, I loved to sit and watch storms roll in. Also watched weather avidly and was a big-time childhood fan of one of the all time great TV mets, Conrad Johnson of what was then WMT-TV, Cedar Rapids/Waterloo. Got a barometer for Christmas when I was 9 or 10 and correctly interpreted its rapid fall to mean that a snowstorm predicted to go south of us was coming our way. We got four inches.

When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?


How long have you been actively chasing?

Ever since then.

Do you chase for a reason?

To see spectacular weather events that most people never see. Every chase is different; you never know what you will see.

Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?

Mostly good.

Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?

Usually alone. I like the idea of going when I want, and succeeding or failing based on my own forecast and my own decisions in the field.

Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?

Not really.

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

Too many people driving carelessly, showing off, and getting too close. But I think it is fine that more and more people are interested in chasing (except when they all get on the same storm I am on!)

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

New-school technology combined with old-school chase practices.

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

Depends whether it is single-day or multi-day. For multi-day events I will drive 12 hours or more, but prefer to stay within 6-8 hours.

What are your favorite areas to chase?

Eastern CO and NM, western KS and OK. IL, when I lived there. Panhandles, if they would ever have good storms again.

Least favorite?

MO and anywhere near Oklahoma City.

What is you favorite type of set up to chase?

Dryline or warm front.

Least favorite?

Fast-moving cold front.

What is your most memorable chase?

Rozel, KS.

Least memorable?

I can’t remember.

Have you ever feared for your life?

My first tornado encounter, Evansville, IL, 12/23/1996. I went through the town a minute or two before the tornado did, because I got mixed up on what direction I was going.

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

I try to avoid these as much as I can. Have gotten in the bear’s cage a couple times, only to find out there is a bear in there.

Do you have any superstitions?

Mainly when it comes to sports.

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, and being retired, I don’t have to!

Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?

Try to sell a few photos.

Have you ever been to ChaserCon?

Every one since the year it was -14 and the power went out. (2007?)

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

Sit alone watching the sky.

What is your favorite storm chase and why?

Rozel, KS, because it is the most awesome tornado I have ever seen.

What date burns in you (think bust) and why?

April 19, 2011 in Illinois. Spectacular tornadoes all over the place, but all I saw was a very distant rain-wrapped one because of a stupid decision that left me playing catch-up. Had I chased smart I could have just driven up the freeway 30 miles from home and watched tornadoes.

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


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

Self-taught, mostly from the Internet.

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

Depends what I see. But great storm structure or an intense weather event is always a success.

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

No. Of course I would rather be closer, but I saw the first Trinidad tornado (6/6/2014) from 40 miles away and it was still awesome.

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

There isn’t one. Teenagers and younger are still chasing, so the post storm chaser generation has not happened yet.

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

Yes, unless they do something stupid.

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

I don’t like it when they want my video for free.

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

Out in the field, probably the robo voices on NOAA weather radio.

Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?

Took my daughter a time or two.

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


What do you fear most about a storm?

Getting a tree or debris blown onto me.

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

Classic supercell.

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


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

Depends what they do.

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


Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?

Retirement. That is even better.

Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?

YES! My wife is tremendously supportive, which I really appreciate!

How long do you plan on chasing?

As long as I can. I am 65 and still going strong!

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