Nick Raisanen


Location: Lakeville, MN
Started Chasing: 2000
Tornadoes: 2

Bio: I’ve been chasing the great state of Minnesota since 2000 and been volunteering for Skywarn since 2004.

Favorite Storm Chasing Photos

Chaser Q&A

How did you realize your love for weather?

I didn’t start as love. Storms scared me to death as a child, I hated them. As I got older I wanted to know more about mother nature. In elementary school I checked out everything in the library from earthquakes to volcanoes to hurricanes and of course tornadoes just wanting to know how it all worked. Earthquakes, volcanoes and hurricanes didn’t spark all that much interest since we don’t have any of those in Minnesota, so I focused on tornadoes and have been studying them ever since.

When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?

The 1998 St. Peter tornado was when I knew I wanted to study and chase storms. Living in the Twin Cities, I watched the weather reports and decided to step onto the deck to see the structure for myself. While watching the storm, I saw shingles falling from the sky and landing in our back yard. I ran over and picked it up, the whole time thinking ….but we’re 45 miles from the tornado, how is this here? After hearing how far some of the debris had traveled I knew I wanted to not only study what could do this, but also help warn and educate other people to keep them out of harms way.

How long have you been actively chasing (in years)?

16

Do you chase for a reason?

Skywarn volunteer, getting more into photography, because in the light and in the darkness, there is always beauty in nature.

Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?

I don’t mind having someone riding shotgun, it’s never fun chasing alone. It’s good to have a hand and a second set of eyes. Group chases are fun as well.

Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?

I’d be fun, but why pay when I can do the same thing myself.

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

It’s on the fence right now. Great when it comes to technology, I can’t figure out how we used to do it with a map book and a weather radio now that we have tablets and smartphones with live radar, and gps showing your exact location. Social Networking is helping a lot in sharing information, whether it’s forecasts or warnings, all the info and resources are there to share. On the flip side, now any Joe Bagofdoughnuts with no training or experience can see a warning, grab their camera and be on the road, potentially putting their life or others in danger. It’s become more of a problem after all the reality shows came out.

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

New School

How far are you willing to travel for a good set up (in miles)?

150

What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?

Most of southern Minnesota is the best. Nice open farmland, good road network and not much in the way of traffic. Near home is the worst, a metro area to start. From there it’s the Minnesota and Mississippi River valleys, big elevation drops and heavily wooded areas, not to mention limited crossings. Like a dog running at a fence, many chases have ended nearing the Wisconsin border.

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

Any setup, as long as there is a chance to see something. HP super cells and squall lines I hate. Not much to look at but rain, can’t see the structure clearly and it makes for a long drive home.

What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?

My solo chase on 6-25-10 in southern MN. I left work and blazed a trail to Waseca where I faced a tough choice, head west towards Mankato on highway 14 to try to get behind the storm on the north side with 4″ hail being reported or dive south on highway 13 and let it pass by. I went with south on 13, after a few miles I could see the base off to my west, a huge HP mothership and the CG lightning was nonstop. After turning west, jumping from gravel road to gravel road I sat and watch the storm approach, I knew I wasn’t far enough south yet but I wanted to get a look. A few miles off to my northwest, through the rain I could see a tornado on the ground, so I started moving south to allow it to pass by. What I didn’t know at the time is the storm started making a right turn and began to merge with the storm to it’s southwest. West of New Richland I stopped on Highway 30 to get another look at where the tornado was, but it was rain wrapped. As I watched I noticed the rain bands were passing to my south and wrapping back up to my east, I needed to get out of there and the race was on. The two storms merged right over me and chased me to the small town of Alden, 70 mph winds, rain so heavy at times I couldn’t see past the hood and I was taking in water, I flew down those country roads. I stopped at a gas station off of I-90 to ride the rest of the storm out. After the storm had passed I drove back the way I came into town, many trees and power lines down with minimal structure damage, and the weatherstripping on my windshield was pulled out along with parts of the car sandblasted. Intense ride but I laugh when I watch the footage because the whole time I’m running I’m talking to myself. Worst chase ever….can’t think of the year, but a few of us drove about 3 hours never to see a cloud. It was hot and muggy but the cap was just too strong to break, but we thought it may happen at sundown so we went. When we got home we noticed one storm had fired to our north but as if it hit a wall, it disappeared in about 3 radar frames. Wasted gas and a nice sunset is all we got out of that one.

Have you ever feared for your life?

Besides my most memorable chase, almost getting hit by lightning on my way home from a chase. I chased until nightfall and headed home, the light show was intense the whole drive, a lot of ground strikes. Maybe 10 minutes from home the radio starts to crackle, I was on FM and it crackled like AM does during a storm. I wasn’t sure what to do, I knew it was a static charge that was doing it but when you’re doing 55 on an open road you don’t have options. About 3 seconds later a power poll next to me was hit just as I passed by. The brightness and the sound were unbelievable, you could feel the energy being released. I knew it wasn’t going to make a difference whether I get struck or not, I floored it the rest of the way home.

Are you afraid to make dangerous maneuvers while chasing? (I.E – core punching/hook slicing/living in the bears cage) It’s all on a situational basis, no two are the same, so yes and no.

Do you have any superstitions?

Kinda strange, but most are. Seems if we’re going to have a good day we will see Amish people. Whether on the road, on a farm, or at Dairy Queen, they tend to bring us some form of luck. We actually bring it up while on the road if it’s looking like a bust, we’ll start looking for the Amish.

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?

Yes

Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?

No

Have you ever been to ChaserCon?

No

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

Both, depending on the situation.

What is your favorite storm chase and why?

The Northfield tornado of 1999, my first tornado and I was the only person to get footage of it……for a short time. It was a 15 minute drive from home and it set up so perfectly without any effort. The storm passed us to the south and we fell in directly behind it and followed it into town. We had a clear view of it as it passed through town. knocking down power lines and flipping trailers in a loading dock. Later I learned that the NSSL had a team on it but were unable to see it due to poor visibility on the south side of the storm, making me feel good for my first tornado. But it was short lived as my friends little brother recorded over the footage we had gotten of the storm, total heartbreak, but I still remember every detail of that day.

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

Self taught, weather was never covered in school but it was something I still wanted to learn.

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

I think local media should team up with local chasers. If you can have someone in a studio and on the ground at the same time you can give out much more detailed information about what is going on.

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

Tim Samaras, a brilliant mind taken too soon. He was the science behind chasing. Reed Timmer, he brought chasing to the mainstream. No one really knew what it was like unless you actually did it, and few can get the footage he can. Warren Faidley, as a child every book I read that had a picture of weather seemed to have his name on them. I wanted to be like him.

What do you fear most about a storm?

The one that hits home.

Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?

It helps me maintain my vehicle for chase season, and if I ask kindly enough (well….beg) I can get out early to chase.

Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?

They think I’m nuts, I tell them it’s no different than being a firefighter. We go in when everyone else is told to get out. On the other hand, they enjoy having their own meteorologist at home.

How long do you plan on chasing?

As long as I can

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