Ric Burney


Location: Dallas, TX
Started Chasing: I first started driving out with the purpose of intercepting severe storms in 1981 but it was more in the role of a spotter than a chaser. Not until 2008 did I actually put forth the effort to gear up for chasing and documenting storms.
Tornadoes: 21
Web site: wxdallas.com

Bio: Born and raised in west Texas I’ve had an opportunity to witness and learn respect for severe weather up close and personal for most of my life. Now living in Dallas,TX I try to take as many opportunities to get out on the road to see as much severe weather as I can.

Favorite Storm Chasing Photos

Favorite Chase Video

Chaser Q&A

How did you realize your love for weather?

Very early on (age 4 -5) I was completely in awe of severe thunderstorms. Our house faced west on the west side of town in Snyder TX which allowed for an unobstructed view of the approaching storms. When I was a little older I rode with my dad out in the oil fields surrounding Snyder. We got really, really close to large hail, lightning and a few tornadoes on many occassions. With each encounter my love and respect of storms grew.

When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?

After getting my drivers license and first car in 1981 I mainly spotted in and around west TX. Nothing was more fun that sitting out on some hilltop outside of town trying to drag the weak and distant NOAA wx radio signal into a scanner… watching and waiting. Going to college, work and family matters pretty much put a solid lid on my ability to chase much after that. I would still travel around west TX and luckily get to see some great storms in the process but they were few and far between. Not until much later in life did I again have the resources and ability to actively chase storms.

How long have you been actively chasing?

2008 to present (2015): 7 years

Do you chase for a reason?

Because I love it and because I can.

Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?

Definately a good thing. If you don’t have a passion for something you do you’re most likely doing it for the wrong reason.

Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?

It really depends on several factors; distance traveled, time of day / season, type of storm, etc. I do enjoy chasing in a group which has its benefits but I also enjoy the freedom of solo chasing.

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

There certainly are a lot of chasers out there now. My hope is that each one is out there because they really love storms and take steps to educate themselves about weather while learning the proper way to safely chase so as not to be a danger to themselves or others on the road.

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

A little of both. There’s a certain art to watching and reading the sky. Just sitting back and taking it all in will allow nature to tell you a lot. I have embraced the new technology now available which makes chasing much easier but still prefer to experience what I see out the window over what’s on a screen.

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

I have to be reasonable here. Real world constraints such as job, family obligations and financial resources do have to take precedence over chasing and limit my range. On average I usually stay within 400 to 500 miles of home. One day I hope to have the resources to expand that distance.

What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?

Favorite areas would be western TX, TX/OK panhandle and western OK.
Least favorite would be anywhere east of I-35.

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

Dryline chasing is pretty much my favorite. HP sups and squall lines along crashing cold fronts (linear mess) would have to be my least favorites.

What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?

Most memorable would be 04/26/2011 near Ben Wheeler, TX. I was chasing solo from south of Canton,TX heading east paralleling a tornado to just south of Van,TX with several extremely close encounters along the way. Least memorable? I can’t recall.

Have you ever feared for your life?

See above. 04/26/2011 just south of Van, TX while trying to put a little distance between me and the tornado my two escape routes were abruptly cut off by felled trees. I didn’t have much choice except to sit tight and let the cameras roll as the tornado passed within several yards. I watched as it damaged a nearby home, downed power lines and swept a few nearby cars into a ditch. Thankfully there were no injuries.

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

While I’ve done this on several occassions I wouldn’t say afraid. The more precise terms that come to mind are respectful and cautious. These certainly are dangerous maneuvers and sometimes cannot be avoided.

Do you have any superstitions?

The chase day purchase of a Allsups burrito and/or a chocolate malt have never brought me bad luck.

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?

Speaking from experience doing both of these I would have to say I would not sacrifice a steady income just to chase. There will always be more storms but good employment opportunities are truly rare. I’ve been lucky to have a career that allows me a reasonable and flexable schedule to chase.

Have you ever been to ChaserCon?

No but I’d like to attend at least once.

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

Either really. While there is a certain zen about sitting alone being one with nature it’s also nice to have other like-minded folks around with which to bounce ideas and discuss the days setup.

What is your favorite storm chase and why?

A difficult question. I guess one of my best days would have to be SW OK tornado-fest of 11/07/2011. One prolific, photogenic tornado after another starting south of Tipton, OK running NE into the Wichita Mtns. The only way it could have been any better is if I had been about 15 minutes earlier into the target area and able to top off the gas tank.

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

03/10/2010. I began the day early by spotting in Dallas, TX. After the cell I watched cleared the county I decided to tag along, following it up I-30 into NE TX. After a while the cell looked like it was going outflow so I decided to move north to a secondary target. Huge mistake. As I headed north into OK I found that the original cell I’d been on for most of the day had gotten its act back together. It was moving into SW AR, now tornado warned and well out of my range. A day that still reminds me to stick to my storm until the end. Unfortunately I do occassionally forget that lesson and still get suckered every once in a while.

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

Hindsight is 20/20 although it does sometimes take a little time to figure out just what exactly went wrong. It’s good to analyze things in order to identify the problems and seek solutions so that you can learn from and not repeat your mistakes.

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

I had the benefit of knowledgeable family members while growing up that gave me a good base from which to build. The rest has come from self study and real world experience out under the storms.

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

Absolutely. It’s never a failure if you’re able to get out and experience nature at it’s finest. The tornado is simply the icing on the cake.

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

No, not really. Being able to see one at any distance is better than not seeing one at all.

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

Meh. There will always be a new, freshly minted crop of chasers after every movie or TV series. Heck, there are new ones popping up after every springs skywarn training classes it seems. Hopefully the new ones learn to chase properly and not try to blindly emulate what they’ve seen on TV. Education is the key. Chase safely, respect not only the storms but other drivers on the road as well.

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

Driving an emergency vehicle is inherently dangerous to begin with, storms or not. Emergency vehicles respond to deal with immediate threats to life and public safety. EV Drivers have specialized training as well as the need and weight of law behind them for obvious reasons. Other vehicles out there, festooned with scientific gear, lightbars, antennas, etc. for whatever reason, do not have the same urgency or need as those of emergency vehicle so my answer to this is a resounding “NO”.

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

I’m sure everyone is familiar with the problems surrounding this topic. We’ve seen reporters who embellish, over-sensationalize or worse capitalize off of others pain and suffering. I feel that if you are out there to document the weather, by all means do so but please have respect for the aftermath. Some things need a little extra care in the way they are aired and shared.

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

The names Hoadley, Doswell, Marshall and Bluestein as well as few others immediately come to mind as I view their work as the cornerstone of chasing.

Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?

My cat hates thunder so ‘no’.

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

I’d first be flabbergasted to learn that my cat can talk!

What do you fear most about a storm?

I only thing I fear about storms is not being able to chase them.

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

Easily the most preferable storms for me to chase are those that present the greatest viewing opportunities such as LP or classic supercells. HP or linear messes are just that and not necessarliy my favorites. I like to see what I’m dealing with.

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

Sure. There is beauty to behold from all angles and distances. Sometimes there are good photo ops along the trip that are not necessarly storm related. Old ghost towns or unique geologic features can pique my interest and curiousity enroute to a target, time permitting.

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

So long as they do not uncessarily hinder my escape routes I have no qualms. There have been times were good intentioned LEO have blocked traffic in the name of safety when it’s painfully obvious that they have no understanding of the near-storm environment. Examples of this would be stopping traffic under an overpass with a tornado crossing within a mile or less (11/07/2011 near Snyder, OK). More education is needed for LEO on this topic.

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

Not necessarily more entitled but at the same time not have their movements being restricted just because of being storm chasers.

How long do you plan on chasing?

Until I can no longer physically drag myself into the car and point it to the target area.

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