Location: Gaines, MI
Started Chasing: 2001
Web site: http://www.mi2wisterchaser.com
Bio: I’m a convective weather junkie and storm chaser originally hailing from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and reside currently in the little farming community of Gaines which is near the Flint area. I work in the Automotive Industry in Grand Blanc with General Motors as a Senior Supplier Quality Engineer. I’ve chased locally here in Michigan, all over the surrounding area (OH, IN, IL, WI, and MN), in Dixie Alley (TN, AR, and MS), and in Tornado Alley from the Mexican to the Canadian border. Like others here, I too love to venture out to our shores of the Great Lakes of Michigan and Huron to intercept waterspouts. I would prefer to chase alone but appreciate chasing with my buddies whenever that permits.
Favorite Storm Chasing Photos
Favorite Chase Video
How did you realize your love for weather?
My fascination and love for the weather began around the time I was 5 years old. I remember hearing my mother screaming while looking for me during thunderstorms. She would always find me either out in the backyard looking up at the sky, or sitting on the curb out front our home, playing in the rainwater near the drain.
When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?
Seeing the movie Twister during the summer of 1996 was where my interest really got peaked, but it was receiving a signed copy of Jeff Piotrowski’s VHS tape documenting his and Brian Stertz’ chase of the 1999 Moore, OK EF5 was finally did it for me.
How long have you been actively chasing?
I have actively been chasing since 2008, but seriously chasing since 2012. Due to a couple of moves and job constraints I passively chased local storms previous to that.
Do you chase for a reason?
I chase for a pretty simple reason: to witness and document the most amazing weather on the planet.
Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?
Passion, or whatever drives us in anything we do in life, is an awesome thing! If passion wasn’t the driver behind what we do, it would become a hobby, and I don’t call storm chasing a hobby.
Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?
I’ve been chasing alone the last few seasons, but prefer to chase with another person, especially on the long haul chases from Michigan out to the Plains. I’m 48 now and in pretty good shape, but I fatigue a lot sooner than I did when I was in my 20s. I’ve done the group thing before, which can be pretty cool as long as everyone has HAM radio to communicate with.
Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?
How do you feel about the current state of storm chasing?
Great question! I was asked about that last spring while giving a “Chaser Talk” at a local high school. I think the current state of storm chasing is trending where we’ll see less and less “recreational” chasers on the roads going forward. With the end of the TV show Stormchasers and Sean Casey’s Tornado Alley IMAX project coming to an end, I believe a lot of the folks who were out there were only a part of what was a passing fad (to them). Yes, we’ll probably see our share of locals out during the major outbreaks, but I don’t believe we’ll see the “chaser hoards” that have been around the last three or four years.
Which era of chasing would you prefer to exist? Old-school or new-school?
Oh, new school of course. I appreciate where we’ve came from as chasers, but I also appreciate the technology available to us today.
How far are you willing to travel for a good set up?
As far as necessary.
What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?
Favorite: In this area, mid-Michigan between Mt. Pleasant and St. Johns. Northwest Ohio. All of northern IN and central IL. Southern MN. Most of Nebraska, western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. Least favorite: southern IN, Dixie Alley (except eastern Arkansas), northeast Texas.
What is your favorite type of set up to chase? Least favorite?
Favorite: Late spring. The southern jet has shifted north with a nice short wave trough digging its way across the northern Plains with a 50 plus knot 500mb jet core. Big CAPE in place with a surface low and triple point in southern MN or northern IA. Least: these early spring, deep digging, negatively-tilted troughs cutting through the Ohio Valley with a High Risk.
What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?
Most memorable was chasing a tornado warned storm into my front yard with my wife the day of the Bennington, KS EF4. On a day that you wouldn’t think would produce much in southern Lower Michigan, we just happened to be in the right place at the right time when the convection that had been ongoing pretty much all day, cleared out along a stationary front. It wasn’t a huge, deadly storm, but it did produce EF1 damage in my neighborhood, and would later produce what I’ve argued was EF3 damage in Goodrich. Least memorable: none. They’re all memorable, even the busts.
Have you ever feared for your life?
Yes. Got a little too close to the core of a rain wrapped tornado in Texas once.
Are you afraid to make dangerous maneuvers while chasing?
I’m not afraid of making any dangerous maneuvers while chasing. I’ve core punched storms before, but would prefer to not do that again.
Do you have any superstitions?
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?
I know if were younger and not married I would. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to do that now. I have considered consulting which would allow me to do the same thing with no loss of salary, but I would be able to take April, May and June off.
Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?
Have you ever been to ChaserCon?
Are you more likely to hang out with other chasers while waiting for initiation, or sit alone on a country road watching the sky?
I would much rather hang out with other chasers in a convergence than sit alone on a country road somewhere.
What is your favorite storm chase and why?
Even though I ended up with a wicked upper respiratory infection after the chase, my first Plains chase with Bill Oosterbaan and Bob Hartig on April 13-15, 2012 was my favorite. I scored my first Plains tornadoes that weekend.
What date burns in you (think bust) and why?
March 2, 2012. Water under the bridge now. I was sitting at Exit #19 on I-65 in southern Indiana at 8:30 AM awaiting initiation that was sure to come later that morning. I was told by a more seasoned chaser that I needed to be further south (south of Louisville, KY) to see tornadoes that day. I took the advice instead of trusting my forecast. So, I headed south and got to around Elizabethtown just as the first tubes were touching down back in southern Indiana. And while I was close to a few rain-wrapped tornadoes in northern Kentucky that day, it pales in comparison to what I would have witnessed had I stayed put at the Henryville exit.
Do you always know why you made the wrong or right decisions to chase a particular day?
I’m still learning, and I always post mortem my decisions after a chase is completed, so in the end there’s always validation to confirm either the right decision to have chased, or data to support why I should have never left the house in the first place.
How did you learn what you know about forecasting and meteorology?
Jon Davies Tornado Forecasting Class at ChaserCon. Tim Vasquez books on Severe Storm Forecasting. MetEd online classes. Jeff Haby’s website. And a lot of trial and error (hand drawn weather maps).
Do you consider the day a success even if you don’t witness a tornado?
Yes, but only if I see large hail or awesome supercell structure. I can drive around i the rain or see QLCS type storms back home.
Do you feel short changed if you see a tornado from a greater distance to you than you prefer?
Not really. Seeing a tornado is seeing a tornado. You’re not always going to be a quarter mile away, to the southeast and out of the inflow jet when one goes by.
How do you feel about the post “Storm Chaser” generation?
Interesting question. IMO I feel like most of the young people who are out there now are out there solely to make a name for themselves, and to keep their names in front of people. We live in a pretty attention starved world, and most of these “kids” would rather run you over to get the money shot for the CNNs and ABCs of the world, versus the enjoyment of feeling the raw power of the most awesome forces to ever scour the planet. Not so with the people out there BSC (before Storm Chasers). I know lots of chasers from this generation and you’d be hard pressed to find someone like that among them.
Do you feel like the scientific community should get the same respect as emergency vehicles around storms?
No. You can’t put “science” on the same level as “emergency.” While both have a job they’re trying to do, the emergency vehicles are usually only around after a disaster has occurred, and I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be yielding to the DOW unless it has the right of way. It’s like this – the scientific community is out there just like us, and just like the tour groups (except the scientific folks are funded by my tax dollars). We all have our own agenda and mission, and we can all “coexist” and achieve whatever goal it is we’re trying to achieve.
How you do you feel about the media in regards to the weather and chasing?
The media creates a lot of hype and fear IMO. We see it every spring on the Weather Channel. And I know after the death tolls in 2011 that the media is doing all it can to reach and warn people, but sometimes they can go too far (example: KFOR’s Mike Morgan during the El Reno storm). Also, it’s funny to me, because the Weather Channel folks are always taking jabs at chasers, yet they have our live streams on TV and are having us do play by play during phone-ins, plus, they deploy their own chase team.
Who are the most influential people to you out in the field?
Jeff Piotrowski, Bill Oosterbaan
Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?
If we had kids, yes – they’d come with me/us.
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 probably say they’re crazy (the response I get most) and to find something different to do.
What do you fear most about a storm?
Lightning and changes of direction or intensification when I’m notanticipating it.
What type of storm do you prefer to chase?
Classic LP supercells with tons of structure.
Do you stop your progress toward a storm for a great photography opportunity?
Always, but nowadays you can get great single shots right on a camcorder, so why stop?
How do you feel about law enforcement immediately around a tornadic supercell?
I’m always like “why?” Don’t they have something better to do? I hate it when they block traffic or do other things like driving down the middle of a road not letting you pass them.
Should storm chasers feel more entitled to be around storms than law enforcement or locals?
Good question but I think the sense of entitlement should be shared equally by anyone who wishes to partake and take in these storms. As long as we all respect one other and look out for one another’s safety.
Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?
Yes, so far.
Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?
How long do you plan on chasing?
Until someone lowers me into the ground!