Bio: I am a college and high school instructor. I teach chemical engineering classes and now an applied meteorology class (starting Summer 2015) at New Mexico Tech. I am also a tutor at several area high schools. I am an amateur radio operator (N3MRA), a competitive shooter (small bore and large bore rifle), gardener. I have a BS in Materials and Metallurgical Engineering from Virginia Tech, an MS in the same subject from New Mexico Tech, and am working towards a BS in Operational Meteorology from Mississippi State. I am also the president of High Plains Tours, LLC, which leads educational storm chase tours, rather than “extreme” storm chase tours.
How did you realize your love for weather?
I watched the 1985 Nova special on tornadoes when I was four years old. Soon after, a small tornado did some minor damage to the church I attended.
When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?
1985 at four years old.
How long have you been actively chasing?
I started chasing in the Great Plains in 2003. I chased in MD/VA near my house since 2001, or perhaps earlier.
Do you chase for a reason?
For me, it is about the struggle of man vs. nature. I like building a forecast and watching the weather unfold. I’m not going to make up some Miss America reason – I do it for my own benefit.
Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?
If you don’t have passion for storm chasing, you won’t last long on those busted days.
Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?
Either. With a group is fun, as my teacher instincts kick in and I get to share what I’ve learned. Alone is fun as well.
Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?
I got my start chasing with the Virginia Tech storm chase crew, and I chased with them from 2003-2006.
How do you feel about the current state of storm chasing?
I’m indifferent to it. I don’t pay too much attention to the politics of it.
Which era of chasing would you prefer to exist? Old-school or new-school?
I don’t know that there should be a division. There’s something to be said for faster computer models and for being able to draw a chart and plot a sounding by hand.
How far are you willing to travel for a good set up?
The farthest I’ve traveled in one day was 861 miles.
What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?
I really like chasing in Nebraska. Grand Island, NE; and Downs, KS will always be special places in my chasing mind. Least favorite: I don’t like chasing near any of the cities. West Texas and western South Dakota can present some challenges as well.
What is you favorite type of set up to chase? Least favorite?
Favorite: Triple point chasing is great! However, I do like the days that I have to choose between two parameters and really make the best of the day. Least Favorite: Cap busts!
What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?
Every chase is memorable, if you choose to make it so.
Have you ever feared for your life?
Once. After a day of chasing in 2012, I found a hotel in Woodward, OK. That night, a bad squall line passed through, and a tornado clipped the west edge of town.
Are you afraid to make dangerous maneuvers while chasing?
There is no reason for it, unless something has changed to put your life in jeopardy. If I need to cut across a hook or punch a core, I botched either my forecast or my execution, and it’s not worth the risk.
Do you have any superstitions?
I do admit to keeping a Magic 8 ball in the car and jokingly calling it the “Meteorologist In Charge”
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 took a job at a university partially so that I could chase storms each spring.
Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?
I am president of High Plains Tours, LLC and will be teaching Applied Meteorology at New Mexico Tech starting this summer.
Have you ever been to ChaserCon?
I did, in 2008. Unfortunately, I had food poisoning from the trip up, so I don’t remember much. I’ve also presented at the Southeast Severe Storms Symposium, and took 2nd place in the student presentation competition at the High Plains NWA Conference back in 2006.
Are you more likely to hang out with other chasers while waiting for initiation, or sit alone on a country road watching the sky?
With amateur radio, I play on the county hunter’s net. They try to talk to someone in every county. So far, there have only been around a dozen people to VISIT every county and make contacts. I spend a fair amount of time driving to new counties and making contacts.
What is your favorite storm chase and why?
Every one of them has its own flavor. 2007 stands out, as it was the first time I caught a tornado entirely on my own.
What date burns in you (think bust) and why?
4/14-15/12, with the Woodward Tornado and how I was lured into thinking the storms were over. I wouldn’t have chased that tornado (it struck around midnight), but I could have been more aware of my own surroundings.
Do you always know why you made the wrong or right decisions to chase a particular day?
No. Not always. Every “wrong” decision is an opportunity to learn, however. I don’t think I’ve been caught on the wrong side of a dryline since 2006, and I never consider a storm system “done” just because there are clear skies and a sunset since the Woodward storm.
How did you learn what you know about forecasting and meteorology?
Some of it has been through reading (almost every Tim Vasquez book), and my own experiences. The rest has been through meteorology classes at Virginia Tech and Mississippi State.
Do you consider the day a success even if you don’t witness a tornado?
If my forecast came together, yes. If it didn’t, and I learned something from it, yes.
Do you feel short changed if you see a tornado from a greater distance to you than you prefer?
I prefer a greater distance. I like seeing the storm as a whole rather than some blowing dust up close.
How do you feel about the post “Storm Chaser” generation?
I’m not sure what that means. As long as everyone behaves safely around the storm, I don’t know that it matters.
Do you feel like the scientific community should get the same respect as emergency vehicles around storms?
The road is paid for by tax dollars. Emergency vehicles get priority, but then everyone else has the same rights to the road.
How you do you feel about the media in regards to the weather and chasing?
I don’t bother them, and I hope they won’t bother me. I typically shy away from them.
Who are the most influential people to you out in the field?
Tim Samaras, of course. Dave Carroll, was my meteorology instructor at VT, and so I always like running into him and his crew (Kevin Myatt, Chris White, Maria Floyd come to mind).
Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?
My son has been chasing with me since he was 10. Based on the model of “stay back and see the whole storm,” he has always been safe during our chases. He has been Skywarn trained and is getting really good at spotting storm structure.
If you didn’t know anything about storm chasing, how would you react if your child said they wanted to be a chaser?
I know there is a safe way to do it, just like every other profession. A lot of children today have no passion for anything, or they are “too cool” to share it.
What do you fear most about a storm?
Lightning. I have a healthy respect for it.
What type of storm do you prefer to chase? (Ugly HP/sculpted LP/classic/squall line)
There’s beauty in all of it. A nice, stripped back LP cell is neat, as is a long shelf cloud on a squall line.
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?
Good for them. Most of them are doing a great job protecting their communities. My last customer was a retired LEO, and my first storm chase was with another LEO. I have tremendous respect for them and what they do.
Should storm chasers feel more entitled to be around storms than law enforcement or locals?
No. The roads belong to tax payers, and nobody has more right to it than anyone else.
Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?
Yes. The other professors are very supportive, and frequently check my blog while I am away.
Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?
How long do you plan on chasing?
When I quit chasing, I probably won’t live much longer. If you give up what is important to you, your body begins to shut down.