Terry Tyler


Location: Tupelo, MS
Started Chasing: 2005
Tornadoes: 3-4

Bio: I’ve been out documenting storms since April of 2005 and passionate about severe weather since an early age. I do the “Mid-South Chasing” Facebook blog and maintained the original blog on Xanga, which has posts back to 2005. As with many other chasers, I aspire to hopefully one day experience monetary gains as well as notoriety for pursuing my passion. As a poor person, I often struggle to afford and maintain things like wireless cell bills and expensive cameras, but that doesn’t limit me from reporting on the action.

Favorite Storm Chasing Photos

Favorite Chase Video

Chaser Q&A

How did you realize your love for weather?

My love for weather began as an awful fear of weather. I would panic badly if there were warnings out. When I was a kid, I dug a hole in my back yard to make my own storm shelter. It was bad, each time there were bad storms in the forecast I felt like I couldn’t concentrate on school or anything. It was like my number was up. I found that learning more about storms, especially from a radar perspective were things that gave me peace of mind. After learning and experiencing the science as well as the sights and sounds of severe weather, I fell in love.

When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?

I remember in high school, I had an empty class to study and I printed off the whole NWS glossary and studied the terms. I still remember when I thought the back-sheared anvil was the direction the storm was moving. Each time storms would come by the house now, I started taking pictures instead of just looking at the radar. I joined COCORAHS as a volunteer observer and began submitting reports each morning. I joined Stormtrack.org in 2005 when I was 16 and loved reading the storm reports and learning more about going out and viewing them.

How long have you been actively chasing?

10 years. People would drive me around to look at storms and take pictures. The first two years or so were humble beginnings.

Do you chase for a reason?

Yes, it’s something that makes my life enjoyable and worthwhile. It’s exciting, scary, and as a younger man I get inspired by these success stories and different start-ups in the weather industry. As far as I’ve been watching it, I see some exciting things on the horizon and if my passion can help someone else out or maybe make me a quick buck, then I’m all for it.

Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?

It is what it is. I think it could be the death of me one day. Maybe I was scared of storms for a reason? I believe in God, and as a man who has made it through serious adversities and still struggles. I feel maybe I could be in a situation one day to save someone’s life or inspire a younger person to pursue a career in meteorology or spur an interest in weather. I have walked out of jobs, spent money when I didn’t have it, and ruined relationships over it so it could be a bad addiction.

Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?

I’ve always gone by myself. I’m the only one with the expertise to read the radars, use the mapping software, toggle the camera settings, handle upload and download on streams, etc. I’ve brought people with me over the years mainly as designated drivers so I can more safely focus on the filming, tracking, and navigating safely without having to pull over. I find some people do panic, or decide they want to go home, and I have had to drop people off and go by myself.

Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?

I’ve considered hopefully running or working for one in the future. I generally take my own tours.

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

I think it’s moving fast just like the tech industry. I remember when only a few could afford the wireless internet and equipment needed to chase. Now, people can get it on any budget and the media incentivizes more and more exciting footage. I see it becoming a extreme sport and a competition. People will always try to outdo themselves and possibly even each other who legitimately enjoy the experience.

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

I would desire a combination of both elements. I think that if there is someone new to storm chasing, that they learn the history, and look at some ethics. I also think that some people could stand to spice things up as long as it’s not at the expense of others safety. I believe that is the main thing old-school folks are concerned about, while the latter group is concerned about making profits and discoveries. Good entertainment can come out of the combination of the two.

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

I will go as far as my pocket book or vehicle will take me. Typically, as the name implies I focus on the Mid-South Region. I don’t always have money on hand, so I could have a small budget to chase. I try to make the best due I can to get by.

What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?

I think we all don’t like rolling hills or deep tree forests. I like the plains areas, but I also think as more and more people actually can afford to fly out here. Some storms will be hard to catch, even with so many eyeballs out. Running a rural road, becoming totally aware of the land, and getting a truly rare shot is what I like. High risk, High reward situation.

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

I like the dry line events that sometime occur down here. It’s pretty rare to have a pronounced set up where you get bands of training discreet cells. But, I find that with a good radar connection I feel safer with being able to see blue sky and also that storms are not embedded in rain. I don’t like events at night or where visibility is limited. As I said before, part of where the passion came from is fear and having my eyes on the storm makes me feel comfortable. I don’t like not seeing it.

What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?

It’s a tough call for the most memorable. 5/2/09 was great because I was tracking a confirmed tornado that had no warning on it. I remember as a kid, a meteorologist at WTVA told me his favorite achievement was calling in a warning for a tornado that didn’t have a warning and I never thought that one day I would get to experience it for myself. More memorable would include blowouts, being stranded on the road, getting in dangerous situations. Less memorable would be chasing squall lines, summer activity; 12/27/08 was less memorable. Had high hopes, hours of driving, not a lot of severe. I find each chase is memorable, some more than others.

Have you ever feared for your life?

12/9/08 was a day I thought I had got in over my head. Tornado Emergency in Yazoo County, stuck in the core on a bridge, almost completely dark. We had a large tornado reported, bald tires, and back then only using Wi-Fi hot spots to get data. On a day like that, you could use VIL about as well as velocity for detecting tornadoes. All storms had intense velocities but few were <35,000ft. The taller storms for the day that were doing damage all had quarter to golf-ball size in them. I knew when I was getting isolated hail stones I was getting close. Are you afraid to make dangerous maneuvers while chasing? (I.E – core punching/hook slicing/living in the bears cage)

I am growing into things, it’s taken me a lot of experience to learn about radar lag times, actual road map issues, and data outages so I try to play it safe and be ahead of the storm before it comes to me. I took a fairly unusual method of attack on the 4/28/14 tornado actually sitting just below the core of the FFD.

Do you have any superstitions?

I feel being right with the Lord is very important. I thank my family before I go out and try to make things right with folks a day or two before leaving. I have seen things in my life that I attribute to a higher power and I feel that when dealing with His work. If you are not living right with the Lord you run the risk of being struck by lightning. It’s easy for people to have divine explanations each time a disaster occurs. I don’t believe all strikes or victims of disaster are the result of this, but I do believe in my circumstance as a believer, I could be at risk.

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?

2 weeks is fine for me unless I become a professional chaser. Risk management is always in the back of my mind. Faith or the superstitious part of me believes I won’t die if I’m living right, but the logical side wants to live long enough to enjoy more storms. Seeing as there is generally 14 days’ worth of good storms a year, I could settle for them. One thing I do know, with no paycheck there is no chasing.

Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?

No, but I am currently looking for some stringer work. I don’t have all the equipment I used to have but would greatly appreciate someone or some group to shoe me in and mentor me on the professional areas.

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?

I usually keep to myself. Most the time if I see somebody out here they are on the side of the road with their flashers on. I think it’s rude to approach someone you don’t know, especially if they are trying to get photos or enjoy their time with the weather.

What is your favorite storm chase and why?

Still, 5/2/09, one reason is that I was within about two hundred feet of the tornado. The next reason was I fantasized for years about getting closer to a storm and if I would have the courage to do it and what it would be like. I can say honestly it was better than I thought it would be.

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

As far as from a meteorological bust, I would have to say about %60 of the late season moderate risks around here. Timing is always an issue, you have short days, and lots of uncertainties which have led to costly errors and high hopes shattered. 5/2/10 and 10/9/09 {equipment bust”> were two days where I was actually inside of tornado warning boxes while having a tire burst. I know in my heart of hearts that I would have gotten the tornado both days, and both days I was live streaming.

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

That’s the thing about storm chasing; it’s kind of like golf. If you always look back and second guess yourself, “damn I should have done this”, “the picture is blurry and sucks”, and my favorite “if only I”. You will find that you are no longer even enjoying the experience. Anything short of a hole in one is failure and the hole in one is never enough. I’ve been developing my own philosophy over the years because let’s face it. If you mess up on a storm day, you usually have weeks and months to sulk over it.

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

All self-taught, I took a few SKYWARN classes (just for formality) have studied literature from old SPC publications, NWS case studies, I like John Haby’s “The Weather Prediction” I memorized most all of the Skew-T parameters and finally learned how to read a Skew-T there. I can’t forget about METED. Stormtrack is a good resource, GRlevelx stuff. Learning to find someone to teach me to customize GRlevel3 was a pain, but I was one of the first guys out there putting in shape files and hooking up the program.

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

Typically yes, I always try to get pictures of the storm structure and “something” to take away from it. Sometimes, I don’t want to find the tornado. I come to learn now especially with the passing of Tim and them a successful storm chase day is the day you come home. It can be tempting at times to be vain and pout over not getting the shot, but the fact remains: It could always be worse.

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

Yes, even more so if its bad quality footage. I feel that I always could have pushed the envelope; I could have tried harder to earn money to get better gear. There is always regret, but it goes back to what I was saying earlier. I have a portfolio of 10 years of events. They are pieces of a puzzle. The puzzle piece may not be the one you expect to complete the puzzle, but there are no overnight sensations.

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

I have sort of drifted away from what even is a storm chaser anymore besides someone who follows storms. When a lot of the big names left Stormtrack, I quit following most of the stuff. I have connects in the industry on my Facebook which I keep up with. I can come up with several names I know and people I’ve watched over the years. People I’ve looked up to now are doing things and I feel like I’m part of a generation before, but I got to experience a magical time in the industry. What excites me even more is what is for the future storm chaser generation.

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

As far as actual DOW and registered vehicles that are large like that should travel in convoy and have police escort. Emergency vehicles, scientific vehicles, and all other vehicles are hazards to avoid running into. The scientific debate is what is scientific? If you have a university with 20-30 mobile mesonets running around you can’t manage it all. My final word is the law is the law. If the law says yield to scientific vehicles, yield to scientific vehicles. Using good common sense and courtesy can avoid some problems.

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

I think it’s part of the engine of profitability in regards to storm chasing. I feel the majority of chasers, whether or not they admit it or not, do aspire about the notions of earning a living doing what they love and seeing their work displayed for others to share and enjoy. I think the media has encouraged some recklessness and it’s similar to drugs or pornography. It leads users down a path to more and more extreme situations to produce the same high. For the media, it is ratings, for the chasers, it’s incentive to take more risks, for the general public, it’s more hazardous on the road.

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

Of course being in the south I like the LSM guys Brett Adair, Tommy Self, Dave Lewison. I followed him years back and have watched him build up LSM. I also like Scott Olsen, Dick McGowan, some of the ChaserTV guys. They got onto me a lot when I was younger on the Stormtrack board and I did receive many infractions. As I get older, I see these guys are just protecting the professionalism of the field and I got a chance to learn some of the dumb stuff not to do. Eric Nguyen and Tim Samaras, although they are no longer with us, their images of passion live on as inspiration. I like the TV guys, Reed Timmer, Justin Drake, Simon Brewer and many others.

Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?

I don’t, if they are interested in pursuing it then that’s fine, I wouldn’t want to be the first storm chaser responsible for killing his kid on account of a hobby.

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

Not really sure, I haven’t had much parental experience and don’t legally have one right now. My advice to any child with a positive dream is to shoot for the stars.

What do you fear most about a storm?

It’s all bad for the most part; I mainly am worried about the tornado and the lightning. Roads, people driving, hydroplaning are all other things not directly associated with the storm.

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

Classic or LP, technically they called 4/28/14 an HP but from the front it was extremely clear where everything was. I don’t know what you would call it. LP is my favorite, but so rare out here. The LP’s out here you get, at least in my experience are high based usually because the dews are so low. I like sculpted, striations, smooth bell shapes, twisted or distinguishable structure.

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

Sure, if it isn’t an emergency. I try to have time to breath when I’m out there. Moving around in haste is not only dangerous, but can lead to making an error which could cost the day.

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

I think that’s where they should be, it is a major hazard affecting the community. I do not, however like the road blocking they do in some areas. I think that it is a touchy issue, but our freedoms are restricted enough as it is. I don’t want to see cops blocking roads because of someone messing up and I think that is what most all of us old heads fear from all of this.

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

No. Some guys think in their hearts they are entitled because they are having something to do with a disaster. The problem I see is similar to the volunteer firemen we have around here. You get a guy who puts a flashing light on his roof and he’s out there running the roads looking for action. This could create a hazard instead of helping to mitigate the original hazard. Follow the rules of the road is the best policy in any situation.

Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?

Yes, but it’s just making the bills. There is little extra to invest, when it’s there, it’s usually lower quality equipment which makes it more difficult to share with people the storm.

Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?

My folks think it’s exciting. I try to sell them on the “I’m doing it so I hope we can have a better life” lines and they hope I make it.

How long do you plan on chasing?

I plan to go until I die. I don’t know what it is inside me that draws me to this stuff. If I die out there, I draw comfort my mom would say I died doing what I loved.

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