Tom Stolze

Location: O’Fallon, MO
Started Chasing: 1987
Tornadoes: 9
Web site: http://ofallonweather.com
Blog: ofallonweather.com/wp

Bio: I have been chasing since 2009, I have limited availability to get out and chase due to family and work obligations, but try to make the most of the time I have off, especially for local chases within 2-3 hours of the St. Louis, MO region, I typically make it to the plains 4-8 days a year. I don’t have to see a tornado to be happy; a nice supercell in the middle of nowhere is just as rewarding to me.

Favorite Storm Chasing Photos

Favorite Chase Video

Chaser Q&A

How did you realize your love for weather?
 
In 2003 when I realized there were home weather stations available, it has gone downhill since I purchased my first Davis Vantage Pro weather station.

When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?

In 2009 my oldest son and I decided to give it a try, we both were fascinated by storms and had never had the opportunity to see an isolated supercell.

How long have you been actively chasing?

2009

Do you chase for a reason?

To witness the awesome show Mother Nature puts on for us.

Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?

It’s like any other hobby, you can’t let it take over your life…It’s a very good thing!

Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?

I often chase alone since my son went away to college and now is working full time himself. I have several local chasers I am willing to chase with; it is tough to align personal schedules though.

Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?

No

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

I believe it is healthy, stay away from those that like drama and enjoy the show.

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

I really wish I would have taken this interest earlier, I believe those who did it before today’s technologies truly know what makes our atmosphere tick. I respect the old-school chasers, but embrace the new era.

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

As far as I have to go as long as I have the time to take from work and it works into my family schedule.

What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?

Anywhere that is flat with no trees, I like the landscape of the Sandhill region, although it is not the best terrain. My least favorite, the Ozark Mountain region

What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?

April 11, 2011, treated to my first tornado chase near Salina, KS, it was really special as we had nearly 15 local chasers from the St. Louis area together as a group, many of us experienced our first tornado together that day.

May 28, 2013, the day of the famous Bennington Tornado. I woke up 18 miles from where the tornado touched down, decided I was very near my target for the day, and then I went sightseeing. I went to Greensburg, KS with plenty of time to get back. When I was done at the Big Well there was a storm going up about an hour SW of there. That was the worst decision I ever made, I took the bait, hook, line and sinker, I took myself to far away to make the Bennington storm.

Have you ever feared for your life?

No

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

I do my best to stay out of the cores, and generally try to maintain a safe distance to witness the storms.

Do you have any superstitions?

No

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?

No

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?

It all depends, I usually take a chair and a kite, nothing like sitting in the middle of a field on a nice spring day, but it is always nice to put a face with a name.

What is your favorite storm chase and why?

I think my first one, June, 7, 2009, the famous Oregon, MO hailer. For our first chase my son and I were able to identify the storm structure. We chased two storms that day, witnessed wall clouds on both and saw the destruction that very large hail can leave behind.

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

May 28, 2013, the day of the famous Bennington Tornado. I woke up 18 miles from where the tornado touched down, decided I was very near my target for the day, and then I went sightseeing. I went to Greensburg, KS with plenty of time to get back. When I was done at the Big Well there was a storm going up about an hour SW of there. That was the worst decision I ever made, I took the bait, hook, line and sinker, I took myself to far away to make the Bennington storm.

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

I usually go back over the data to see what I missed, if I can’t figure it out, I look to others that did well that day to see why they went the direction they did.

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

Self taught, online.

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

Yes

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

No

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

We all have a unique hobby; we should embrace our love for weather.

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

Yes, but we have to be sure they are there for truly scientific reasons.

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

The media does a great job getting warnings to the public, most support what we do as long as we make our storm reports, but they do like to question what we are doing.

Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?

Yes, both of my sons have been on chases with me, they are currently 22 and 14.

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

I think I would try to research what it is all about, maybe try to team up with a respected chaser to seek out some input.

What do you fear most about a storm?

Hail

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

Classic

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

Yes

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

I fear that they lack the knowledge to know what the storm is doing, or when they have put themselves in dange.

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

No

Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?

My boss has been flexible for local chases, 2-3 hours; I can leave as needed as long as I have already figured a way to make up the time. I refrain from missing work for a distant chase, even on a Sunday it will cost me a day of work.

Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?

My wife wants nothing to do with it, but supports what I do; rarely do I get negative feedback about heading out to check a storm out. My two sons both chase with me as their schedules allow.

How long do you plan on chasing?

At this time I have no plans to quit.

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