KNSS Radio>Audio & Video on Demand>>Episode 30: How Close is Too Close?

Episode 30: How Close is Too Close?

Feb 10, 2017|

Is it for money?  For adventure?  For science?  What drives chasers to want to get as close as they can to a  tornado?  We ask our panel of chasers and emergency managers their thoughts on Episode 30 of Tornado Talk!  What motivates a chase?  How close is TOO close?  What are the dangers?  What ...

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Hi this is Dan from tornado talked. Please take a moment to go to our website tornado talk dot com and click support the show on the menu. As you know we offer this podcast three but it is not free to produce. We accrue monthly cost including writing researching recording editing in producing. If you click the donate button on that page you can help us underwrite the cause that's tornado talk dot com. Click the support the show on the menu and you'll see the donate button and thank you in advance. Podcast about one of nature's most fascinating phenomenon to share your two. Tony this story with us by email Jenin Dan at tornado talk dot com. Yeah and can add a tornado doc dot com. Now meteorologist. Jennifer near Moore and Dan Holliday tornado touch is on we will do just about any thing to see a tornado plus is. Thousands of dollars every year my does not sing hotels I see my car on arms is allegedly a macro order parking lot somewhere and just wake up and and get rating goes. They do we get that she's far and Caroline sit rescuers and video out there where this puts dust fly around their finishes too close. And it is just a matter of time before. Another hospitality group and I hope I'm wrong. This is tornado topped our panel of four Storm Chasers into emergency managers of each talk about the challenges of achieving their goals. And not all of them are the same. There's nothing gets the adrenaline going like seeing a tornado for real right in front of your eyes. But where do we draw the line when it comes to getting the best look at it. How close is too close. Yeah. I. Scott Robertson spent much of his professional career in radio and television. Right now he's a dispatcher for an air medical service in Kansas. He lives in the town of k.s bill that when storm season is in full swing he assistant Tina Kate LE EC HTV. In tracking severe weather. How close is too close to get to a tornado he says that changes each time he's out in the fields. I think I did it depends entirely on the storm Henri Levy a couple of different examples. Brings berg is a good one. The closest point I ever was to that tornado in this case. Large phase was about four miles to the southeast. And that was plenty close enough for me. Com. It did on on the other side of it I was a little less than three quarters of a mile from the more tornado. But had a real good handle on his speed. On its relation to me on where I was in relation to its. And now we had our own good saves out. You know and that's also that's a difference between your daytime and nighttime storm I definitely played nighttime storms further back. And tend to try to stay away from chase and nighttime storms because well really the last time I did I had a solid night time chase. Would have been Leo Kwan tornado I am not 2012. And that one that chased me so I guess I actually ended a week we ended up. As we like to save pitching lure some are but successful it's still it was a it was it was pretty close. That that points we have edited it we've projected. After we went back can Trace our GPS tracking and went with the official track good times remote. Weather service there were points that it was within about a mile to a mile and a half behind us. And of course we couldn't see anything this week he added there was might just end up all of our data had quit emerald sea and also we were just run up. You know and I don't wanna be in that situation. Aron rigs via lives in Marysville Ohio he fell in love with weather in 2010. That's when Erin started taking pictures of lightning and storms. The limit tornados affected his community in June of that year his storm chasing career began how close is too close to get to a tornado. My take on that it is building your mind to tell people how to storm chase you know it's fun things is very touchy subject especially you know after a day the most recent events. And did the way I see it is more East Orange chased or come through we're going to get storm chasing. And today you know the closer gonna start nudging it is trails when your first inning ended as you know you're not totally cheered me no way you do range in age is getting into this. You're learning the basics and you know over the years you pick up on little things you start chasing with other people that are more experience is Gergen a little closer live closer to me personally over the years of chasing I didn't start out you know my first year chasing you're driving into the outer circulation attorney it has I didn't just. And gloat about how close I got to Facebook and I still don't. I've gotten comfortable enough to where I can disease and my results closely these tornadoes and caps that raw power. While maintaining situation awareness has been these genius you know you're planning on getting close these tornadoes is being situation there where he gently guard and you can't you know and let the adrenaline take Hillary got to be watching earth satellites are an NC got to be watching for is gonna shift its course. Which way it's moving. And you just yet to take all these things into account and it also the most important he had to miss Avery. Because guys we've learned in the past tourney is do you have very chaotic motions at times. But times they will maintain a straight path and other times area they have a mind of their around. And that brings up the next thing where you can trying to gauge of the tornado is on a steady track or not it's guys. Mowlds board is easy no dancing around you or it's a big wedge tornado there's the one's gonna wanna keep your distance France. See you can still did semi close without putting yourself in danger. Because you know Wes train as this disease can expanding grow in seconds and gee you know over half a mile wide as the solid job answering a start arousal multi vortex drain out. And expand and you know mile wide tornado in minutes. Does it kind of tornadoes that you need to do you ask yourself OK is this close is this is safe street to get close to the in you have other examples like that Chapman Kansas turning them we got pretty close that it got out and yeah 10050 yards in that. But that's pretty known Whitney got close to it was in a I drilled into us fast no high days and it was it had maintains. I street course east bird this first thirty minutes 3040 vitamins and it's. Life cycle no super chaotic motions. And expanding kind of strange and when it hasn't bringing us that has reusing negate OK Italy close this you know it's not it's not behaving. Super oddly it's moving slow. We had this debris it's not gonna people around us and down is just this stuff like that he had to ask yourself this year when you get close these tornadoes. If you're out there. And you know you're you're you're busting on your windows from the windy and over and over again not learning a lesson are you may have. One closing carrying out acts snake eating us up like this happens any dangers of the this happens accidents happen you can access skydiving you can have an accident. Driving to work. It's as you learn for an eye and you don't have your mistakes. Mac crowd there spent 33 years as a meteorologist at the weather channel. He also enjoy storm chasing and like Aron was also tracking the tornado that nearly hit Chapman Kansas in 2016. He agrees that it was easier to observe that tornado because it was in wide open constraint. Matt says how close is too close and theories with each storm but he has a general rule was where to position himself in. General I don't like to be any closer maybe a half mile run to a mile and besides a lot of times I like to behold storm's structure Marlins too much here. So. You know what if I might might be a little bit further away a perfect example listen again Candace last year there was a storm out western Kansas. I'm that was just absolutely jaw dropping the beautiful from just. Now I know and I got some might that's photographs are taken back to. And there are other chasers don't want to get right to post the tornado because that's their goal and they got some okay video of a tornado there about them you know I. Oh my goodness look at that really. Beautiful tornado we don't like the channel and it worked really define it the telegraph to drain and he'd hardly see that you had to get right next to it. And so I much prefer being at five miles away from that storm. He even though I missed a couple tornado could really care about that. Gave Cox and his family live in Jacksonville Florida he's a member of tornado trackers a group of friends who met in church and share a passion for chasing storms. Gave says the bottom line and getting close to storms is that no matter the size of the tornado you're still dealing with danger for me. Just keeping in mind storm chasing is inherently dangerous and it's potentially deadly for a number of reasons even outside of tornadoes. Anyone standing outside of their car near super cell runs a risk of being struck by lightning which is a far more unpredictable hazard and tornadoes. You know I have to keep in mind all of those hazards when you're talking about now putting your life at risk it's not just tornadoes. There's really no right answer to put it frankly. They're no laws prohibiting people from getting to you within a certain radius of a tornado. Sarah really comes down to a matter of personal conviction. And that's always going to be different for every person. And the thing that everyone agrees on is that nobody is unaware. That tornadoes are lethal as the fact that. Comes in the play for everyone he decides on a chase but. There are certainly people who underestimate their own mortality. Going into chasing that I feel like those feelings are. Pretty easily putting check when your face to face with a tornado did the most recent one for me was when you it. Being less than a quarter mile away from India for you feel how insignificant you are and how frail you are it was. Is that it was interesting moment for me in the team we didn't feel like we're in danger and it was just that moment of recognizing your frailty. What I think is more destructive than someone to send to get close to the tornado. Our chasers deciding to apply their own personal conviction says other people. So in my mind that creates a rift that's a far greater hazard than anyone bring their own my terrorist. Because it's completely unproductive. And that is exactly what is frustrating to emergency managers we Storm Chasers get so close to a storm they are willing to affect the lives of others who live appearance. Chancy says as a director of emergency management and Dickenson county Kansas. He's a military veteran who spent seventeen years in law enforcement Chancy says his entire life has been serving the public. Didn't if you wanna get close and take this scariest picture in the world you know. What's on the line for yet your life you your life is offline. Home. Is it is an adrenaline rush yeah absolutely I. It's it is and I I get this same adrenaline rush but mine is utter fear I'm just scared to death and I'm worried to death about the people that are going to be. Damaged by this storm. I I don't wanna be close I wanna be as far away it right hander track the storms safely. And seated damages do and and give direction and path and words going and actually to keep saying that people are looking for in this just. Where's it going is it on a grounder that not on the ground you know work and I get to see this. You know I wanna be behind it I don't wanna be in front of litter beside it I don't wanna get cop by right. You know yes you absolutely can get too close and it's just unnecessary. It's so unnecessary. Dickinson county Kansas was most recently affected by the EF four tornado that roared through the region on May 25 2016. It. But it was also impacted during an outbreak of tornadoes on April 14 2012. The 2012 tornado everybody follow the Solomon rude nor will want to got a K eighteen highway. This storm went north a little bit more. But instead it turned and onto eighteen highway and trying to parallel people went straight and never it was gravel but it's one gravel for half a mile and then it turns to mud. So there's a house down there that that the into the gravel it's their driveway so they had they estimated probably 200 people. Pulled in their private driveway and then turned around and then got back on the road it cost them a thousand dollars to fix their driveway after that storm. To put new rock on and to fix the ditches where everybody. Plowed into the mud and turnaround in their private driveway. No one thinks about that they get off the road they pair up someone's field entrance or whatever there's there's damage being caused by some people would do this. We had a record service and talent pulled out. And vehicles after this one either of those ten vehicles were rental callers from people from out of state that came to chase this storm. From as far as Connecticut. You know they're there is stuff happening people are goal places they shouldn't go they don't know the road you're traveling on they don't know what's gonna happen at the end of this road. And I turn around and I get out if you don't know those answers. Stay on the pavement don't get off of the pavement. Can't stand volley as one county to the last of Chansi Smith and Celine county Kansas she's had a emergency management. 56000 people live there are more than twice as many as in Dickinson Downey. Candace says while it is her job to keep everyone safe she doesn't quite understand the fascination about getting closer a tornado. Athletic club did and is being anywhere near it in my opinion this is probably my biggest frustration and especially even with Britain needed. Admit that we act committed those amateur pictures and assured videos. We are telling the residents to go outside when Luke. Emergency responders are telling them to stay inside and the other storm shelter. Doors were sending exactly messages that doesn't make any sense the same thing with the extra case are being down Meredith and I would would say that appear in the Arab blue cropped hair and and you know that you're not resting place and you're probably too darn close. But even the most experienced in the entire field the meteorologist you are not exempt from the dangers of severe weather on May 31 2013. Twist stick side just an engineer Tim some heiress whose son Paul and researcher Carl young. Were killed when a tornado near El Reno Oklahoma got bigger than anticipated. Has that haven't changed how close we get to a tornado storm chaser Scott Roberts says the growth of that tornado would have been difficult to predict. I have to be honest with myself and realize that if I had of forecasts. Slightly differently. I may have been right up in there. Even ban I wouldn't have been up in mirror I don't think intentionally that close. You know I don't think anybody could know that that tornado was don't know why the way it did. Am. I I really don't know if I had forecast. Correctly how closely I would have tried to play that. Art I do know has it got larger. If I was already out of the path I would have stayed out of it improves server actually preferred to follow what some wireless. But it's. Now aren't you counting those guys were clear because that was their job to be there. Aron Rick Steve believes his time has gone by the El Reno events in May not change the habits of Storm Chasers have. I think it changed son. But as like you know he's he's hole I honestly don't think it probably opened up enough buyers come from one should have to be honest it's. It's kind of it's kind of like a hard question to answer because you know I did that day and I've seen some people you know they're traumatized by our Reno with good reason because there is lost you Palestine and there's other people you know that didn't necessarily have that. Really close encounter at dollar arena so it didn't affect them as much and there's still you know getting close so. I think as a whole I probably didn't open up enough eyes. Matt Crowder was optimistic that safety would become a priority after the may 31 2013. Tragedy in El Reno. Well I've really had some hopes that it might edit his impact on a couple of people that really overall my evidence shows that it had no impact. Really. Some of the same people that were very close there are actually getting very again and chasing at night things like that you know there's this. And yes I guess you know people. I'm I guess we sure why but it didn't seem to have a big impact but at least there's someone I can tell. Gave Cox a tornado trackers feels differently he says El Reno has become a moment in history. The has persuaded some chasers to respect each year yeah I think it actually had an impact on matches community I think calorie known. Reinforced what everyone already knew. Disaster on chasing his potentially deadly Tom so it was a reality check for everyone. Com but I think. I don't think anyone's unaware. That storm chasing could you get the calm it was just a reminder that yes this is this is a very dangerous thing that we're dealing com. And enforce ever went to ask if it's worth it mom and I think a lot of people said no it's not worth thing and I think there are some people who said that yeah that is worth it. There is an underlying concern that the race to get close to a storm. Might result in a tragedy and accident that could kill a family passing by in the other lane where high school students on the way to a spring prom. Could getting too close result in strict storm chase restrictions from the government selling county Kansas emergency manager Hannah stem law doesn't believe so. I think that that is opening its huge can of worms try to Eric Cantor is there's waves or issues with that then who suggest. And lawmaking. I'm aided the traffic lover in place and it looks like that that you know it doesn't matter. Just because it's that severe weather data doesn't need traffic class changed it traffic off her is placed there and played her recent. And and reach people who multiple time and time and time again I would petroleum weakens but without a letter that. It out but they got their tickets at about parity decoder box hesitates or somebody over for driving Atlantic conditioner. And then and they do I don't like it I don't know that regulating it making the terms hitters have a licenses to be exact in Turks. And I think it's more eight communication I think it's more of an education I can get more from relationship building issue more than anything. And depend the other executives testify at all. We want and need to happen that instantaneous information and feed those pictures that who fetal life video feed in its. And Africa and the next thing. To understand someone wanting to take the risk of getting close to a tornado you have to understand their motivation forest not everyone's desire is the same. Aryan race these claims his love for watching tornadoes. I don't get close because I wanna did the best shot I like I have to beat it closes as I can brag about it. Beavers and try to slow I there's something about being that close it is such raw power. C. Seeing that kind of emotion and in fact trying to just power up close just gets me every time and it's it's way different united photographed turning us army on mile away quite quite isn't lasers and structure shots. When you get up close and you can this year that tornado and you can just feel that the ground rumbling and just deal that kind of raw power. And it did not informally adrenaline aspect is is a very humbling aspect you know you're witnessing something that is. Just you know it's it's beautiful awesome but you almost can't make sense of what's going on now you is that you never seen. Motion might now before some three person is just it's an addiction has seen that kind of raw power just right in front of you being there experiencing that media. Relatives met cry other says he also observe storms for the love of nature but he believes some Storm Chasers purposely get too close for monetary reasons I think it's it's too. Told I think it's part of it is. Yes I'm on their web sites and some of them have the shell sell video in the malice WC NN they get that shot over. Up arms getting ripped to shreds and so are now all over the place and you know make your maker experiment in my house. Part of that type of thing. Some of the people that nearly got killed and El Reno probably end up making a semi automatic. Because of their close shape I'm not just that I don't think you know for me it's I well yeah okay yeah I'll make that the money is going to shelter where. And I think there's an adrenaline rush with certain people also just not commit thrills seeking an aspect to it. Emergency managers see things differently they're afraid they carelessness from Storm Chasers can make him a statistic. It's one of the reasons Dickenson county emergency manager chance cease math. Says he was heavily criticized after his comments went viral during a tornado outbreak in Kansas in 2012. There's another concern and storm chasing getting too close to the damage a newspaper reporter contacted Chancy on April 14 its 2012. He called me yet on this on this day when a 2012 tornadoes going through and people are. Everywhere. You know every road you turn on their scorers. And we get up decay eighteen highway were just tornadoes turn around and if you would turn and go west. Into auto counting it hit it transformer station and a natural gas. Area was together there. And it blew all of the power lines down onto the highway. So for a mile there were heightened tension lines laying on the highway. And it and it hit a natural gas substation where it comes up in a booster station where they pump it. And wanna poll had hit a pipe and was leaking natural gas blowing across the highway. And there were chasers driving over the power lines. So they could get down to the natural gas station to take pictures. And I'm on the phone with. The newspaper and I like these guys are idiots I can't believe they're such morons doing this you know and I would sit at about anybody doing something as idiotic as that. And of course that's what he published in a differences. Between Yemeni AM Kohl's chasers idiots and morons. And then hey you know began but that was just that's what happened that's what was going on at the time when I was on the phone with him and I was looking at that watching it I'm thinking. It's gonna blow up and it's gonna kill everybody down there and we're we're going from there. So that was that was what made me get some media coverage on from chasers feeding me. He's still Kansas Storm Chasers Scott Roberts says developing relationships with area law enforcement and emergency managers is the answer. He believes it creates trust while still enjoying his passion. The biggest reasons that I chase has to do with us. My contribution to the warning process. If so there is some difficulty with my eight technology or something I have I have been known to sit out days because I knew when I got in the field I wouldn't be able to communicate much more than just. On the phone what was going on there have been a couple of times and I in the last couple years that my video this actually led to severe thunderstorm warning decisions instead of tornado warning to socialist and you know so I know that there at the video that I'm providing hands you know the I'm also went on and WS chatting and so the information I'm providing through those two venues to the National Weather Service and ultimately to the public. Are playing a role in ordering process. Chansi Smith and Dickenson county host by sharing the stories about storms exams he can help Storm Chasers understand what he deals west. One such story occurred on May 25 2016. With a long traveling tornado people were fleeing the tornado like I never recommend that someone would do this but my goodness I think it did save lives this. That people got their vehicles and drove away we had some people. Getting their car with their children and we're leaving their house to get away from the tornado coming your mother called them but it just went by our how'd you guys need to get out of there. They loaded up in their car they came to the into the driveway. And there's people parked in the end their driveway. Out of their vehicle taking pictures. Of the storm coming. The husband yell that and they said were almost. Hold on a minute. The husband wanted to inflict violence on the people. In a bad way he really was gonna hurt him he was gonna crash into their car he was you know he was upset. Finally they moved in everybody got out and went on but I don't understand the mindset of someone trying to flee storm that can kill them. And I'll give us a few more minutes we just wanna take another picture. That guy that is beyond belief for me I don't understand. How they can do that. And that same day there was another incident when a tornado affected the life and property of some of his dearest friends. I have I have. Two Brothers and a dad that I am really good friends what they mean the world to me I'm there like trembling. The dad had cancer surgery. And we just coming home recovering he had died twice in the hospital. They had their party over deemed to getting back they getting home he's doing good he's he's he's recovering. He goes to Salina doesn't shop opening comes home on on the day the tornadoes government. He beats the tornado home by fifteen minutes. They get home there house's hit and completely destroyed by the tornado weather and it. All the walls in the house are gone except. The closet in the bedroom where they're at and they're beat up by rocks they needed ambulance help I'm actually at the son's house. Eating supper fixing supper forum. Because his wife flew us. Killed by a car in Saint Louis what they were visiting and the dad doing cancer surgery so this family has so much law. I'm going over to this leadership this storm to follow their canning and this is the storm the 126 miles on the ground across her camp. I'm getting over there and I hear on the radio that there houses it destroyed their hurt they need ambulance weather center and an ambulance over there. Well after this is all said and done I give it my county administrator we all have. Cameras in our inner vehicles that we're we're driving everything's recorded in front of us and my county administrator has one in his truck. And he's going north out of Stallman towards this could intercept this tornadoes it's come and indoor tanning and the spotters are lined up alongside a road you can see the tornado on his camera. Just as it hits. My friend's house. And you conceded debris go one up into the cloud and on the side of the road. There's a big truck and there's when metres engages in and and has been radar betting on this struck in their four guys standing in front of and one album has his hands above his head jumping up and down cheering. I was instantly I just wanted to cry I would slow down it really that's fun for you. My friends who lost everything now they've lost everything in their in their life about their house and you're cheering. I don't understand. That concept at all. It's more than I can think I just don't understand. They're Storm Chasers and emergency officials who want solutions so everyone can achieve their goals some of the mistakes I Storm Chasers are more commonly made by those hearing you at the Hadi. Gave Cox a tornado trackers shares some advice knowing your risks this whole episode is about now weighing the risks. It's an earlier risks when you're on now. I would keep their distance from tornadoes and the other full grasp of real life storm chasing. Because it's one thing to chase from behind a computer screen or just tracking radar scope that. It's way different when you're out there. And find the mentor you can teach either wrote some down there planning a Storm Chasers are willing. So let. New Storm Chasers right along and learn the ropes Celine county emergency manager had a standoff says both sides getting to know each other better is truly be answer it's an opportunity to be closely. Equated this you're going to be Americana type I hi captain and shake my hand at least I can play at escaped with a name. I can maybe get that you didn't know you a little bit terror weakened by not how it is that you and I can work together. How we are gonna to communicate. If I know you better than need all giddy director alpha and number maybe you can call each parent if you have the ability to get into National Weather Service chat. That's a really good opportunity as well. And that they'd think it just didn't. Did I think deeply committed relationship building and in my job it did and we always say that it Saturday saying he did that courage during peak times that it is more time. And that's definitely true it's like it's milieu before the end and didn't get to know who you are at me and what you do and how you feeling and how you operate. I certainly feel better about having you would like community. Next on tornadoes top the march 2 and third 2012. Multiple tornadoes ripped through the southern US and the Ohio valley including two EF four is. It became one of the deadliest march tornado outbreaks and history. Madness in March on episode 31 of tornadoes costs.