Tornado chasers be nuts

And maybe, Oklahomans be nuts, too. How do you live in that state? This video convinces me I’d be safer living atop a volcano in an earthquake zone near the sea, where the tsunamis could reach me. Why am I living in the midwest, anyway?

Hint for the videographer: The footage of what’s going on outside the car is dramatic and terrifying, but the camera turned inside is boring and annoying. In particular, the guy yelling non-stop from the passenger seat made me want to club him and make him stop distracting the guy who was actually driving.


  1. okstop says

    With or without tornados, Oklahoma is a terrible place to live. Constant winds, horribly hot summers, terribly cold winters, evil insects… oh, yeah, and God-bothering Republicans everywhere. It’s terrible. But I know people who go out on their porches to watch the tornados. They ARE nuts, the best evidence for which is that they continue to live there.

  2. Lofty says

    The last time I was in a violent storm, I stopped the car next to an embankment and waited for the flying trees to stop. Driving around in this is just stupid.

  3. richcon says

    My meteorology professor at SFSU chased tornados in the summer and took some of the most gorgeously clear tornado photos I’ve seen. (Huge prints were lining the halls of the meteorology department.)

    I asked him how dangerous it is, and he told me that a tornado will wobble side to side and jump around a lot within its path, but the overall path sticks to a straight line and can’t suddenly turn towards you. So if you know what you’re doing and you monitor the weather carefully, stay to the side of its path and keep a decent distance, you’ll be safe.

    I don’t think these guys had done that…

  4. gardengnome says

    These guys would be better to just pull over somewhere (relatively) safe and spare a thought for the people who’ll have to put them back together if (when) it all goes wrong.

  5. madtom1999 says

    The man screaming was a waste of time – but its easy to skip over that and not miss any of the rest.

  6. anchor says

    “…stay to the side of its path and keep a decent distance, you’ll be safe.”

    EXCEPT, in a situation like this which these fellows unfortunately found themselves in.

    This was not the single classic tornadic vortex from which one may indeed be able to determine a course (given the lay of the roads available) smartly away from it at right angles from its course, but a disorganized jumble of multiple vortices that covered a very much larger area than a single well-defined vortex typically does.

    The situation here is actually quite common – very brief but powerful localized vortices that barely last long enough to look and act like ‘tornadoes’ only to vanish in seconds.

    The obvious wind environment seen in the foreground together with the visible behavior of the multiple vortices documented in the first half of this video demonstrates that these guys were completely clueless to the fact that they were near or under the most powerful updraft core of this storm.

    As much as the braying jackass delivered advice to the driver, it was rather pathetic that these guys appeared to proceed in the direction that made their situation worse. They should have stayed put…but the screamer urged them along to encounter much of the worst of it.

  7. dccarbene says

    Are shoulder belts illegal in Oklahoma?

    Not that it would help much if your car was lifted into the whirlwind… But would make the coroner’s job a bit easier.

    Can anyone say “Darwin Award”?

  8. lochaber says

    This video convinces me I’d be safer living atop a volcano in an earthquake zone near the sea, where the tsunamis could reach me.

    And thanks to the wonder of subduction zones, you can easily get all 3 in a neat little geographic area. :)

  9. Lofty says

    When trees are flying past you, yelling “duck!” seems sort of redundant.

    He was probably too agitated to note the variety of duck, anyways it was probably a chicken.

  10. carolw says

    That’s why I stay here in Texas where we mostly get rain. Tornadoes scare the piss out of me. I grew up near the coast and lived through a lot of hurricanes, so they barely make me blink. Tornado warnings reduce me to a wimpering puddle.

  11. Christopher says

    Why in the hell would you go tornado chasing in a stock SUV? At least get a rally spec vehicle: full roll cage, five point harness, and helmets for all. Dumbasses.

  12. ChasCPeterson says

    the camera turned inside is boring and annoying

    Possibly even staged later.
    These guys are rank amateurs and consequently stupid. It looks to me like they want to make a vid about brave storm-chasers instead of documenting a tornado.

  13. esmith4102 says

    Maybe I’m missing a few rungs from my ladder of compassion, but I can’t sympathize too much with a red state who’s main message to the rest of us is independence, self-reliance, and “personal responsibility”. No underground shelters, except rare cases, in a state wracked with multiple annual tornado hits. The Oklahomans are masters at what has been called the Lucretius underestimation: planning for the worst is only planning for the worst you’ve seen in the past. Well hold onto your cowboy hats, Oklahomans, I have a feeling you’ve still not seen the worst!

  14. Trebuchet says

    My wife was watching the storm coverage on CNN yesterday and they interviewed some stormchaser who was complaining about “all of those idiots out driving around to see the storm.” Pot, meet kettle.

  15. sprocket says

    The footage of what’s going on outside the car is dramatic and terrifying, but the camera turned inside is boring and annoying.

    Yup. It’s just like the movie Twister (1996).

  16. ibbica says

    Anyone else read that title as “Tomato chasers be nuts”? No? ‘Cause that’s something I could totally get behind…

    Tornado chasing, though? Just reminds me of the emergency personnel up here reminding people every year that if you get yourself lost or injured while hiking or skiing off-trail, you’re not only risking your own safety (and life), but ALSO wasting plenty of common resources when others try to go looking for (and hopefully, rescuing and treating) you. Are USians not given the same sorts of messages? Seeing things like this, I can’t help but think of most of these self-described “adrenaline junkies” as being at the very least inconsiderate, and at worst downright dangerous to others :/

  17. anchor says

    “When trees are flying past you, yelling “duck!” seems sort of redundant.”


    Like the Hollywood silliness of a protagonist supplying a screeching “AIEEEEE!!!” while falling in some ridiculous plot device, yelling anything is redundant.

    Years ago I ventured outside to better see what the situation was following a tornado warning I saw on TV. I couldn’t tell what was going on just by looking out the windows, and it seemed very quiet outdoors. I found there was no rain and no wind whatsoever on the ground. It was absolutely still.

    Scanning the sky (which certainly looked impressively ominous) I spotted what looked just like a tumbleweed passing overhead. With a shock I realized it was a very large and mature tree – an elm I suspect, at least a 60 or 70-footer – roots and all, sailing by at an altitude I would estimate at between 700 to 1000 feet.

    Thinking back on my recollection that thing was shoving along at a speed of at least 100 mph. When I spotted more trees along with indescribable shapes of human origin up there it was quite sufficient motivation to run straight back and into the basement: big heavy trees falling out of the sky is a fearsome prospect.

    Afterwards in our immediate area there was no sign of any damage, but a mere mile or two to our southeast homes were roofless. I interpreted the event as a circulating vortex (no visible tornadic condensation funnel) that was moving so swiftly along as part of the straight-line squall front that the winds at ground level at my particular location were essentially cancelled out.

  18. anchor says

    “These guys are rank amateurs and consequently stupid. It looks to me like they want to make a vid about brave storm-chasers instead of documenting a tornado.”

    That’s what I think too. They’re the stars in that vid. in the way of, “DANGER DANGER, OH SEE HOW STUPENDOUSLY BRAVE WE ARE IN SURVIVING!!!!” (*cack*)

  19. vhutchison says

    There are four kinds of tornado chasers in Oklahoma: (1) trained professionals (some with meteorology degrees) working for local TV stations; (2) researchers from the National Severe Storms Lab and the Meteorology School at the University of Oklahoma; (3) paid tour guides that take people on chasing trips for pay. Only (1) and (2) should be out there – they get in the way and hamper those doing important work, as happened here in the recent outbreaks.

    The spotters/chasers for the TV stations provide valuable, current verification of storm locations that help provide the local TV/radio stations with the excellent warning systems that have proven to be life-saving. In addition, local TV stations in Oklahoma City have helicopters that follow storm development and provide additional alerts, as well as damage reports.

    Having spent some time last night in a neighbor’s very crowded storm shelter after receiving warnings from local TV (and local sirens in town), I am grateful to the chasers and their coordination with the media and Storm Lab for really up to date advisories.

  20. vhutchison says

    #28 Ooops! Left off (4): Idiots who have no valid reason to get in the way and try to get their jollies by chasing storms.

  21. steve78b says

    I worked for several years as a storm SPOTTER, not chaser. We reported to our local amateur radio network who reported to the National Weather Service in Norman OK and we had places to be in and not CHASE but spot problems. We had to encounter several CHASERS that seemed to not have a lick of sense. I was in several large tornado events including the very start of the May 3, 1999 tornado that killed 37 or 38. The SPOTTERS provided a great service but we stayed put and moved out of the path of the tornado.

    The CHASERS didn’t seem to care about right of way, speed limits, safety or anything else. The SPOTTERS were trying to warn people.

    When I see CHASERS I still see the reckless individuals that were a danger to others and had to be rescued (in at least 3 cases that I knew of near Lawton, OK)

  22. Ragutis says

    A good summary of Friday’s events by Dr. Jeff Masters:

    More than a few chasers got in trouble. Most seem related to one or the other of those two hard turns the El Reno tornado appears to have taken (fig. 4)

    Shit. It’s hurricane season officially today and we aren’t near ready. Yay! Another bunch of arguments to have with my Dad. And I’m sure they’ll be just as fruitless and frustrating as every other discussion I’ve ever had with the man

  23. says

    Tim Samaras, his son and another crew member apparently died today while chasing in OK. These people ARE the trained professionals and even with all their knowledge and expertise, they couldn’t stay safe.

    “Heart breaking and tragic news for the storm chasing and weather community today with the sad loss of storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and Carl Young. Tim Samaras was a weather scientist with National Geographic and starred on the Discovery Channel’s series Storm Chasers with team Twistex, his son Paul Samaras was a talented photographer and also starred alongside his father Tim and Carl Young was a meteorologist and also part of the Twistex team. It is believed their car was struck by the El Reno, Oklahoma rain wrapped EF3 tornado yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends as we mourn this tragic loss with them. May they rest in peace and watch and protect us all from above. ~ Admins ”
    From Southern Downs Weather & Stormchasing