Storm chasing is becoming an increasingly popular activity — and why wouldn’t it? It’s amazing to see the biggest, baddest storms on earth do their thing.
However, we oftentimes get comments and notes from people who completely don’t get what we do — for whatever reason. The storm chasing in media and popular culture doesn’t quite meet up with the storm chasing of reality. Let’s look at just a couple of the more popular misconceptions.
Misconception 1: Storm Chasers “Save Lives”
Storm Chasers, on average, don’t oftentimes do much life saving when they chase. The average chaser will drive out to the target, watch a storm, take pictures and video, and go home.
Some chasers can help participate in the life saving warning process, and some have given warnings when the NWS wasn’t aware of a tornado threat which undoubtedly saved lives — but storm chasers by and large don’t save lives while chasing. For the most part we do it as a hobby and for fun — and only rarely does someone driving across the country actually enhance the warning process.
If you want to help save lives, we do recommend you get with your local emergency manager who works with local storm spotters and help your community. THAT effort can and will help increase severe weather safety every time you go out.
Misconception 2: Storm Chasing is All Excitement
Let’s get this one out of the way quickly: storm chasing is 80% driving around some of the more sparsely populated areas in the middle of the country in the hopes that water vapor may do what you want it to do.
Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.
A typical storm chase day is like a 6-10 hour road trip, except the destination is uncertain. Yes, chasing can be exciting but make sure you are ready for the road hours that’ll be put in.
Misconception 3: Storm Chasing is a Job
Almost universally, no one actually makes a living chasing storms. Some people have used chasing as a platform to help make a living based on their personality in terms of doing talks, consulting, etc.
But few people make an honest to goodness full time living chasing. To do that you’d have to make enough money selling video to news outlets or something similar– and those markets are challenging to say the least.
Another way a couple of chasers have found a way to make a living is by doing tours — but that market is both saturated and highly competitive. You’ll need a quite good chasing pedigree (and sizable marketing budget) to compete.
So sorry kids, you actually can’t usually grow up and have storm chasing be a job — but it can be a great activity and hobby if you love the weather.
Misconception 4: Storm Chasing is Extremely Dangerous
I may or may not catch flak for this, but hear me out. In the 40+ year history of storm chasing, only four known deaths have happened due to chasing. In fact, in just the last year there have been several people die in chess tournaments — two of which died in a single tournament.
So yes, it’s safer to chase tornadoes than it is to play chess…sort of.
The reason why chasing has been such a safe endeavor is that historically (and mostly today as well) storm chasers are very skilled at handling themselves in a dangerous weather environment, the track record over the decades shows that to be the case. So it seems counterintuitive to say it…but chasing isn’t actually as dangerous and ‘life-risking’ as some would have it be if you have a good head on your shoulders.
Anyone wanting to chase should pick up where many older chasers have left off — giving storms the respect they deserve while observing them from a (relatively) safe distance.
Misconception 5: Anyone Can Storm Chase
After the last misconception, this one is probably going to sound like I’m playing both sides of the fence. But no, not anyone can storm chase.
Because yes, if you have the proper experience and training — storm chasing is usually quite safe. However, if you don’t know what you are doing — storms are extremely dangerous. We don’t recommend just anyone go chase storms. Find a good tour if you need to — but don’t go wandering off towards the dryline with no real experience.
Another thing that many don’t take into account is that not everyone can afford to chase. Its true, chasing may be one of the more demanding and expensive hobbies you can think of. To chase a mere 10 times a year at an average distance of 350 miles per chase (think a half state and back) would cost you almost $500 in gas.
Take into account vehicle wear and tear and the likelihood you chase more than that and most chase seasons are going to run you up over $1000 a year in even a very much local chasing type of setup. That’s not something just anyone has money to pay for.
So not only can storm chasing actually be dangerous for untrained folks, but its also quite expensive!
So what about you? What misconceptions of storm chasing do you see that are popular?