Weather as a spectator sport

One particularly telling graphic from Friday’s tornado outbreak, from

Graphic from 31 May 2013

Each of those little red dots represents a storm chaser. US 81 (the big vertical line) was just crawling with them.

Now in terms of sheer traffic levels, 81 south of I-40 doesn’t compare to regular rush-hour parking lots like the Broadway Distention; but if every third or fourth car is stopped to shoot video, things aren’t moving. Meanwhile, the sky closes in on you.

The first sign that things were getting dangerous was when a chaser vehicle from the Weather Channel was picked up by the wind, carried a couple hundred yards, and then unceremoniously dumped. They survived that one. Not so lucky: the crew from the former TV series Storm Chasers, all three of whom were tossed away.

Then again, the Storm Chasers guys, headed by Tim Samaras, were doing serious weather research, as they had been all along. And you can’t really complain about the TWC team; corporate, over the years, has done everything short of parachuting Jim Cantore onto an ice floe in the Arctic. But the volume of chasers this time around suggests a high volume of people who just want their footage on YouTube to go viral. I’m not sure I’d risk my butt for that.

It did not help matters in the least that one of the local television weather gods made noises to the effect that it might be possible to outrun the damned thing. (See the last 90 seconds or so.)

I definitely wouldn’t risk my butt for that.

(This takes place after the storm had turned away from my general direction. On the extended map, you can see the big bend in I-44 south of Nichols Hills and east of Warr Acres; I live just west of the middle of that curve. A lot of red and purple up there, but nothing actually rotating.)



  1. Jess »

    2 June 2013 · 3:02 pm

    There’s money, and fame, in chasing tornadoes. I don’t know what a good video sells for, but it must be substantial.

    Research is one thing; this is not’ especially if the chasers impeded the path of even one individual to make it to safety.

    As far as the TWC team: they’ve reached the point where common sense has been thrown away for sensationalism. I quit watching when I realized their best efforts to supposedly make a difference were fifteen minutes after a severe storm passed. They’re without consequence in a world full of consequences. Eye candy for the weather whores and nothing else.

  2. McGehee »

    2 June 2013 · 3:21 pm

    My wife checked the tracker used by the guide for her grad-school-credit chasing trip from last month, and apparently they were prudently clear of the worst danger.

    Samaras seemed to be more cautious than the other “Storm Chasers” teams — even though (and probably because) his project carried more risk than Reed Timmer’s adrenaline addiction and Sean Casey’s armored filming quest. That storm had to have fooled him at the worst possible time.

  3. fillyjonk »

    2 June 2013 · 4:50 pm

    “As far as the TWC team: they’ve reached the point where common sense has been thrown away for sensationalism.”

    THIS. I turned TWC on Saturday morning to see if OKC was still standing, and they were talking instead about their weather chasers, and showing the footage (complete with bleeped expletives and frantic, dramatic dialog about turning around NOW).

    When their own people become the news instead of the people actually living in the area affected, something’s wrong. TWC has gone steadily downhill since NBC’s acquisition of it.

  4. McGehee »

    2 June 2013 · 5:30 pm

    ‘Tis why I call it TWNBC.

  5. Tatyana »

    2 June 2013 · 7:39 pm

    Looking at that first map: one of those red dots is smack in the middle of blue zone. Idiots.

  6. Roger Green »

    3 June 2013 · 5:26 am

    Well, at least TWC folks acknowledged that they were extremely reckless, which they were.

  7. Charles Pergiel »

    3 June 2013 · 11:16 am

    I’m still thinking storm shelter.

  8. tioedong »

    3 June 2013 · 7:26 pm


    Ah, the good old days when I lived in Pawhuska and only had to worry about tornadoes hitting the house. Now that I live in the Philippines, I have to worry about earthquakes, typhoons, volcanos and dengue fever…

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