The Storm Chasing Experience
This past July I went storm chasing for six days with Tempest Tours, a company that has been storm chasing since 2000. I have been in love with severe weather ever since I was a child, so to finally go storm chasing was a thrill. Just the mention of storm chasing to other people instantly brings up comments about tornadoes, safety and how "you have to be nuts to do that", but for me it was less about seeing a tornado and more about seeing the development of storms, the clouds and lightning associated with super cell thunderstorms. Sure, I had hopes of seeing a tornado, but if it happened that would just be icing on the cake.
Storm chasing is so much more than just knowing about boundaries, dew points, and reading a radar screen or satellite loop. Chris Gullikson, the weatherman and leader of our trip, knows all about Inflows, Dry lines, outflow boundaries, CAPE, convection, hook and bow echoes, cloud types, how to truly read severe weather data at every altitude, and knowing how that affects the development or weakening of a storm. It is his job to look at the map and to make decisions as to where we're heading. He also has to know the road structure, so that we're not put into a position where there's no safe way out.
Storm chasing is not about how close you get a tornado. That's the job of weather scientists that need to measure data inside a tornado. Storm chasing is about staying far enough away from the storm to enjoy it's structure and movement.