storm chasing


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For midwest stations...

How does your newsroom handle storm chase days? Do you have teams? Web cams in the car? Does your newsroom trust you? For instance, if you know you need to leave early to get in position before the storms build, does your news director/producer/desk allow you the time to get there? Or do they wait until they have confirmed severe weather or damage?
Well, here in Northern Colorado we get our share of sudden 4 inch hail storms, small to medium Tornados, stalling storm cells, flooding, mud slides, you name it, we get it & they're all unpredictable. Two summers ago, we had the worst storm I have ever been in (4 feet of rain in 2 hours). So to answer your question, I get most of my calls at the last minute. Even the best Meteorologist in Colorado can't predict what's going to happen here. So they watch those radars like a hawk looking for a mouse.

A Step Above Productions

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Stations in Florida go crazy even when it is just raining - now when we have tropical storms or hurricanes its wall-to-wall. Crews are decided on a head of time. Most staions have a book with directions of who works togather, where they go, in what tye of car (live truck, news car, chopper).


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At my station in Toronto we have one guy who chases storms.. so whenever something happens, all storm plans mention him! :)


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For starters 4 feet of water is 48 inches. Most hurricanes only dump between 10-20 inches of rain, so I think you over stated that little nugget. Anyway...we in the Ohio area try and get out ahead of the storm. Also several photogs at my station went to the national weather service spotter program and became certified weather spotters. We not only call in to the station, we report what we see to the NWS.


Member is one of the best sites and data bases for storm chasing. Most of these guys will allow you or would be happy to help you on chasing. And they are a great source of footage for any type of storm or tornados. I found these guys while working on Full Force Nature for the Weather Channel. Hope this helps!

Oh and FYI the people who were able to catch a building going up in a tornado and sell the footage make apx 30-50Gs off of it.


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Thanks for the responses and links thus far. I also recommend getting NWS spotter training. It only takes one afternoon and REALLY helps you understand what to call in to the weather service.

How about this... anyone have any advice on how to convince the news director, or producer, or executive producer - to let you get ahead of the storms, ESPECIALLY before the storms have starting brewing yet?

EXAMPLE - it's a moderate risk day in your area from the storm prediciton center (, and you KNOW you have to be on the road shortly to get in position to chase. How do you convince the newsroom to (gasp) TAKE A RISK and let you get there even though they don't see anything on the radar yet?

Basically, how to you put glasses on the near-sighted producers?

C St. SW

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I also recommend getting NWS spotter training. It only takes one afternoon and REALLY helps you understand what to call in to the weather service.
Even more importantly, SKYWARN training will help keep YOU safe. Knowing how NOT to chase storms is as important (if not moreso) than how to chase them. Knowing how storms move, how they are constructed and specific conditions that tell you you are in the WRONG place should be mandatory training before your station turns you loose.

If you aren't formally trained to spot, you should be. It'll be the most valuable four hours one can spend in an afternoon.


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From my experience, they've always had SKYWARN training and NWS spotter training at the same meeting. Has that changed?

C St. SW

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From my experience, they've always had SKYWARN training and NWS spotter training at the same meeting. Has that changed?
The term "SKYWARN" generally relates to licensed ham radio operators. Whereas the weather spotting "science" is no different with NWS' regular "spotter" training and can be done simultaneously, SKYWARN also deals with reporting protocols and precedures specific to relaying their information via ham radio. If you have the local ham radio weather frequency (or SKYWARN net) programmed into your scanner, (virtually every market will have one) you can hear these guys passing their reports direct to the weather service. These reports can often come in over a very wide area.

Whether classes they are separated is basically determined by the individual weather service office and how many people/classes they're having to get around to.


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But nowadays, with the prevalence of the cell, "SKYWARN" also relates to anyone with a mobile phone. There is a SKYWARN hotline that you can call to relay reports directly to the NWS office closest to your location.

At least, that's how it's supposed to work... I was chasing a tornadic supercell through NE Iowa several years ago, and when I called the hotline, it connected me to the local office where my cell phone was registered. Not much help for Des Moines to know about a tornado in Waterloo.


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There are storm spotters here who track them. We go out wherever we see interesting activity. We have a chase truck but the computer setup in back is falling apart and ghetto-fied. Last year was the best I have been in as far as shooting weather just because of the massive flooding we had here in Wichita Falls--it was declared a natural disaster area when the river flooded half the city.

We have such a skeletal crew that there's too much for one person in the newsroom to do than keep track of stormchasing 'togs.


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Well heres my 2 cents

Beware of Storm Track. There are a few good chasers there who know their business.
It IS a good resource, but just be careful, far to many wannabes and yahoos.

That being said...we employ about 40 chasers in our broadcast companies various stations. All started out as Skywarn spotters first...and then we ran them through a certification process, which made them Certified Severe Weather Specialists (R). This course was a 200 hour course that was designed by a couple of our METS and a science teacher. Its an advanced meteorology course heavy on storm dynamics.

Our Chasers are used and paid as free lance stringers. So they are available most times when wx threatens without taxing an already depleted newsroom. Most use their own cameras and gear. I am the only one of the herd with a station provided chase vehicle and gear.
Storm Coverage

Servere weather is a way of life here in Missouri (14 dead in Racine last week) and we do have a plan for coverage. We try get shooters in position to "meet" the storm. This is mostly coordinated by our weather team. We also have a weather vehicle with satelite gizmos and bunch of other crap attached to it. :) I don't have a clue how to use it, I just ride with people that do and I take purdy pictures!


Storm Track has a lot of good chasers...but please don't bother Shawn Adams at all..he's pitching a fit over there about some station calling him while he was filming the storm a few weeks back.
But I'll tell you, back for Katrina, those guys were right on. They predicted everything a week in advance. Fox, The Weather Channel and many other would repeat what was posted within 10 minutes of posting.
If you read the forums, you'll see who is a wannabe and who are the real chaser.


Here in OKC we have a team of chasers that the station pays to chase. We set up their vehicles with transmitters and they go out whenever we ask them to. They do phoners/live shots from their trucks as well as stream when they are driving for the web and cut-ins.

These guys usually have graphics all over their trucks and tons of equipment. We not only use them for "storms" in the Spring, we also use them for winter weather.

As for the regular "news" units, if we need to we can Skype while driving from our phones. Several of our units also have portable, roof mount antennas so we can do live shots from our cars.

At my last staion (Tulsa, OK), they would send out our station chaser as well as a few news units. There were several times I was sent to locations several hours away from the city to Ustream weather events. Every car had a laptop mount and there were several laptops with 3G wireless that we used to stream. This was pretty handy and seemed to work well.

Every station does it different really, just depends on the company, the level of trust, and the budget!


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Oklahoma is the mecca of storm coverage in the nation and I don't think ANY stations in ANY other markets cover weather as good or the way stations in OKC do it. One of the best storm chaser in the country is meteorolgist David Payne who just joined KWTV News9. Here's the story the station did on him which also introduced his new storm chasing truck, STORM TRACKER 9.

In addition to everything Cody listed, STORM TRACKER 9 will also be equipped with a LIVE U, TVU, or Teradek (station has not decided on which one yet) so David can go live standing next to tornadoes as they track by.
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Jim nailed it, storms chase us. Days before a storm hits we are setting up base camps. We pre-stage from the Keys to Palm Beach. Our housecats panic at thunderstorms and they're superstitious because we've been so lucky for so long.
Leads to many frustrating false starts.

Chantal had me in the Bahamas just in time to have the storm dissolve. Never even got out of Bahamian Customs. Airport lunch and home that evening. Running in circles chasing 11 flight cases through airports. Not fun. At least let a brother have a night.

Time to set up and bunker is always a challenge. I never let the haircuts dictate location beyond their ability to remember safety over resume reels.

I've sought out landfalling hurricanes, even firestorms, but not tornados.

No matter what you are trying to get to, remember to stay safe.

Cheers and Luck,