August 22, 2014

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Conditions at Parkersburg, Mid Ohio Valley Regional Airport, WV
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Tornado Chasing

Tornado chasing isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Given the recent tragedy in Joplin, MO and Oklahoma, a lot of people have been thinking about tornadoes.

The question comes up quite frequently, "Wouldn't you like to go chase tornadoes in the mid-west?"

NO!

First, the camera doesn't lie, but you must realize that the fantastic clips that we've all seen and "ooohhh" and "ahhh" over have been edited... twice.  Once, to eliminate all those boring minutes when we're sitting and waiting for something to develop, and second, to condense only the best parts of the footage.

Second, the chase or a tornado is really that.... a chase... that crosses many states and hundreds of miles in a day.   To position oneself in harms way to hope to see a tornado develop is a very time consuming, and expensive proposition.

Third, think of the expense in terms of gas, meals and hotel rooms, not to mention the wear and tear on a vehicle, tires, engine, AND the windshield to get up close to a tornado.

Recently, there has been a spectacular clip of a tornado (on YouTube's HolyTornado84 channel) in Oklahoma, and as riveting as the footage may be, the real star is the background audio.  We can listen as four grown men argue over whether that funnel cloud right in front of them is going to become a tornado...and worse, if it is coming at them or not.

Fortunately, the driver doesn't listen to the man running the camera, who repeatedly assures everyone "It's not coming here...It's not coming here....we're OK...we're OK right here..."

The fact of the matter is that they weren't safe.  And the driver slams the car into reverse, and races backwards about a half a mile on a divided highway where traffic has stopped and is turning around.

The tornado intensifies, and crosses the divided highway, exactly where the filming car had been setting.  The footage goes on to show the car continue to chase the tornado until getting stopped by power lines downed on a side road.  Only then, does the cameraman say, "Oh No, look at those houses.  We've got to stop.  We need to go search for people."

That should drive home the point, that while the majesty and power of a tornado is alluring, the reality is that people die, homes are erased, and tornado chasers are putting themselves at risk for the price of a few moments on video.

It's just not worth it.

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