The recent outbreak of severe weather in Kansas had storm chasers out in full force. So many of them, in fact, that emergency officials everywhere are taking notice, and putting out warnings.
In Indiana, Delaware County Emergency Management Agency Director Jason Rogers’ advice to would-be storm chasers? Stay home.
“We certainly do not encourage people to put themselves in harm’s way just to be able to see a storm,” he said.
Sometimes, storm chasers can become a hindrance rather than a help, he added.
That happened in Kansas, where officials said that the large amount of storm chasers — jamming the streets with their vehicles — hindered emergency responders.
And some chasers there got closer to the action than they would have liked.
Members of an Indianapolis-based storm chasing group, SWAT, came face to face with one of the Kansas tornadoes.
Among them were meteorologist Brandon Redmond and Ball State University student Brad Maushart.
The team was reportedly chasing a storm at night and lost radar as the storm approached.
“Even professionals make mistakes,” said Joe Krupa, a member of SWAT, who was not out with that group at the time and did not endorse going out in that storm.
Some storm chasers, like Krupa, who has been studying severe weather since 1985, provide information, as well as video and photos, to the National Weather Service and media outlets.
He and others, he said, have been valuable in the field, offering constant updates on conditions to the NWS so they can put out more accurate alerts.
“I understand that certain storm chasing individuals provide valuable information to NWS,” Rogers said. “The problem that I see is that there is really no vetting of those individuals. There is no certification that says you are an official storm chaser.”
Rogers said that if storm chasing fiascoes like the one in Kansas continue, “we should educate individuals and make certification a requirement.”
Social media, popular shows and weather apps are creating more interest in storm chasing, Rogers said.
But a novice, Krupa emphasized, should not just download an app and go.
“It’s extremely dangerous because, without an understanding about how severe weather behaves, you are putting yourself in a situation that can get you killed or injured,” he said. “A lot of amateurs, for example, don’t realize that radar data, no matter how good it is, is up to 10 minutes delayed.”
He recommended that those interested in severe weather should first sign up for a Storm Spotters class, offered by the National Weather Service.
The local EMA, according to Rogers, helps offer it in Muncie at least once a year.