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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Are Storm Chasers Becoming a Danger to the Public? Hey, I haven't posted a rant in a while.

First off, thank you to all our veterans who protect my right to free speech and the legal system which protects and allows me to bitch about things I think are stupid.

Probably thought I was going to complain about clogged roads huh? Nope, not even close. Bigger problem people. In the past 5 years (the past 3 for sure) there is this weird marriage between social media the social outcasts. Yup, it's the attack of the chase team / chase club / chase cult / chase brotherhood / etc. With the leap of social media occupying a large part of our lives, in many cases it is the vital channel for relaying information. We all know if it says so on the internet, it must be true. Well, thanks to the internet there a lot of self-proclaimed experts out there now.

So, let's talk about the need for social identity. I am MIFFED by this weird need of certain segments (and in a lot of cases a certain demographic profile) to have social acceptance for being labeled a "storm chaser". A lot times it is beyond a need. It's a DEMAND for respect. For those of us old timers who have been driving thousands of miles a year in hopes of seeing rain and well before Facebook and Twitter existed, this identity label is new. I get a steady stream of friend requests and followers from a person who feels the need to include "storm chaser" as part of their name. Why? Do you honestly believe that your prowess in being able to see a storm is validated by adding "storm chaser" to the set of letters your parents gave you at birth? PAWWWWLEEEEEEESSAAAAAASE. From personal observation over the years, 90% of the people doing this have some serious personal identity issue. Look a Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs. (If you are not sure what I'm talking about, Google it. It will probably make you the smartest person in your group/club/team or even move you up in rank within your caste system or something.) Somewhere in the middle of belonging needs and esteem needs things really start to get messed up. Maybe they were social outcasts as kids? Maybe they feel slighted by society? Maybe they have absolutely nothing else in their life and the idea of being seen as "cool" is overpoweringly consuming them? I don't know. I'm not a psychiatrist nor do I claim to be a doctorate recipient via the internet.

Now you have two of these outcasts who meet via the internet. I have notice the "storm chaser" label seems to posses some type of magnetic force which draws them to each other. Well, if they are in close geographic proximity, seems inevitable they need to form some type of team or club. Reminds me of the scene from Napoleon Dynamite where Uncle Rico and Kip:

"Uncle Rico: We need like some name tags with our picture on it, all laminated and what not. I mean, we gotta look legit man."
"Kip: That's true, that's true."

One comes two, two becomes four, and so on until there are a a dozen or so self-proclaimed storm chasers all running around with laminated photos on the internet proclaiming their legitimacy and demanding respect. (News for you. Outside of the sheep running around in the world today, not many others will ever take you seriously.)

Yup. Get a name (which includes storm chaser or chasers depending on how many friends you found on the internet), a website, and a social media page. You are now a legitimate weather forecasting / weather alert service and dammit the world better take your group seriously! Someone has to save lives and get the word out!

Now this pack of like-minded individuals rip off a few photos or video (to add creditability or just as bad use their own which are crap) and start posting copy and paste clips from legitimate sources or posting graphics from the National Weather Service, AccuWeather, TWC, what have you and pretty soon a few likes later....BAM!!! The general public got duped into thinking these yahoos are a legitimate weather information source. Holy crap. Yes, some people are smart enough to see through it but lets be honest here. Most people rely on (get ready for this) THE MEDIA for general weather information. What happens if there is a real event where TIMELY and ACCURATE information is needed? Gonna go on Facebook in hopes the local good old boys storm chaser armada is going to have time to copy and paste information from a real source which may effect the rest of your life (or keep you alive?)??? Maybe natural selection needs to start making a comeback?

If you want to "network" with other people with the same interests, fine. Just don't pass yourselves off as some type of official organization or office source. I am waiting for the first time I see an interview after a tornado where one of the victims complains about no one on Facebook told them a tornado was coming. I wonder what the response of XYZ Storm Chasers would be if they were confronted by the victim who just got done calling them out on TV? I think it would be an entertaining change from the usual "we didn't hear the sirens" or "there was no warning" we all have seen and heard. Beware of (I love this term) Facebook Forecasters. Your weather source for when "shit gets real" may be a 14 year old kid using his mom's laptop or a 50 something year old whose perception of reality starts out with http://

Bottom line is if you want to be taken seriously, DON'T PRETEND TO BE SOMETHING YOU ARE NOT. If you want to be part of a spotter group, be a spotter group. If you want to be part of a pie club, join a pie club. Just don't call yourself a storm chaser, forecaster, sergeant at arms, what ever. You look like a damn fool. Morons like this have absolutely destroyed the definition of a "storm chaser". I'm to the point where I don't think it is wise to be labeled as such anymore. If someone sees me on the side of the road and asks if I'm a storm chaser, my response will be "naw,I'm out here by myself just taking photos of the clouds". But I see you have Minnesota plates and this is Kansas? Me: "yeah, sometimes I drive outside the county I live in to take pictures". You get the idea.

You want accurate, timely information? Get a good weather radio, know how to program it or have someone who does know do it for you. Want to learn more how the weather works and how the real reporting system is set up? Attend a SKYWARN classed sponsored by the National Weather Service. Anything else would be the equivalency of trusting an auto mechanic to perform neurosurgery.

BTW, make sure you pick out the satire in here. There are a lot of legitimate "storm chasers". However, there sure as heck are a lot of posers too.

Oh, and by the way. If you really want to save lives, donate blood or plasma. That will make an impact and you won't have to figure out how to mount a light bar on your vehicle.


Anonymous said...

"I get a steady stream of friend requests and followers from a person who feels the need to include "storm chaser" as part of their name. Why? Do you honestly believe that your prowess in being able to see a storm is validated by adding "storm chaser" to the set of letters your parents gave you at birth?"

Damn do I ever too. -MS

Anonymous said...

Where are your media credentials... Bill?

Anonymous said...

Well said Bill !! IMHO, there always have been, and always will be, a significant segment of society looking to get involved in a hobby that also provides some feeling of self-worth & validation from others. For these folks, the hobby or 'avocation' represents a vehicle for building or expanding one's social life..

Over the years, I have belonged to a number of clubs/organizations, and a good percentage of the people in every group were there for the social validation aspect just as much as they were involved because they were fascinated in the area of interest or saw the opportunity for an interesting challenge.

And this is completely fine by me. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, as no harm is being done.

However, as you wisely pointed out, when it comes to the topic of severe weather, lives are always at risk. Consequently, what people choose do to build their social circles is not likely to be benign, ie. there are behaviours acted out to gain acceptance & notariety that may be dangerous to the public & storm chasers.

The questions I have are,

"How can these people be respectfully & effectively discouraged from crossing the line & putting people at risk?"


"Who, if anyone, should be policing this?

I would think that minimizing the damage done would be in the best interests of the legit chaser crowd, but who would feel comfortable taking on that role?

Thanks again for a thought-provoking blog.


D Ryan Johnson said...

I gotta say, I really liked this post. I've been spotting for Stearns County for 7 years now while I've been finishing up my meteorology degree (now done), and I still wouldn't pretend to be a storm chaser. I know you guys who've been doing it for a long time, who've been keeping up with training, are the real deal, and I have a huge appreciation for your miles and experience.

Stephen said...

Disowned the label several years ago, going anonymous.

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