There’s an adage in the deep south. People will say, “Where in the world is Jim Cantore?” if they know Cantore, a presenter for the Weather Channel, is in town. His presence indicates a hurricane coming their way, and that means either evacuation or preparing for a nasty weather beating.

Last week I was chatting with some weather-nerd friends about the quad-state tornado outbreak and then, just a matter of days later, the outbreak in the Upper Midwest. We were watching as storm chasers we follow traveled anywhere from Nebraska to Minnesota.

As the storm chasers made their way north and we watched the National Weather Service threat-levels tick up, we knew it was a matter of where, not if, a tornado would touch down in Minnesota.

It turns out we were right, but not in the way we hoped: away from any homes, with no damage to property or life. It’s never fun seeing homes, businesses, and even lives, taken by the disaster that is a tornado. It always is heartbreaking, because you know the great effort it takes to rebuild. Some towns, even in the past 20 years, never recover, and turn into ghost towns. And that’s a sight you’d wish on no one.

But I won’t deny there’s an adrenaline high that comes with storm chasing. About four years ago, I became a certified storm spotter for the NWS. Doing whatever small part of keeping humanity safe from devastating tornadoes is coupled with that experience of power and a sense of awe while watching the storms.

It should be no surprise that for a handful of years, I was a dedicated viewer of the show “Storm Chasers” on Discovery Channel. The show, which debuted in 2007 and ran for five seasons, follows several teams of professional storm chasers, most of whom are meteorologists trying to gather data for scientific projects.

They include:

— The VORTEX (Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment) team, a government-funded tornado research program helmed by Josh Wurman, an atmospheric scientist and engineer. He invented the DOW, or Doppler radar on wheels, which was featured heavily in the show.

— The TWISTEX (Tactical Weather-Instrumented Sampling in/near Tornadoes Experiment) team. Tim Samaras was known in the storm chasing community as one of the most scientifically minded chasers and engineers, focusing on deploying his “turtle” probe — an instrument to gather data — in the path of tornadoes. TWISTEX also included fellow chasers Carl Young and Tony Laubach. Just a couple years after the final filming of the show, Samaras, his son, and Young were killed chasing a tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma. Samaras was hailed by many as being one of the most careful and safety-conscious storm chasers in the industry.

— Team Dominator, led by storm chaser and meteorologist Reed Timmer. Timmer’s exuberant and intense personality and almost tunnel-like vision about getting to the storm often led to clashes with fellow chasers, like his best friend and fellow chaser Joel Taylor and fellow chaser/videographer Chris Chittick. Timmer still is a storm chaser, focusing on data collection and video.

— Team TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle), the only storm chasing group that isn’t led by a meteorologist. Led by filmmaker Sean Casey, the TIV crew’s goal is to capture intense footage of a tornado for Casey’s IMAX film, with a main goal of capturing footage of being hit by a tornado.

Each of these groups are passionate about the work they do: wanting to benefit the scientific community with gathering data that could help create better plans for surviving a tornado: — from increasing lead times, to being better able to predict when and where a tornado might form or travel, or offering insights into building better structures to withstand tornadoes.

Just like any reality TV show, and even just in real life, there is drama. The chasers are tired, traveling long distances in a short period of time, and trying to predict where a tornado might form. Some people just rub the others the wrong way. Not everyone has the same goal, safety concerns, or level of dedication. When all, or even just a couple, of those ingredients are put together, like a tornado itself, it can be a disaster.

And while the drama is just a part of the show, it showed the seriousness of their work, the dedication to their jobs, and of course that adrenaline from the chase.

“Storm Chasers” is currently available for streaming on Discovery+.

Hannah Davis is the Area Editor at the Forest Lake Times. You can contact her at or (763)233-0709

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