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Chasing Tornadoes: Can It Be Done Safely?

Aug 17, 2007
There is perhaps nothing more exciting to do in the great outdoors than to chase tornado-producing storms. As you have probably noticed, the activity has become increasingly popular. It is dangerous. It is exciting. It is spontaneous. People who consider themselves storm chasers are intrigued by the potential power of thunderstorms in general, and tornadoes in particular. If you are considering trying this risky endeavor, it is very important to make sure that you are familiar with all of the steps necessary to ensure your safety.

Fortunately, the risk of being overwhelmed by a storm is very low. But if you place yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, it can happen. Even the most seasoned storm chasers do their best to avoid the "core punch" of a storm. The core punch is the wall of extremely heavy precipitation that is associated with a thunderstorm.

People sometimes get as close to these walls as they can for the purpose of gaining a better position on the storm. If you have paid enough attention to the path of the storm, you will not need to endure the core punch. There are several negative situations which can arise due to this period of intense rain, hail, thunder, or lightning.

You may inadvertently drive yourself straight into dangerously large hail. This hail can be large enough that it damages your car, possibly even breaking your windshield. You may also have issues with visibility and slick roads. Worst of all, however, is the chance that you may become disoriented and drive directly into the tornado. Needless to say, this would not be good.

When following clouds that may produce a tornado, it is not wise to put yourself in the path of rotating clouds. And if these clouds have already produced a tornado, definitely do the smart thing and avoid the twister's path. If you notice that the tornado is getting bigger, but it does not seem to be moving either to your left or to your right, then you are directly in its path. Again, this is bad news. Quickly move in a direction that is away from the tornado's path.

As with most outdoor activities, it is vitally important that you are extremely observant of your surroundings while chasing a storm. Imagine that your head is on a swivel, and allow it to rotate freely. Look above you, as well as behind you. Storm chasers tend to get fixated on one object in front of them. This unfortunate habit can lead to a sort of ignorance regarding everything else around them.

There are additional things you can do to ensure a safe experience while chasing a storm. If you're new to the experience, go with someone who has done it before. Always leave your car running, as you never know when you will need a quick get-away. Avoid driving into rising water. Watch out for the winds that develop in a strong storm. When combined with hail, these powerful gusts can be extremely dangerous.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do while chasing a storm is to know your limits. Never get yourself into a situation that you can't get yourself out of. Yes, there is a certain built-in level of danger involved in chasing possible tornadoes, but do your best to minimize this danger. If you feel as though you are in a situation that could hurt you, or possibly kill you, remove yourself from it immediately. These steps will allow you to enjoy the excitement that accompanies a tornado without exposing yourself to unnecessary dangers.
About the Author
John Edmond runs and writes regularly for Living And Camping Outdoors where you can find more articles on tornadoes and extreme sports. Also go to AllYearCamping for a range of outdoor activities and much more.
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