If you see a monster tornado headed towards your car, and the first thing you do is grab your camera or phone to capture the next viral tornado video, your common sense may be in question.
Unless you’re the most acclaimed of meteorologists with the scientific knowhow and instrumentation to gather truly useful information about a tornado vortex, the correct response to seeing a tornado moving toward your vehicle is to flee.
To put it in gear, put the pedal to the floor and get the hell out of there.
But with so many people seeking the instant, though fleeting, fame of producing the next viral tornado video, that’s not always what happens.
Over the weekend, three renowned storm chasers died when a “triple vortex tornado” descended on their vehicle, pulling two of the three men out. One of the bodies was found half-a-mile away. The men were lauded as weather scientists by some and as half-brained thrill-seekers by others.
Whichever you consider them to be is up to you.
ABC News meteorologist and storm chaser Ginger Zee says the number of chasers has “boomed” in the past ten years. “Any time you’re in Oklahoma and you have an outbreak, you have chaser convergence. And it’s gotten bigger and bigger and bigger.”
If you ever find me in Oklahoma, considering the number of tornadoes that particular state experiences, you’ll immediately have reason to suspect some bizarre foul play. If you then hear that I was caught up in a storm chase, you should immediately notify the authorities that I was a victim of a bizarre kidnapping interrupted by Mother Nature herself.
Because when a tornado is headed my way, I change direction. I don’t want to produce a viral video that badly.
Joking aside, the danger caused by fame-seekers shouldn’t be discounted. Consider this from a New York Times story:
“Today, interest in storm chasing has surged, and a preponderance of amateurs with video cameras and a thirst for YouTube fame now jockey with seasoned professionals to see who can get the closest and most dramatic images of churning storms, causing some veterans to worry about a growing safety threat.”
Most networks and television stations will use footage of a monster storm because many people want to see footage of a monster storm as it’s happening. And I don’t blame them, really: I’d rather see someone else’s footage of a storm than have to go inside one to collect it myself.
For most of us, however, I feel relatively safe in suggesting that given the choice of seeing footage someone has to die to get or relying on a more distant view — from a tower cam, for example — to see the storm as it’s happening, most of us would be fine with the latter.
Anyone who operates under the assumption that it’s acceptable to risk your life for a few seconds of a tornado is doing it wrong.
“I hope it is a lesson to all the storm chasers of just how potentially dangerous storm chasing is,” Weather Channel Meteorologist Greg Forbes said. “There is some chance you could die.”
I hope more people can come along who are smart enough not to require such a tragic lesson.