Job title: Storm adventurer and photo journalist
Working Locations: USA, Mexico, Europe
Favourite app: Radar Scope
Phone for the job: Cat® S60
So what does a stormchaser do?
These days I call myself an adventurer and storm photographer who specialises in severe weather and natural disasters. In the US, a growing number of storm chasers are seen as outlaws. This includes “fake scientists” who mislead people by claiming to be chasing for scientific purposes and locals who are just want to see a good storm but often chase in a dangerous manner. I don’t just go out and chase tornadoes but look at all kinds of natural disasters as a photojournalist and severe weather survival consultant. Some of the images I take are used for scientific purposes. Occasionally I take people out to observe what I do. I’m also a tactical EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and I work with a couple of doctors and we serve as remote, volunteer EMS workers.
You must have had some close calls
(Laughs!) We could spend hours talking about close calls, I’ve survived everything from tornadoes to nearby lightning strikes. It would fill volumes and some of it’s been very dangerous.
What’s the biggest danger?
We lost three very experienced chasers two years ago in El Reno when a very large tornado engulfed them. We were on south side heading in to where the tornado was and there was so much traffic from so many people. That’s one of the biggest dangers. Sirens were going off, winds were going crazy. You could see the tornado. It was very difficult and somewhat nerve wracking to get out of there. A secondary tornado started heading right towards us and for a few minutes it was kinda spooky. We weren’t sure whether we were going to get out of there or not.
Why is the US the world’s twister capital?
We really have the perfect ingredients for extreme weather. We have cold air coming in from the north, we have the jet stream from west to east, we have the warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and and we have dry air out to the south west. When you put those ingredients together in that centralised area of Kansas and Oklahoma it creates something special.
What’s the appeal for you?
You never know on any given day what’s going to happen. You could be about to see the most fantastic tornado in history, or it might just be a rainstorm, that’s where the adventure comes in.
What equipment do you never leave home without?
My cameras! I also use a lot of communications equipment too. Radios – they’re still in use. But cell phones are a big deal as they’re the number one for communication and for receiving data. And communication in a natural disaster is critical.
What do you look for in a cell phone?
A cellphone has to be built like a tank for storm chasing. You got all the elements, dust, heat, changing climate from moist to dry air. And then just the risk of dropping it if you’re running from something. I’ve destroyed more cellphones that I can admit.
There’s a lot of radar apps out there. RadarScope is very popular. Mapping is the second most important. The ultimate would be a GPS satellite plug so you could get data via satellite, that would be the dream but nowadays it’s very rare we don’t have a regular cellphone signal.
Do you drive a super-pimped out truck?
We actually built the first tornado resistant vehicle back in the 90s. It had a roll cage, the glass was reinforced with explosion proof coatings – it had all kinds of extras. But we found it gave a false sense of security. The more fortified, the more reluctant we were to move away from a dangerous situation and there’s no vehicle that will survive a tornado. I’ve seen the damage they do.
Do you see a use for thermal camera?
It would be great for search and rescue.
What reaction do you get when you talk to kids?
They’re fascinated by how tornadoes form. But then they just want to hear the crazy adventure stories – like the time I had to fight through a web of black widow spiders, or wild dogs jumped in my car to escape, and all the other wacky stuff that happens.
Phone for the job?
With its superior battery life, rugged build and thermal imaging capability, the Cat S60 would make the ideal tool for a severe weather adventurer.
Warren Faidley is the author of the Ultimate Storm Survival Handbook