I recently did an interview with Meteorologist Quincy Vagell about storm chasing. He knows much more than I do, and I am grateful he took the time out of his busy schedule to educate me.
Me: What are some necessary tools and equipment you should bring while storm chasing?
Quincy: Radar data is a necessity. Whether it’s on a phone, tablet or laptop, you must know where storms are and where you’re going. (GPS and/or maps are needed too for navigation. For me, at least two cameras. One to shoot video and another that can be used to capture still images. A 3rd is a plus in case you have to bail out of a storm or change direction and you can get two different angles of video. I usually have a front facing camera on a tripod that can quickly be rotated. A weather radio is important too, especially if you lose cell service and want to keep up with warnings.
Me: What are some important safety rules to follow while storm chasing?
Follow traffic laws. Don’t speed, that’s only a last resort if you get stuck in a life-threatening situation, like getting away from a tornado. Do your best to track storms from a safe distance. Getting too close can endanger yourself and other motorists. Never drive into a tornado, under any circumstance. (unless you have a tank or are in the Dominator) Research the area beforehand so you can have escape routes and backup plans mapped out. Storms can fire at will and individual cells can change direction in a flash.
Me: What is your favorite storm chasing memory, and what is your number one goal?
Quincy: The favorite memory is a hard question, but I guess in Illinois last year during the November tornado outbreak ranks up there. I got stuck in a wooded area near a tornado warned storm and the wind ripped off my driver side windshield wiper. I lost radar signal and I ended up with two flat tires from running over debris. It was really a great learning lesson as I had a lot of takeaways from what happened. The number 1 goal is to witness a tornado (at safe range) and document the storm with video/photo proof.
Me: Final question, why do you love severe thunderstorms?
Quincy: Severe thunderstorms have many elements that capture my attention. The shear beauty of watching a towering cumulus cloud eventually growing into a 50,000 foot tall (or taller) storm and letting loose a fury of lightning, heavy rain, hail and perhaps a tornado. The fascination of how a supercell can form, mature and suddenly dissipate. On the flip side, watching a storm pulse up very quickly and collapse just as fast. The chasing aspect is what I look forward to the most. It’s next to impossible to really chase a storm in the Northeast, but out west things are much different. The ground is much flatter with less trees and hills to obstruct view. I am excited to be able to watch a storm from tens of miles away and get set up to intercept and photograph that storm at close range.
Thank you Quincy, and good luck!