Thursday, June 9, 2011
When people see my truck with the antennas and windmill on top, they ask "are you a storm chaser?" Those of us affiliated with the weather service or emergency management prefer "storm spotter." We generally stay in the same geographic area (city or county) and pick a safe vantage point to watch from rather than chasing and getting as close to the action as possible. The chasers for the TV stations take more risk and generally experience more damage to their vehicles.
It's also not just about tornadoes. Most years, lightning and floods each kill more people than tornadoes. Then there is snow, ice, and extreme heat. You might see me driving in the snow testing for safety or blocking a flooded road to keep cars from driving into deep water.
Our reports help the National Weather Service focus warnings where they are needed and tell emergency services where they might soon be needed. If the worst happens, many of us are trained in search & rescue and first aid. We can start taking care of people while waiting for professional help and then transition to support roles after it arrives.
For some it's the excitement of the chase. For me it's the excitement of being able to help people in need.
If you're interested in learning how to help your family and neighbors after a disaster, check out http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/
PS- The big white sticker says "Service to others is the rent we pay for our space here on Earth."