5th SEASON: Storm chasers play large role in storm coverage
5th Season: Day 2
LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - Storm chasers play a crucial role in assisting the First Alert Team with severe weather coverage.
When storms roll into Texoma, chasers are already in place, ready to report on and capture what’s brewing in the skies.
But the planning starts well before the first raindrop, sometimes models show trends of possible storm potential two weeks out.
“Usually within 24 hours out, we have a very good understanding with our high resolution models coming, a better agreement on where our storms will start, how they will end up, and if there is going to be any super cell potential,” Chief Meteorologist Noel Rehm said.
The day of is when they’ll decide where they need to place themselves.
“We want to start at the beginning of the storm,” Matt Walter, operations manager and storm chaser, said. “We want to see what it’s doing as it’s building, and where it’s going, and the best way we can track it for the viewers.”
Walker has been chasing for almost 25 years. For him, it started as a hobby but shifted after the May 3, 1999 tornado.
“The destruction and the people’s lives that were changed on that storm, really changes your outlook,” he said. “You go from wanting to just see a tornado to now I want to try to help somebody not go through this.”
Rehm said having storm chasers provides information for tracking severe weather.
“What they do is provide us and the National Weather Service with crucial reports while tracking our severe thunderstorms and possible tornados while we are live on television,” he said.
Walker said radar doesn’t always see what’s happening on the ground.
“With the ground truth, we can see what’s actually happening there on the lower levels,” he said. “The radar doesn’t see anything from a thousand-fifteen-hundred feet down. So the ground truth of having somebody there that can say yes, there is actually a tornado happening.”
It’s not a job for everyone, and it can quickly turn dangerous; especially when chasing at night. It’s something we witnessed last October.
“In this case, it was a tornado that was very hard to see, it was in a rural community, no lights,” Rehm said. “The only thing that lit up this tornado was Matt’s headlights.”
Walker said the event which unfolded was unpredictable.
“It crossed the road, and a lightning bolt happened and the headlights of the car, and we just saw it,” he said. “And at first we thought thank God we aren’t in it’s path. it’s in front of us. And then it crossed the road and we start wondering what is it going to hit.”
Throughout a storm, communication is important. And the working relationship between our meteorologists and storm chasers to provide the best coverage possible, is another reason why You Can Count On Us.
“You can count on us to be the front lines of these storms,” Walker said. “To get you the information that you need to know, to protect yourself and your family.”
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