Since storm chasing was established back in 1960’s, Only 7 storm chasers have died during the chase and only three were actually caused by the tornado they were chasing. Even though storm chasing can be deadly, the risks storm chasers and meteorologists take are not high if handled responsibly and are justified by the lives they save.
Oklahoma is considered one of the prime spots for storm chasers to find tornados. Oklahoma is part of what is known as Tornado Valley which includes Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Kansas and a couple other states depending on who you ask. It is called Tornado Valley for a very simple reason; it has a large amount of storms that produce tornados consistently. Storms happen all over the country, but it takes more than just a normal storm to create a tornado. Corey Binns in his article “Killer Storms” writes:
A tornado requires some basic ingredients to come together. First, energy in the form of warm, moist air must exist to feed thunder storms. Second, there must be a top layer of hot, dry air called a cap. This air acts like a lid on a simmering pot, holding in the warm air that’s accumulating in the atmosphere below until the storm’s ready to burst. Last, there has to be rotating winds speeding in oppositedirections at two different levels in the atmosphere, a phenomenon called wind shear, can cause the storms to rotate. Tornado alley is perfectly situated to meet these requirements. (1)
Most tornados produced from these storms are relatively weak, don’t enter inhabited areas, and cause little to no damage. The problem is that Oklahoma gets 55.1 tornados annually. With all of these tornados, a couple of them are bound to go through populated areas and cause damage. The damage the tornado causes increases dramatically with its rank. Tornados are ranked on a F0 to F6 scale created by Professor Fujita. As for the power of these tornados, Professor Fujita states that the F0 tornado rank has 40 to 72 MPH winds that cause little to no damage and the F6 tornado rank is the worst tornado possible with 319 to 370 MPH winds that would demolish anything it gets close to (1). Along with the trouble of predicting the location and strength of a tornado, is predicting its direction. A tornado can be read and if done correctly, its path can be mapped out. In some cases however, a tornado will abruptly change its direction without warning. According to Dan Robinson, the May 31, 2013 tornado in El Reno was his most dangerous chase of his career. It resulted in over $2,000 in damage to his vehicle and equipment and almost cost him his life. He narrowly escaped with moderate injuries but other storm chasers weren’t so lucky (1). “I have not spoken much about how I feel about that day, other than what I’ve written in my chase account for the event. The tragedy of that day has left me honestly not really knowing what to say or feel” (Robinson 1). Robinson witnessed the death of three storm chasers that day. Although this is a very dark...