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Thread: Lacrosse tornado police incident 5/25/2012

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    Default Lacrosse tornado police incident 5/25/2012

    Was anyone else witness to this officer blocking HWY 4 just west of Lacrosse?
    Im wondering what the other two chasers thought who were out there with me. I never go to talk to them.

    Here was my take on the whole thing-

    After the tornado crossed HWY 4 we had an incident with a police officer. With two storm chase vehicles ahead of us we were tracking the storm nicely, knowing where it was and with decent visibility at the time. Then a police officer in a response emergency truck come driving down the road and blocks the HWY right in front of us. This caused the chasers to have to stop rather quickly including us. This suddenly became a dangerous situation, there is only one way out with huge rain and hail shafts behind us. The visibility dropped to almost zero since we have to remain in one place like sitting ducks in the rain and hail. The chasers ahread started around the vehicle and the officer was obviously very upset and kicked and hit one of the vehicles as it was slowly going around the truck. So I decided not to go around but to obey him and wait there. At which point he comes up to the car screaming at me. "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?" he asks. This was the only thing I remember him saying as he very argressively approached me and continued screaming things. This officer was clearly not able to handle the situation rationally and I thought for a minute that he might attack so I was ready to avoid him. He then starts screaming for me to stay there, not to move and asking me why I would be out here. So much for me being the one to stop and obey his order not to go down the HWY huh? So as we are forced to sit through the huge shower were visibility was almost zero and not being able to see possible other weather hazards such as a satellite tornado (which one missied us by maybe a mile or so?). A very unsafe move by the officer overall, and it was very dissapointing how he reacted to the person who actually obeyed his orders. At one point he was leaning at me like he was going to throw a punch, I was amazed, shocked and I knew it was a lose lose situation under any circumstance if this became physical. I understand he was probably extrememely upset about the other chasers going by him like that. But the fact was that he made a controllable situation a very dangerous one and the chasers ahead realized this and werent going to be caught up like I was. Knowing how the officer reacted I should have done the same, and probably should have done the same out of safety for myself and my chase partner.

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    I completely understand when officers block roads after a tornado has crossed them, more so if it has caused damage. However, it sounds like this wasn't one of those situations. If you were going the speed limit, weren't breaking any laws, then that officer clearly acted inappropriately. I would have taken his name/number down and called in a complaint for whatever district he works for. He clearly has a problem with storm chasers/spotters, yet knows nothing about storm behavior/structure, or any meteorology for that matter.

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    Member STexan's Avatar
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    LE is trained to "protect the public". In his mind he probably thought he was. To be fair, he probably did not have the benefit of CURRENT radar and storm motion information, in relation to where he was. If the tornado passed IN FRONT of you, maybe he assumed there would be downed power lines, trees etc and storm chaser or not, he thought he was being "prudent". Possible downed power lines ahead, possible hail core or other major cell approaching from behind ... what's he supposed to do? The answer is, he needs to be made aware of the current situation as radar tells it and make a judgement call. But moreover, if the roads are not real busy with other motorists, chasers (with live and current knowledge of the storm situation and circumstances via onboard radar updates) should be allowed to "proceed at their own risk and consider themselves warned". Was this incident after dark or was there decent light remaining?
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    Member Andy Jackson's Avatar
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    Michael, if you haven't read this article:
    http://www.stormeyes.org/tornado/jd5may93.htm

    Remember as a chaser expect a road to be blocked at the worst possible time whether it be a cop, tree, powerlines, or an overturned semi. As far as the cop it sounds like he was doing what his job description entails. As far as his behavior, that's self explanatory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Logan Karsten View Post
    I completely understand when officers block roads after a tornado has crossed them, more so if it has caused damage. However, it sounds like this wasn't one of those situations. If you were going the speed limit, weren't breaking any laws, then that officer clearly acted inappropriately. I would have taken his name/number down and called in a complaint for whatever district he works for. He clearly has a problem with storm chasers/spotters, yet knows nothing about storm behavior/structure, or any meteorology for that matter.
    I along with the other chasers were going maybe 5-20 MPH at times, just creeping along with the storm. I was third in line, and yea he definitely caused more danger than anything the tornado was doing. After he was in the near zero vis rain/hail shaft he started moving after a minute or so. At that point we were subject to anything the storm was going to do to us. It wasnt fun.

    Also- I understand(as my partner said) that I was the first one he talked to after the guys passed him on the shoulder, so I probably caught the frustration full force from that, but I was thinking he was going to be happy I stopped and did what he wanted.

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    Quote Originally Posted by STexan View Post
    LE is trained to "protect the public". In his mind he probably thought he was. To be fair, he probably did not have the benefit of CURRENT radar and storm motion information, in relation to where he was. If the tornado passed IN FRONT of you, maybe he assumed there would be downed power lines, trees etc and storm chaser or not, he thought he was being "prudent". Possible downed power lines ahead, possible hail core or other major cell approaching from behind ... what's he supposed to do? The answer is, he needs to be made aware of the current situation as radar tells it and make a judgement call. But moreover, if the roads are not real busy with other motorists, chasers (with live and current knowledge of the storm situation and circumstances via onboard radar updates) should be allowed to "proceed at their own risk and consider themselves warned". Was this incident after dark or was there decent light remaining?
    It was just after dark, so there was a bit of light left, not much though, but there was so much LTG that you could see the twister every second or so.

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    Member Jeff Duda's Avatar
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    I think it makes a big difference if, by stopping you at that point on the road, he was causing you to be in danger from other parts of the storm. In cases like that, I think you should be as assertive, direct, and frank as possible to communicate the threat that the officer probably is unaware of.
    M.S. Meteorology, Iowa State University, 2011
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    Member Stuart Robinson's Avatar
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    Hi Michael,
    I was also on HW4, 7 miles West of lacrosse on the bend of the road where it turns North. I remained there while the tornado formed but went East to reposition before the police officer blocked the road. I could see the police officer (in the direct path of the tornado!) blocking the road as I filmed video back from the west – I wonder how long he waited there before moving??
    Skip forward 45 mins… After the tornado roped out I tried to then get North on HW 183 out of lacrosse. The road was blocked by a fire truck that was protecting cars from driving over power cables that had fallen across the road. Before I could event talk to the fireman he shouted at me that he did not want to see another single “stormchaser” in Lacrosse ever again and to just leave!
    I am not sure what the reasons for his outburst were. I just politely told him that I would turn around and get out of his way so that he could best get on with his job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Robinson View Post
    Hi Michael,
    I was also on HW4, 7 miles West of lacrosse on the bend of the road where it turns North. I remained there while the tornado formed but went East to reposition before the police officer blocked the road. I could see the police officer (in the direct path of the tornado!) blocking the road as I filmed video back from the west – I wonder how long he waited there before moving??
    Skip forward 45 mins… After the tornado roped out I tried to then get North on HW 183 out of lacrosse. The road was blocked by a fire truck that was protecting cars from driving over power cables that had fallen across the road. Before I could event talk to the fireman he shouted at me that he did not want to see another single “stormchaser” in Lacrosse ever again and to just leave!
    I am not sure what the reasons for his outburst were. I just politely told him that I would turn around and get out of his way so that he could best get on with his job.
    Maybe they had an incident in the past with chasers doing crazy things, but whatever it is they should probably understand that we are there to help and that we understand far better what the storm is doing than they do.
    The last thing a storm chaser needs is a police officer blocking roads when they dont understand the storm movement, risks, ect...
    I guess there is always going to be some conflict in situations like this however.

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    Michael, it's one of those days where you thought you were doing "the right thing" and you end up getting screwed for it anyhow. There's probably nothing you could say to the guy to defuse the situation. You thought he might take a swing at you; that tells me the rational part of his brain had switched off. Maybe he is a decent guy under normal circumstances, but for him, this was a high stress situation and he reacted in a crazy way.

    2nd issue: when those who have authority over us know less than we do. Assuming you're talking to an officer that's rational, ask if there are trees/power lines down ahead. No? Don't know? Well, this is a really bad place to stop. (If they still don't want you to go through then it sucks, but there's not much more to be done about it.)

    Andy, interesting story from Jon Davies. I hadn't read that before. All I have to say is that story makes me cringe.

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