STORM CHASER SAFETY RULES

by Tim Marshall

Storm Track, Mar/Apr 1994

The following storm chaser rules have been compiled from various sources in hopes that you will abide by them in order to minimize your frustration and others on a chase. Let me know if you have any others to add to this list.



CHASE VEHICLE


a) Make sure the car is reliable (ie. tires filled with air including spare).
b) Be prepared for small emergencies (ie. have a tire jack, road flares, wood board, jumper cables, tire pressure gauge, motor oil, small fire extinguisher, radiator hole fixer, tire inflator kit, extra coolant, and air pump).
c) The car should have a working AM/FM radio. Also, cruise control is a must.
d) You should have appropriate AC adaptors for your cigarette lighter.
e) Clean windshield and apply RAINEX before the chase.
f) Cheek to see that the air conditioner works, and all lights work.



CHASE COMFORT


a) Have a portable scanner, pre-programmed with spotter repeater frequencies.
b) Bring a small cooler for drinks and sandwich meat. Use ice packs.
c) Acquire up-to-date road maps and atlases. Rand McNally or Gousha are best.
d) Bring along paper towel and Windex. Keep the towels in plastic.
e) Have a weather radio to obtain the latest local weather warnings.
f) Have plenty of credit cards, travelers checks, or money.
g) Carry a hand held tape recorder to document your chases and have plenty of tapes.
h) Bring sunglasses to reduce sun glare and a jacket for cold air outflows.
i) Stow away a small first aid kit equipped with bandages and antiseptic.
j) Take along flashlights for map reading at night and emergencies.
k) Bring a ruler along to measure the diameter,of hailstones.
l) Have optional weather equipment such as barometer, dry and wet bulb.
m) Have a compass on board. Many roads don't go north-south.
n) Bring a small pillow to catch a few winks at rest areas.
o) Have a blanket to cover your equipment when you are away from the car.
p) Carry the latest motel directories and telephone card. Make reservations early. Bring plenty of clothes, shower daily. Your chase partners will appreciate this.
r) Stay in a motel with the Weather Channel and phone jacks for your modem.
s) Have your A.M. Weather guide for various PBS television stations.



DRIVER


a) Obey rules of the road (ie. use turn signals when changing lanes, watch speed).
b) Keep your eyes on the road. At 60 mph you drift 88 feet/second.
c) Presently look in your mirrors; Make sure they are adjusted correctly.
d) Avoid hydroplaning and road ruts containing water. Stay on paved roads.
e) Switch off with another driver if feeling fatigued. Vertigo is worst at night.
f) Don't overdrive your headlights, there may be obstructions such as cows, etc.
g) Don't cross raging floodwaters. It doesn't take much water to float a ear.
h) Avoid hail shafts. Your insurance company will raise your premiums.
i) Fill up the vehicle in the morning before the chase and top it off at noon.
j) Windshield wipers should work properly. Wipers should be in good condition.
k) Watch for low hanging tree limbs and power lines. Avoid debris-prone areas.
l) Do not stop on the road or shoulder. Pull off the road onto an apron, etc.
m) Do not turn off the car in tornadic situations. Gene Rhoden can tell you why.
n) Do not pick up hitchikers unless it's Dave Keller (see last ST).



LIGHTNING DANGERS


a) When parking off the side of the road, find an overhead line to park under.
b) Stay in your vehicle especially when parked in open, unobstructed terrain.
c) Stay away from metal fences, cattleguards, trees, etc. Do not lean on your car.
d) Be aware that lightning can strike outside precipitation/storm areas.
e) Know CPR before you chase. Local Red Cross has classes of short duration.



PHOTOGRAPHY


a) Make sure camera batteries are new/recharged. Have plenty of film too.
b) Check ASA film setting and shutter speeds. Make sure film is in the camera.
c) Check the date on your film. Do not use outdated film.
d) Use 28mm for storm structure, and zoom lenses for close-ups.
e) Lenses should be cleaned before the chase. Use appropriate cloth.
f) Mount cameras on a tripod to reduce blurry images. Fluid head tripods are best.
g) Have small window clamp tripods for use during the rain or intense lightning.
h) Bring along a cable release to photograph in low light or for lightning shots.
i) Avoid parking car in direct sunlight. Heat can damage/destroy film.
j) Put camera equipment in a ease especially if you have more than one.
k) Have clear filters on your camera to protect lenses.
l) Bring along other filters such as polarizer or graduated grays.
m) Wrap video in aluminum foil to protect it from ham radio interference.
n) Set camera equipment on hard surface, avoid brush, watch for snakes.



OTHER GOOD IDEAS


a) First time chasers should team up with experienced chasers.
b) Always have an escape route or two to the east or south.
c) Don't approach the wall cloud from the precipitation core.
d) Avoid getting caught under a new wall cloud while the old one occludes.
e) Stay away from rapidly moving gust fronts especially those with rain feet.

For those new storm chasers this spring, a reminder. ALWAYS THINK SAFETY! Severe storms can change character quickly. Stay alert! Stay alive!!