Discovery Channel: “Storm Chasers”

I’ve been asked countless times in the last couple of weeks if I’ve seen “Storm Chasers” the new show on Discovery Channel. I just watched the first episode and honestly, I’ve got some very mixed feelings.

On one hand, I’m annoyed. Annoyed might be a strong word. But this Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV) they’ve got put together is interesting, and yes I’d love to drive it. But I can only imagine next year at a convergence, seeing eight or ten of these things put together by anyone with some scrap iron and an arc welder. That’s plum scary. There are already to many people out there who think they’re invincible. Having “tornado proof” in the opening credits doesn’t help my feelings either, I could easily accept “tornado resistant” as I’ve ruined one to many “water proof” watches.

Then we start talking about their “organization” or lack there of. I know very few (if any) chasers that would want a vehicle traveling with them that is driven by one or two rookies (journalist?) who have never been in such a situation, much less make them a scout vehicle. No offense, I don’t think it takes a lot to get up to speed. I’ve had some fairly new people in a convoy or two, but I’m not directing them via radio to drop probes in the path. Just having them in charge of a scout vehicle on the first chase or two seems like such a liability (I don’t mean legally) and responsibility. I’m always of the idea that the team coordinates and works together in an organized and safe manor, but in the end, each person is solely responsible for their own safety having the final say about what they do. It’s seen all to often in situations (I’ve personally seen it in forest fire fighting as well as disaster response) where new people don’t have the guts to say “no” or to make a call based on their own gut feeling.

I can look past the troubles of the actual chase, as, well… We’ve all been there. One of the quotes of the first episode that stuck out to me was said right after half the team gave up; “it just went from really boring, to really interesting, really fast.” That was a duh moment to me. That could well be the storm chasing motto or something thereof, seriously, that single statement sums up storm chasing.

I guess one thing that turned me off was the narrator’s script. Get rid of him and rely on the “reality” portion of it, and I might be more enthused.

My wife was really annoyed at the show and I doubt she’ll watch the second episode. But alas, I’ve never seen bad footage of tornadoes. Don’t take that at face value… What I mean is, the show has storm footage in it, so it can be of use, and I’ll probably stick around for another. Even if I yell and scream at the TV occasionally.

So I went around to a few chase blogs to see what others thought of the show. And found the following…

“Storm Chasers” is a 4-part “reality” series that was filmed during a ~6 week period from late April through May 2007. You can read more about it on DSC’s website. As a storm chaser myself, it is easy scrutinize or pick at this program with a fine-tooth comb given my familiarity with storm chasing… although not necessarily on the research side of storm chasing — that said, much of the trials and drama that is portrayed in “Storm Chasers” is very much experienced by all storm chasers — research or not. For this reason, I love the program. I have not seen one documentary, made-for-teevee movie, theatre movie, etc. that has portrayed what storm chasing really is. Just about all of “Storm Chasers” is really what you see happen to all storm chasers at some point — we all have to make the same forecast and tactical decisions to achieve our goals of the chase — whether they are research oriented trying to get as close to… or even in a tornado in TIV’s case — or fine-art photography of supercell storm structures like in my case (as you can see throughout my website). High Plains Drifter » Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers”

He’s right on two very important points. 1) It’s easy to scrutinize portions of the show 2) the trials and drama in the show are experienced at least to some degree by everyone who chases.

I wouldn’t want a discovery channel crew following me around during a chase (discovery, if you’re reading this, I’m just kidding, you’re welcome any time 🙂 and I’m sure they’re focusing on “good tv” but the chase team is made out to be a unorganized and well, if you’ve seen it, you get the idea. The only saving grace is their DOW (doppler on wheels) (I want one btw…) But it’s evident several times that you need to look out the window to compare what you’re seeing on radar. A couple of times the radar interpretation put a tornado in a totally opposite direction than it was. And my personal favorite… (rough quotes)

DOW: “Radar shows it’s not going to produce a tornado”

TIV: “There’s the tornado right in front of us!”

I can’t say to much, as I’ve never had localized mobile radar, I’ve always had to rely on what my eyes see out the window and how my mind interprets it. I usually have some sort of weather feed showing large scale radar but that’s worthless with a tornado on the ground and you under the storm.

So, again, very mixed feelings. I don’t like the show, but considering it’s the only show on TV about tornadoes, I’ll probably watch it. Unless Wizard of Oz comes on.

UPDATE: I just watched the second episode. I still have many of the same feelings, but it was a MUCH better episode.

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