It is not very accurate to use the term “tornado chaser.” It is only a small part in the whole business of storm chasing. Storm chasing can be defined broadly as the pursuit of any severe weather condition, regardless of motive which can range from adventure, scientific exploration, for news or media coverage or just plain curiosity. Witnessing a tornado during a storm chase is a major objective of a storm chaser, but other natural phenomenon may occur during a chase without seeing a tornado.
If you seek thrill and excitement, and have a lot of guts, this can be an option for you. But you still need to be properly trained and equipped with some basic knowledge about meteorology and safety.
Here are the some of the ways you can become a storm/tornado chaser:
1. You must have a more than average interest in math and science, a little knowledge of electronics and physics.
2. Learn all you can about storms and tornadoes. You can volunteer in your local community as a storm spotter initially and get the proper training on how to read the signs of an impending storm, what to look out for, and how to properly report it. The National Weather Service provides regular training on how to be a storm spotter. You can go to their website to check where you can get in touch with your county’s office.
3. Try to find an experienced storm chaser in your area and volunteer to be an apprentice. If he agrees then you will get the chance to go on storm chases and learn at the same time. Do not rush your training. You have to learn all you can first before you can go on your own.
4. Check if there is an organization of spotters in your county and join. You can learn a lot from other spotters and avail of some equipment lent to volunteers like two-way radios, emergency power sources, and even emergency group vehicle.
5. Acquire a license to be a licensed amateur radio operator. You will benefit from this when you volunteer to be a storm spotter. This is will also come in handy when you are on a storm chase as you can monitor others and give and get information. Even if cell phones are an indispensable tool now, having another way to communicate will ensure constant flow of communication and provides more safety for you and the public.
6. Get a still camera and a video camera and practice taking still photographs and video while on the move. Learn how to do it by reading books and articles published by experienced storm chasers, photographers and videographers or take a short course.
7. Learn how to drive defensively. You have to know how to drive fast and safely when you are on one of these storm chases. You also have to observe public safety rules as follows:
- Do not block emergency and law enforcement vehicles
- Respect private properties
- Ask permission first if you want to follow other chasers
- In case of emergency, help others and also think of your own safety
- Do not just park anywhere when taking videos and photographs. Park your vehicle on the side of the road
8. Always have your cell phone battery fully charged and carry extra fully-charged batteries, too.
Becoming a storm/tornado chaser is a personal choice. You need to accept and understand that this is not something where you can earn a lot from. There are more expenses involved in being a storm chaser than there is money to be gained from it. The excitement and the thrill of the chase is what counts. Just the same, be informed, learn a lot and be safe.