Storm Chasers Gear up For Tornado Season

World Today

Tornado ArkansasA row of lightly damages houses, top, face destroyed homes in a Vilonia, Ark., neighborhood Monday, April 28, 2014 after a tornado struck the town late Sunday, killing at least 16 people. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

After a relatively calm start to the spring in the U.S., this has been a very active week for severe weather. That means it’s been a busy time for storm chasers, the folks who track strong thunderstorms and tornadoes in many parts of the country. This is the time of year when veteran chasers hit the road and new weather spotters are trained to do potentially life-saving work. CCTV’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

Storm Chasers Gear up For Tornado Season

The active weather means it's been a busy time for storm chasers. Those are the people who track strong thunderstorms and tornadoes. Veteran chasers hit the road during tornado season and new weather spotters are trained to do potentially life-saving work. CCTV's Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

His eyes always on the sky, Ed Grubb of Thornton, Colorado is preparing for a hectic next couple of months as he goes driving in search of severe storms. He’s already been on the road once this year.

“It was good to get out, get the equipment dusted off and get myself back in the groove as it were,” he said.

This is just some of what he’s witnessed in 30 years of storm chasing. He figures he’s seen 150 tornadoes and experienced first-hand how twisters tear through the American South and Midwest.

“You can smell the wheat or the corn, certainly trees, splintered wood. There’s just so many different things to hit your senses.”

Grubb is one of the more serious weather chasers in the country but he’s far from alone: a National Weather Service program called SKYWARN now includes almost 300,000 volunteer spotters.

It’s both hobby and public service. Weather radar can’t decipher the size of hail or whether a tornado has actually touched the ground.

“So spotters can see those things. Radar can see other things. So if we have information from both sides we have a more complete picture of the storm,” said meteorologist Bob Glancy. “So even in this age of technology we still need people.”

On this evening in Denver, some new weather watchers were receiving their training.

Grubb, who was friends with the three men who were killed chasing tornadoes in Oklahoma last year, says drivers and other storm chasers worry about him much more than the clouds themselves.

“You have to have your head on a swivel cognizant of all kinds of hazards and dangers that are out there at any moment. Not just up in the sky. As long as I can see it, I can make the adjustment I need to stay out of the way,” he said.

He believes spotters have helped boost warning times for residents who are in a storm’s path.

He thinks he’ll be asking this question about the atmosphere a lot from his front seat.

“It’s just phenomenal, how does it do that?”

As we head towards summer.