Ever wondered what it would be like to go storm chasing across Tornado Alley? Well, I signed up with the UK’s only storm chasing company ‘Netweather’ and ventured across the Atlantic in search of these mesmerising, yet ferocious storms. As a meteorologist I love studying the formation and development of clouds, from the cute fluffy ones (cumulus) to the voluptuous mammatus clouds. I had never seen a tornado before and had no idea if I would be fascinated, frightened or both. Here’s the first installment of my adventure…
After a week crossing America we’d seen 4 supercell storms, which are huge storm structures with coloured bands of hail, wind shear and rain…stunning, but no tornadoes. Then yesterday our lead chaser advised us that the risk of tornadoes was very high, and after 7 hours on the road we saw our first one, then another, and another. In the end we saw 3 and it was so exciting!
Things got a bit more serious when the sky suddenly went black and we noticed fractured cloud starting to rotate above our heads. This was the beginnings of a tornado and we were far too close. Our lead chaser worked out the direction that the tornado would track and we drove out of the danger area as quickly as we could. It was terrifying and I felt helpless, not knowing what would happen next or how perilously close to danger we were. It turns out that tornado overhead became a ‘wedge tornado’ which is one of the most destructive. It was a mile wide and tracked across the nearby town ripping up 100’s of houses, killing 6 people and injuring over a hundred. The winds were up to 200mph and the hailstones were the size of grapefruits. We saw power cables ripped out, roofs taken off buildings and exploded trees from lightning strikes.
Storm chasing is something for the experts and although we are in essence trying to second guess the forces of nature, the local people welcome our help in being able to advise them what their tornado risk is, we show them our data feeds and can reassure them if they need to get home to look after family. I would never have done this without the expert guidance of a professional company like Netweather, and would thoroughly recommend this as a once in a lifetime adventure. As long as you respect the weather and listen to the experts they will keep you safe! If you do want to book Netweather are doing a few discount spaces for next years tour…sign up or find out more
Listen to some of the live audio that I recorded for BBC Radio Kent here.