The Spectacle Blog

Storm Chasin’ Cowboys

By on 6.4.13 | 12:47PM

While Alaska may be the final frontier, tornadoes provide continental Americans with the opportunity to face the dangerous unknown.

While three “storm chasers” died on Friday near Oklahoma City, I praise the courage of meteorologists willing to run into deadly wind spirals for early warning systems:

While most people take shelter when a tornado approaches, a growing throng heads for the prairies, be they scientists hoping to protect the public from a twister's fury or amateurs armed with little more than a smartphone, a digital camera and a desire to sell 15 seconds of video to the nightly news.

But the deaths of three respected researchers near Oklahoma City have renewed questions over whether the risk of dashing off into violent storms in Tornado Alley is too great - regardless of the adrenaline rush.

The trips are not for the inexperienced or the anxious; death awaits the storm chaser at every turn of the tire. However, the people in Tornado Alley need these intrepid explorers:

Seasoned storm trackers provide critical field data that can't be gleaned from high-powered Doppler radar, veteran meteorologists say. 

Of course, with the rise of reality television has also brought an increase of “amateur weather enthusiasts” charging in for such shows as “Storm Chasers” on the Discovery Channel.

Needless to say, no amateur should chase a storm. Tornadoes are blind: They take both paparazzi and meteorologist alike.

The experienced foot soldiers of meteorological research should continue to aid tornado victims with their bravery. My only fear is that the federal government will somehow regulate this weathered frontier as more people die. 

Let the cowboys ride the storm!

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