Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Thrill of Storm-Chasing

'Storm Chasers' on Discovery
Many people enjoy the excitement of roller-coasters; the adrenaline, the wind in the hair and the embarrasing screaming. Those certain people may enjoy a certain hobby which has taken America by storm and has an undercover cult of British lovers thanks to the media- especially the show 'Storm Chasers' which aired from 2007-2011. The show which was broadcast on the Discovery Channel, featured a brave group of people trying to intercept storms in America's 'Tornado Valley'. With these influences from popular culture, storm chasing has bought together a legion of fans, who are ready to risk their lives for the ultimate thrill.

The origins of storm chasing lie way back in 1752 when Benjamin Franklin famously indulged in his meteorology interest after climbing on top of church in a middle of a thunderstorm to conduct a 'key on a kite' experiment. Whilst placing his life in jeopardy, he was adamant in highlighting the connection between electricity and lightening. His brave attempt to face harsh weather conditions paved way to David Hoadley who began chasing storms in 1956. Hoadley was inevitably considered the 'founding father' of storm chasing and he set the pulse racing of many. Most chasing occurs in small towns across the Midwest in the USA, which is dubbed 'Tornado Alley' due to the frequency and severity of its tornado activity.

Benjamin Franklin conducting
his famous experiment
Chasers usually spend a vast amount of time preparing for a relatively short time frame for a thunderstorm to partake its dangerous course. Most chasing occurs in cars, although there has been known cases of fly planes and helicopters. However, this hobby is not for everyone as there are obvious dangers of chasing a storm, which includes reduced visibility, lightening, flooding and hail fog.

America may be the epicentre of storm chasing, but there is a niche here in the UK as well  England gets more tornadoes than one would think. It has been claimed that the UK has more reported tornadoes per unit than anywhere else in the world including the US. For more information on British storm chasing, visit: http://www.ukstormchasers.com/

If you're certain you want to give storm chasing a try, then it is beneficial to go with someone who is experienced and has the right amount of knowledge. There are plenty of storm chasing tour groups out there to be a part of. Plenty of studying should also help you get a good feel for the area you are going to pursue. Being equipped with all the right tools such as computer equipment and the appropriate software is also crucial. Lastly, it is vital to adopt a travellers mind-sight as there will be a lot of down time, with only a few moments of excitement.

So with Winter fast approaching, I say let's give the cinema a miss and go chase those storms !

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