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Storm Chasers and Law Enforcement

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  • Storm Chasers and Law Enforcement

    I am an active storm chaser and am also an active forum member on a storm chasing site known as Stormtrack. Last week there was a large tornado outbreak in the plain states, which brought out a TON of storm chasers to specific rural areas. This is known in the storm chasing community as a chaser convergence. Nobody really likes a chaser convergence, not law enforcement, not the communities it happens in, not even storm chasers. But anyway, on with the point.

    During a chaser convergence last week there was a specific county sheriff doing, well, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYY3JNR38_4 (towards the end of the video - *video was not taken by me*)

    Now, keep in mind, this isn't the half of it. In fact, the guy in this video didn't get it nearly as bad as several others. There is an active ongoing thread about this officer on the Stormtrack forums which can be seen here: http://www.stormtrack.org/forum/showthread.php?t=11796

    BEFORE READING ON I want to let everyone know that this is not some sort of cop bashing thread. Many of the members on that site are in fact law enforcement officers. Many others are somewhat famous and respectable storm chasers, meteorologists, and scientists. Storm chasers do NOT want to be on the bad side of law enforcement, trust me.

    Also, the beginning of the thread is mostly about the wrongdoings of the officer but towards the end (especially pages 15 and 16) people are defending the officer. So, if you can devote quite a bit of time, you will read some very intelligent posts about BOTH sides.

    Lastly, people on that site tend to make very long posts (as you can see by mine). So be prepared to spend quite a bit of time reading. I hope at least a few of you will read through the whole thing then give some honest feedback. I've also placed this thread into General Law Enforcement so non-leo's can reply.

    I'd also like to know if YOU have had any encounters, good or bad, with storm chasers and your opinion of them.


    EDIT: Stormtrack has added a feature story to their homepage in response to this issue. This can be viewed at www.stormtrack.org but I'll copy and paste here.

    Law enforcement trouble in West Texas
    by Tim Vasquez
    SILVERTON, TEXAS (4/3/07) -- Chasers have been discussing a March 28 incident in Texas involving unprofessional conduct by a law enforcement official in Briscoe County, or possibly Hall County. At least seven witnesses reported that a sheriff east of Silverton near the State Highway 256/70 junction was detaining multiple vehicles and verbally abusing and intimidating the drivers. The incident was reported on Stormtrack this week by Texas chasers Jason Boggs of Amarillo, David Drummond of Lubbock, University of Oklahoma chasers Zac Flamig and Gerard Jebaily, Wesley Luginbyhl and David Wagener of Norman, Oklahoma, and longtime chase veteran Gene Moore from San Antonio. Wagener said the officer also requested to see a "storm chaser license". No arrests or citations were reported.

    Great Plains law enforcement has a long tradition of acting with great professionalism and courtesy. Naturally it's in the best interests of the chase community to see this continue, and to a great extent it's up to us to make this happen. Stormtrack would like to encourage chasers, when possible and appropriate, to use their available gear to document encounters with law enforcement. This can (and should) be as simple as turning the camera on and setting it aside out of sight so that it can pick up ambient audio. If any unprofessional conduct is encountered, videotaping the markings on the officer's vehicle as it drives off will assure a binding record of the incident. In serious instances, the video can be circulated on venues such as YouTube and acquired by local media, and in other circumstances it can by the key to resolving an unfair charge and getting a citation dropped, potentially saving hundreds of dollars.

    On the same token we would like to restate the importance of driving and behaving safely out in the field. There's little doubt that local yahoos and irresponsible media crews are an ongoing problem, and Charles Doswell has stated that even University of Oklahoma's chase crews have a history of unsafe conduct. Chaser Gene Moore speculates that this kind of questionable behavior was occurring on March 28 and may have been a catalyst for the incident.
    Last edited by Code3inKC; 04-07-2007, 01:58 PM.

  • #2
    Storm Chasing license....? What a freaking idiot..... Sorry to hear folks had to deal with an apparent idiot Deputy.....

    I saw the video and there is no way you can tell what he was yelling at the driver for.....so I will reserve comment.... But yeah, there were a ton of folks there....but it looked like they were all off to the side of the roadway.

    When I was in the Midwest, I storm spotted on and off-duty.......and had a blast and got some good pics/vid. If we had nasty weather rolling in, we would get spotters to the area. As long as they were off the side of the roadway.....and weren't causing traffic issues......no one in my county would mess with them....

    Have fun....
    Last edited by Bearcat357; 04-07-2007, 02:13 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Bearcat357
      I saw the video and there is no way you can tell what he was yelling at the driver for.....so I will reserve comment....
      Aparently, and this is just word of mouth, the officer was parked in the right hand lane blocking traffic. This driver was sitting behind the officer for a period of time then decided to pass the officer in the left hand lane. At this point he was pulled over and the yelling insued.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Code3inKC
        Aparently, and this is just word of mouth, the officer was parked in the right hand lane blocking traffic. This driver was sitting behind the officer for a period of time then decided to pass the officer in the left hand lane. At this point he was pulled over and the yelling insued.


        Lord.....LEOs get enough grief just because of the nature of the work....then you have tools like this that come along and make things even worse.......

        Where do you track out of....? I am suspecting we are from the same area if I am reading your screen name correctly....

        Comment


        • #5
          As I posted on the other forum, I think these incidents are isolated. However, bad chasing behavior certainly can boost the number of LEO-chaser confrontations and I expect to hear more of such incidents as the number of chasers on the highways continues to grow.

          Comment


          • #6
            Is there any money is chasing storms? There must be some sort of way to cash in......Tactical storm-chasing equipment? The "Big Vortex Tactical Tornado Scope and Camera"?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Frank Booth
              Is there any money is chasing storms? There must be some sort of way to cash in......Tactical storm-chasing equipment? The "Big Vortex Tactical Tornado Scope and Camera"?
              Can sell footage of major storms to the networks....or maybe NWS...?

              Comment


              • #8
                This is what the "victim," himself, said:

                "I have it on tape and yea I admit that I should have let him get back in the right hand lane but I thought he was going to keep driving in the left hand lane."

                Does anyone need to read ANYTHING else? Sorry about us getting in the way of your little hobby, BUT!!!!!!! when an officer says DO or DON'T DO something, you MUST freaking listen to what the officer says. That is just how it is.

                Oh, so you have a storm watcher discount card. ....... oh, okay do what you want.
                "Socrates was a philosopher. He talked a lot. They killed him." unknown to me.

                "Evil prevails when good men do nothing."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Frank Booth
                  Is there any money is chasing storms? There must be some sort of way to cash in......Tactical storm-chasing equipment? The "Big Vortex Tactical Tornado Scope and Camera"?
                  Making money off your video footage and/or pictures is really about the only way to "cash in" on what's really just a hobby for most chasers. Even considering this type of cash, only a very small percentage of storm chasers actually make any considerable type of a profit from their chasing adventures. Most chasers invest considerable time and their own money, thereby making it a hobby like many others that we throw money into for our own gratification.

                  Your average chaser is just a guy or gal next door who has a passion for weather and/or a scientific interest in studying severe weather phenomena. However, the data observations that are collected by some storm chasers often gets used to advance the ever growing body of scientific knowledge about severe weather and ultimately improves the severe weather warning process, thereby adding to the public service credibility of the hobby.
                  Last edited by JLR80; 04-07-2007, 04:35 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by scratch13
                    This is what the "victim," himself, said:

                    "I have it on tape and yea I admit that I should have let him get back in the right hand lane but I thought he was going to keep driving in the left hand lane."

                    Does anyone need to read ANYTHING else? Sorry about us getting in the way of your little hobby, BUT!!!!!!! when an officer says DO or DON'T DO something, you MUST freaking listen to what the officer says. That is just how it is.

                    Oh, so you have a storm watcher discount card. ....... oh, okay do what you want.
                    That still doesn't excuse the Officer for yelling at someone like that.....all you have to do is walk up to the car and tell them to move it....and be done with it.

                    I have never understood why fellow LEOs think it is appropriate to yell or lecture someone. Make your contact, tell them why you are contacting them, cite and/or release and be done with it....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I've never worked as a cop where tornadoes or hurricanes were a threat, but we did have floods now and again. When we were trying to keep people out of the high-threat areas where the flood waters were most likely to take out a bridge or unexpectedly surge past the water line, there would be all sorts of yahoos flocking to the scene to watch it happen, and to stand as close to the incident as possible. That just raised the potential for someone to get injured or killed. If the gawker didn'tbecome a casualty, then whoever was sent to rescue him was at risk.

                      I don't have much familiarity with the storm chaser set, but I'm guessing that there are a lot of thrill-seeking folks that decide to call themselves storm chasers and drive right into the fray with little or no training or equipment. I can see why law enforcement would want to keep these people at bay. I'm not excusing any misconduct by law enforcement, as there's a right and wrong way to go about this, but I know I've lost my temper a few times when people would not take "no" for an answer.
                      Tim Dees, now writing as a plain old forum member, his superpowers lost to an encounter with gold kryptonite.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        An officer, likely alone, with all that traffic and an incoming tornado.........gee..I wonder if he was stressed out a little bit. Everybody has bad days. Cops are human too....
                        Anyone who believes "the customer is always right" has never been a police officer.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Tim Dees
                          I don't have much familiarity with the storm chaser set, but I'm guessing that there are a lot of thrill-seeking folks that decide to call themselves storm chasers and drive right into the fray with little or no training or equipment. I can see why law enforcement would want to keep these people at bay. I'm not excusing any misconduct by law enforcement, as there's a right and wrong way to go about this, but I know I've lost my temper a few times when people would not take "no" for an answer.
                          Tim, a good 80% of the storm chashers out there are professional science students, educators, and folks that do it for a living (news crews, weather channel, acuweather, etc...) The rest are weekend warriors....

                          That in mind, having grown up and later played LEO with several agencies in the middle of the tornado belt, I have only had a handful of issues with these types of folks. Most realize how dangerous toranado, hail, and lighting is.....and will do what you say. A few do try to test you....but that happens at crime scenes all the time.....

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Bearcat357
                            That still doesn't excuse the Officer for yelling at someone like that.....all you have to do is walk up to the car and tell them to move it....and be done with it.

                            I have never understood why fellow LEOs think it is appropriate to yell or lecture someone. Make your contact, tell them why you are contacting them, cite and/or release and be done with it....
                            Hmmmmmmmm ...... let me see ........ an IDIOT disregards police directions ....... near a tornado and you find fault with the officer for yelling? Oh, gee ...... that makes sense.

                            I have been in dozens of situations where I have been directing traffic and people will stop to try and go where I am directing draffic away from. I first tell them no "politely" and direct them to where I need them to go. If they don't listen or try to argue, I "use my command voice." If they still don't listen I YELL AT THEM. And they get upset as if I was being ureasonable.

                            Sometimes, I don't even use my 3 times and it's a yell rule. Someone does something that puts my safety at risk, and I could care less if they get their feelings hurt if I yell at them or lecture. Would they rather I take money from them?
                            "Socrates was a philosopher. He talked a lot. They killed him." unknown to me.

                            "Evil prevails when good men do nothing."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Tim Dees
                              there would be all sorts of yahoos flocking to the scene to watch it happen, and to stand as close to the incident as possible. That just raised the potential for someone to get injured or killed. If the gawker didn'tbecome a casualty, then whoever was sent to rescue him was at risk.
                              It's fairly ironic you use the word "yahoo" because that is a slang term in the storm chasing world. Yahoo's are typically known as local folks who go out to play "Twister" when the opportunity arrives. These people often drive way over the speed limit to "chase" the storm or tornado, stop in the middle of roadways, dangerously follow real storm chasers to try and sneak a peak, have little to no experience or education with severe thunderstorms, and just cause dangerous situations of all kinds. These are the people that make real storm chasers look bad. And believe me, the people who hate them the most are real storm chasers.

                              Generally, storm chasers are very well trained. I say this because if you simply jump in your car and go to wherever the tornado watches and warnings are you'll probably never see a tornado. You need to be there BEFORE the watches and warnings are issued. In order to actually see any "action" you MUST be well educated. Many storm chasers (myself included) begin by going along with more experienced chasers. Our little version if Field Training if you will. Those looking for a thrill without any real education lose interest very quickly. And there is much more to storm chasing than adrenaline.

                              As stated, it's pretty tough to cash in on storm chasing. Very few chasers make any money at all or even try to make money. Most chasers who do make money are really only paying for their hobby by selling videos to other enthusiasts. The money some chasers make usually goes right into their equipment (cameras, laptops, radios, live wireless radar programs, GPS), fuel costs, vehicle costs and repairs, food and lodging, and several other expenses most non-chasers don't think about. I myself have never made a dime chasing and don’t ever plan to.

                              I'd also like to comment that I've had nothing but positive experiences with LEO's while chasing. In fact, I've been thanked several times by LEO's for helping them out in various ways.

                              The storm chasing community is very misunderstood due to largely in part to the movie Twister. Also don't think that by watching National Geographic specials on storm chasers that it shows reality. Those programs show as much reality in chasing as the show COPS does in police work. Hours upon hours of driving followed by no tornadoes just wouldn't make a good TV show.
                              Last edited by Code3inKC; 04-07-2007, 08:00 PM.

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