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                   Saturday, March 10, 2012 - 12:20PM CST

Does a 'storm chasing community' exist?

Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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The idea of a "chase community" sometimes gets a passing mention in various forms around the internet and in the media. I've noticed this has become another one of the hobby's minor points of controversy, and like other debates in chasing, I enjoy putting some thought into the issue. As always, I claim no authoritative status on chasing issues here, just sharing my opinion.

I think the "community" controversy is mainly due to the term meaning different things to different people. On one hand, 'community' can mean a close-knit group of people united in a common goal. This definition, taken to its full hyperbole, conjures up flowery images of chasers holding hands around a campfire singing 'Kumbya', then jumping into their vehicles on a mission to save lives and enjoy the hobby with all purity. The other definition of "community", the one I've always pictured, simply means if you chase, you're a part of the 'community' simply because you're a chaser.

I agree that a "community" expressed or insinuated in terms of the first definition above is certainly rediculous, worthy of cringing and eye-rolling when applied to the world of chasing. There is definitely not a cohesive, united group among storm chasers. We are mostly independent individuals in thoughts, strategies, motives, opinions and even the act of chasing itself. Most of us prefer to chase in our own way, taking full control of all decision making and forecasting. Even friends chasing together commonly run into friction on basic chase strategies and decisions. Name any issue in chasing - selling video, lightbars, chasing style, weather phenomena of interest, times and places worth chasing - we are all as polarized as it gets over just about anything. Outside of chasing, our lives share even fewer similarities. Chasers rarely share the same opinions, theologies, occupations, social and income classes, cars, music preferences or personality types.

I look at the chase community on a simpler level, more so as in the second definition above: it's just the place where we all live. We're a chase 'community' in the most basic sense of the word, because we're all chasers - nothing more and nothing less. I'm part of the community in the city where I live, for no other reason than the fact that it's where my apartment, my job and my church is. I don't share much of anything else in common with the people around me, but I have a stake in the local community simply because it's where I work, sleep and eat.

While I personally reject the idea of the existence of a cohesive chase community, there nonetheless have been, and still are, various subgroups of the hobby that have enjoyed some sense of solidarity over the years. Most of these have been centered around online forums, others by generation/start date of the first chase, home regions and so on. There are lightning chasers, hurricane chasers, chasers from overseas, the Midwest, the South and Canada to name a few. My involvement in a few of the online chasing discussion subgroups over the years has greatly influenced and enhanced my chasing experience by being a source of many good friends. The Lightning list, WX-CHASE list, Stormtrack, blog feeds and others are a few examples.

The friends I've made in those 'communities', namely the Lightning List (which I joined in 1999), were instrumental in getting me on the road west to the Plains for the first time, ultimately leading to an outright relocation to the Midwest. So for me personally, the idea of a 'chase community' holding *some* influence beyond our most basic shared interest in severe weather does exist - just not on a widespread or permanent level.

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