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Video evidence refutes claims of storm chaser traffic problems

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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Over the past 6 years, there has been a flurry of criticism from news media, certain officials and even some storm chasers that allege that storm chaser traffic has reached critical mass and is increasingly causing massive problems for local responders. While rare events can indeed cause real traffic jams (caused in no small part by locals and the police/fire vehicles themselves) - and of course there are some bad apples in the chase community - this issue is being blown massively out of proportion.

Storm Chasers in Bennington, KS

Above: a typical storm chaser convergence at Bennington, Kansas on May 28, 2013

News flash: Chasers have video of everything

GoPro Hero 3+A word of caution to would-be critics: today's storm chasers have cameras rolling - and lots of them. Documenting what we see on our expeditions via video and stills has always been a staple of storm chasing. In addition to handheld and tripoded cameras, many chasers have mounted full-time cameras that either save the video to memory cards or stream it live to Youtube, where it is then archived. Action cameras like GoPros are also commonly employed to capture the entire chase from additional angles.

As for me, in addition to my main cameras, I operate four full-time dashcams that, after a memory card upgrade last year, each hold 9 hours of video. The cameras point in all directions, and are wide enough that their views overlap. The result is a full 360-degree view record of my entire day. In the past, I have archived my dashcam videos only from my Plains chases in which I see tornadoes. As a result of the negative news articles, however, I will now be archiving and posting publicly the video from my cameras on EVERY chase I embark on in the Great Plains. Many other chasers have and will be doing the same.

View actual storm chases for yourself!

Chasers parked along a road watching a stormIn light of the negative publicity, I thought it would be helpful to post dashcam videos of chases in their entirety (recorded by me and other chasers). That way, viewers can judge for themselves whether the claims are overblown.

I invite any reporter, official, legislator or resident to view these videos from me and other chasers and explain to me where you see problems that justify outrage against storm chasers, or even legislation to outlaw/restrict chasing. To the critics, please provide video evidence to support your claims. And not just of isolated incidents - those are easy to capture and compile into a misleading piece. No, I want video of widespread problems as are being alleged.

In addition, I would like officials and critics to explain how any isolated storm chaser traffic incidents compare to the following in frequency and severity:

  • One-lane road construction with pilot cars
  • Agricultural equipment caravans (tractors/combine harvesters/sprayers/semi trucks/trailers)
  • High school football post-game traffic
  • 4th of July fireworks traffic/roadside parking
  • County fair traffic


Traffic-free roads near the Dodge City tornadoes on May 24, 2016 (click for more images and video)

Links to dashcam, dome cam & GoPro videos of Great Plains/Midwest storm chase events

53 videos and counting! For the critics' and undecided observers' consideration, the following video links show ENTIRE storm chasing events. These constitute irrefutable evidence of actual storm chasing conditions. Critics, please point out where the widespread problems of storm chasers are that warrant outrage or legislation.

Storm chasers, your video is needed! If you have a video not linked here, please contact me to have it added to this list. We need all the examples we can get! If you have GoPro or dascham archives you've never posted because they were boring, now's the time to dust them off and render a timelapse! That video is now valuable evidence, we need everything we can get to defend the integrity of our activities in the face of the negative publicity.

NOTE: Examples that show heavy traffic are shaded in red. To be fair and balanced, I am posting EVERY timelapse available. I will not hold back on posting any bad examples. Please note that I will not post short videos that show a bad traffic incident. The ENTIRE chase (or at least the bulk of it) must be included for proper context. The reason you don't see widespread traffic problems here isn't because negative evidence is being withheld, it's because it is a rare event!

Kansas
PlayYearDayLocation
Play Video 2016 May 25 Chapman, KS
Play Video 2016 May 25 Wichita, KS (real-time live stream)
Play Video 2016 May 25 McPherson-Abilene, KS (4-way view)
Play Video 2016 May 24 Dodge City, KS video 1 (4-way view)*** (heavy traffic example) See also Real-time excerpt
Play Video 2016 May 24 Dodge City, KS video 2 (360° video)***
Play Video 2016 May 24 Dodge City, KS video 3 (Real-time live stream)***
Play Video 2016 May 24 Dodge City, KS video 4***
Play Video 2016 May 24 Dodge City, KS video 5***
Play Video 2016 May 21 Leoti, KS
Play Video 2016 May 8 Salina-Medicine Lodge, KS (4-way view)
Play Video 2016 April 26 Salina-Topeka, KS (4-way view)
Play Video 2016 April 26 Mayfield, KS
Play Video 2016 April 24 Salina-Abilene, KS
Play Video 2016 March 30 Chetopa, KS
Play Video 2014 April 23 Oakley-Hill City, KS
Play Video 2013 May 28 Bennington, KS (Source 1, Camera 1)
Play Video 2013 May 28 Bennington, KS (Source 1, Camera 2)
Play Video 2013 May 27 Ellsworth, KS
Play Video 2013 May 18 Rozel, KS (Source 1, Part 1)
Play Video 2013 May 18 Rozel, KS (Source 1, Part 2)
*** These videos cover an event relevant to the May/June 2016 anti-chaser articles in Slate and the UK Daily Mail.
Texas
PlayYearDayLocation
Play Video 2016 April 10 Wichita Falls, TX**
Play Video 2016 May 22 Spearman, TX (4-way view)
Play Video 2016 May 23 Turkey, TX (4-way view)
Play Video 2016 May 21 Texas Panhandle
Play Video 2016 May 16 Texas Panhandle
Play Video 2016 April 28 Matador-Paducah, TX
Play Video 2016 April 16 Hermleigh, TX
Play Video 2015 September 20 McLean, TX
Play Video 2015 May 26 Breckenridge, TX
Play Video 2015 May 8 Throckmorton, TX
Play Video 2015 April 26 Glen Rose, TX
Play Video 2015 April 22 Floydada, TX
Play Video 2013 June 3 Booker, TX
** This video covers an event relevant to the April 2016 anti-chaser articles in the Wichita Falls area.
Oklahoma
PlayYearDayLocation
Play Video 2016 May 16 Oklahoma Panhandle
Play Video 2016 May 8 Capron, OK (4-way view), see also Real-time excerpt
Play Video 2016 April 29 Near Chickasha, OK
Play Video 2016 April 26 Manitou-Tipton, OK
Play Video 2016 April 15 Eva, OK (OK Panhandle)
Play Video 2016 April 10 Chickasha, OK
Play Video 2013 May 31 El Reno, Oklahoma
Play Video 2013 April 22 NW Oklahoma
Play Video 2015 April 18 Binger, OK
Play Video 2013 May 30 Oklahoma
Nebraska
PlayYearDayLocation
Play Video 2015 May 15 Bridgeport, NE
Play Video 2014 June 16 Pilger, NE
Illinois
PlayYearDayLocation
Play Video 2016 June 22 Dixon-Ottawa, IL (4-way view)
Play Video 2016 March 31 Kinmundy, IL (4-way view)
Play Video 2016 March 15 Macomb, IL
Play Video 2015 December 23 Quincy, IL
Play Video 2015 July 13 Kewanee, IL
Colorado
PlayYearDayLocation
Play Video 2016 June 13 Hudson, CO
Play Video 2016 May 24 Akron, CO
Play Video 2016 May 7 Boulder, CO
Play Video 2014 May 21 Deer Trail, CO (heavy traffic example)
South Dakota
PlayYearDayLocation
Play Video 2010 May 22 Bowdle, SD
Wyoming
PlayYearDayLocation
Play Video 2010 May 21 Laramie, WY
Indiana
PlayYearDayLocation
Play Video 2016 May 11 Owensville, IN

There are many, many more examples that can be found by searching Youtube for the phrase "storm chase" timelapse.

Full-chase live stream archives: These videos are in realtime (not timelapsed):

  • Source 1 (Daniel Shaw Youtube livestream archives)

Examples of (rare) heavy storm chaser traffic

To be fair and balanced, I'm including examples of what congested storm chaser traffic looks like when it happens about once every 2 years. Judge for yourself if this is really something to get upset about:

Videos concerning specific negative media coverage pieces

April 2015 Wichita, Kansas articles

There have been a few developments concerning the event on April 8, 2015 in which a Barber County, Kansas Sheriff yelled at chasers over a loudspeaker, then complained to the media about storm chasers. The articles ran in Wichita news media. Here are a couple of items pertinent to that incident:
  • Nick Slone brought this video to my attention of the Barber County Sheriff yelling at chasers to pull farther off of the road along Highway 160. It has been confirmed to me that this was what triggered at least one anti-chaser story from Wichita media where officials alleged major storm chaser problems and "chasers clogging roads".
     
  • Mike Smith was chasing the event and also witnessed the confrontation. His blog has photos of Highway 160 as well as his account of what happened.

April 2016 Wichita Falls, Texas articles:

These articles were centered around an experienced, respected chaser attempting to check in to the Wichita Falls amateur radio net for the purpose of making storm reports.
  • Blog posts with factual information, including recordings of the day's radio transmissions, can be found at here and here.
     
  • A dashcam timelapse from a storm chaser who was present in the area on the day cited in the article can be found here.

May/June 2016 Slate/UK Daily Mail articles:

These pieces are the worst of the lot, filled with false information and misleading hyperbole.
  • The Dodge City event is cited as a case of chasers clogging roads, but completely ignores the videos (put out days before the article was published) that show actual conditions in Dodge City.
     
  • No research was done for the article. For example, this page is listed first in Google under "storm chaser traffic", yet none of it is referenced.
Bookmark this page, as I will update it with relevant information should future negative news coverage occur.

Further commentary

There are a few points I feel are worth bringing up:
  • In nearly every case, the author or reporter of a negative news piece on storm chasers is an individual who does not directly observe what is happening in the field. I have yet to see a piece written by someone who has actually been out in the field with chasers in recent years. In other words, their pieces are based on secondhand information and perceptions gleaned from social media/television, instead of the journalist actually witnessing storm chases themselves. Some of the authors cite themselves having some chasing experience in the distant past, but again, they are not currently in the field to witness actual conditions firsthand.
     
  • A common location for traffic issues to develop are on secondary (unpaved) roads, where locals, chasers and EMS/police/fire vehicles commonly park to watch a storm. While the rare congestion can occur on main roads, there are are rarely, if ever, main roads or highways blocked by chasers. There have been many documented cases, however, of police/fire/EM vehicles blocking a main road.
     
  • Highway overpasses are frequently choke points where the driving public scrambles to get their vehicles under cover from hail. It's not uncommon for interstates to be completely blocked by panicking drivers trying to save their vehicles from damage. You will rarely find a single chaser in these jams, unless they are unfortunate to come up on one after it has already started.
     
Related Posts:
A derived parameter for storm chaser traffic impacts: the "Chaser Traffic Index" or CTI >
Call-out: stop exaggerating storm chaser traffic with Spotter Network screen grabs >

The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:

I have seen very few cases where chasers have caused traffic problems in 5 years of chasing. In those cases I believe the guilty parties were actually locals "playing storm chaser". Any real storm chaser will risk getting stuck to get completely off the road. I value my old truck enough to not want it sideswiped by someone looking at the storm and not the vehicles parked off the shoulder of the road. As a group we are pretty good at policing ourselves and have no problem telling someone to get off the road further to not obstruct traffic.
- Posted by Charles Hamilton from Kansas City, MO. area
i have yet to see a traffic jam created by legit storm chasers.
- Posted by lon from illinois
A lot of chaser cars stick out like sore thumbs, with decals and hazard lights. I think its a good way to stick out from the average rubbernecker. You can get magnetic signs made cheaply that dont blow away. Throw them on.
- Posted by Dale Barnhart
I was a passenger in the red car that was shot in Barber County. The deputy was very rude and threatening. There was no need for him to be an ass. Now the media needs to also police themselves when their people are out chasing cause they are just as guilty. Plus the fire trucks were blocking more of the road than we were. Were they told to get off the road? Of course not.
- Posted by Stewart Haddad from Wichita, Ks
Regardless of what the video evidence shows to support our beliefs, the fact is that some states (and most notably Kansas) definitely have a bias against chasers in general. As Dale Barnhart has already stated, many chasers stand out like sore thumbs and no matter what their intent, the flashing lights and supposed "Skywarn" "Or 'I'm a chaser!'" decals make them an easier target. LEO's feel the law is on their side and the overzealous ones will exercise their muscle given the chance. The bottom line is (1) watch your speed (2) park well off the right-of-way (3) keep off private property (4) obey LEO commands, when given. While we may be right in many cases, by the time we get a lawyer (if we can afford one) and bond out, the storms will long be gone.
- Posted by Joel Genung from Tulsa, OK
I would prefer to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns. I'm pro-chaser, but only when it's done safely & respectfully. While I agree that there are some biased stories out there, there are also two sides to every story. I personally witnessed a situation in SCKS where emergency vehicles could not get through to render much-needed aid to victims due to chase vehicles blocking the roads, & sheriff officers were called to help clear the area so fire trucks could get through (this was several years ago). I heard the frustration & sense of urgency in the radio transmissions between emergency responders, officials & dispatch. I'm not defending the BA Co sheriff because I wasn't there during that particular situation, but I can tell you that there have been legitimate reasons authorities have been frustrated with chasers in this area in the past. No comment on the specific media coverage referenced above, because it was a different time-frame, but when the issue happened in our county it was definitely a problem/hazard and that was newsworthy. No doubt it also affects future reactions to similar situations.
- Posted by Smalltown Girl from Kansas

25 Years of Storm Chasing
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