Tornadoes provide thrills, but saving lives is the real reason we brave the storms

On June 12th, 2017, forecasters expected one of the worst tornado outbreaks to hit portions of southeast Wyoming, northern Colorado and western Nebraska in more than 30 years.  

It was also the first time in history that a Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch had been issued for these areas, which sounds as bad as it is, even if it’s just a watch, which means only that conditions are right for a tornado: This watch means that strong tornadoes are likely and that some could be long-lasting. Those are the kind that do serious damage and kill. 

I was nervous, excited and scared all at the same time. I knew that this was going to be a really bad situation and that the best thing that I could do was to call the national Weather Service and let them know what I was seeing: That was my job as a weather spotter. It’s a job I take seriously, even though it doesn’t pay anything, it’s dangerous and unpredictable.

As somebody who has been chasing tornadoes for many years, I spend a lot of my time on the road driving to certain places. Once I get to those places, I reanalyze what is going on in the atmosphere and reposition myself just in case a storm forms. 

There have been times where I have gotten myself in really dangerous situations to the point where I could not see if a tornado was coming or not. My cars have been hit with baseball-sized hailstones, which is, you can guess, hard on the paint. 

Don Day, president and meteorologist at Day Weather Inc. in Wyoming, said that storm spotters not only help to increase warning times but also provide information as to what is going on: Radar can only do so much. 

“They give people the chance to get to safety,” said Day.

It was very hot and humid that day which acted as buckets of energy for these super cells. The sky was nothing that I had ever seen before: It looked as if it was just waiting to explode.

 I, as well as a group of chasers from Kansas and Colorado, started off the day just to the north of Cheyenne. We then mobilized up towards Wheatland, where a super cell developed. I peeled off and looked at the radar to see what was going on, and I raced back towards Cheyenne. I believed a tornado was going to hit the city. According to the National Weather Service, more than 40 tornado warnings were issued across the areas with 22tornadoes being reported. One of those was a tornado that touched down in Laramie County close to Cheyenne but far enough away. Cheyenne dodged a bad one that day. I felt good about giving the people enough information to help. While it is cool to see tornadoes, my ultimate goal is to provide accurate information and  save as many lives as possible.

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