The only storm I ever chased was by accident--zipping through the Texas Panhandle one time. But I've always been fascinated by people who manage to craft a living out of Mother Nature's "moments"; so, speaking of, here are some key moments in the history of storm chasing, via the National Association of Storm Chasers and Spotters:
- In July of 1943, Colonel Joe Duckworth and Lieutenant Ralph O'Hair of the US Army Air Corps flew an AT-6 into a hurricane off the coast of Galveston, "Just for fun," according to Duckworth. Ironically, a B-25 crew had also conducted an unauthorized flight into the same storm. (Storm chasers never change!) Official reconnaissance of tropical weather began in 1944 and continues today, conducted by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based in Biloxi, MS.
- In 1952, the Weather Bureau (renamed National Weather Service in 1967) organized the Severe Local Storm Forecasting Unit in Washington, D.C., and the first tornado forecasts were issued. In 1959, the first weather radar was commissioned, and in 1960, the first weather satellite, TIROS I, was launched. It was also during this period that local "spotter" networks were established. As a consequence, the first volunteer chasers/weather watchers were organized.
- The first storm chaser to gain international media exposure was newspaper photojournalist and business entrepreneur Warren Faidley. Faidley began pursuing severe weather in the mid-1980's as a newspaper photojournalist. Faidley's career and ensuing publicity was launched in part by an amazing photo he captured of a lightning bolt hitting a light pole less than 400 feet away from him. (The shot nearly killed him.) Life Magazine published the photo in 1989, billing him as a "storm chaser."
And although every good meteorologist will agree that inclement weather is no joke, here's a worthwhile Mr. T-as-storm chaser send-up.