As many of you might know, Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas were again hit by tornadoes last night (May 31, 2013). What I thought was going to be a peaceful night at home after yet another family trip to Dallas to see the hip specialist yesterday turned into chaos and confusion on every level imaginable.
Not the least of the many problems stirred up by last night’s tornadoes was the damage done to the reputation of bona-fide storm chasers. Worse was the damage caused by the irresponsible urging of TV meteorologists for people to try to outrun the tornadic storms. All the 5 reported fatalities were people caught on the roads – roads that were as much flooded by vehicles as by water.
Just a few weeks ago I began a Master’s degree program in New Media Journalism. I shared the following, slightly modified, with the closed Facebook group I belong to as part of my coursework:
When talking with my admissions advisor during the months leading up to my enrollment in FSO, I stated that one of the reasons I want to study New Media Journalism is that I have promised to “ride shotgun” with my future-storm-chaser daughter. Even though we are being taught that journalism is not about our personal journey, I want to learn how to use journalism to help my daughter with her endeavors to use storm chasing to benefit society.
The Tornado Titans status update today really struck a chord with me. I will say that my family was astonished when we heard the TV meteorologist urge people to try to outrun the storm last night. All the eventual fatalities were on the roads (among them a young woman and her infant daughter) – the roads were flooded with vehicles as well as water. To me, last night was representative not only of the chaos and confusion these terrible storms cause, but it was representative of irresponsible journalism.
My comment on Tornado Titans’ status update (below) reads: Storm chasing for thrills is bad news any way you look at it. I have a daughter who wants to be a storm chaser, and her heart is in it for the right reasons – eventually she will become a meteorologist and her goal is to add to the understanding of tornadoes in the hopes of saving more lives (and property) from the devastation of these storms. We have chased one storm – from Norman to Shawnee on 5/19 – and we did not go so far as to gawk at the havoc that tornado produced.
Storm chasers, real storm chasers, work to benefit society and do not detract from the efforts to help other people. My daughter and I chased that one day to give her a taste of what she’s in for, and since then we’ve kept out of the way – we were very lucky, in more ways than one that day, and we know it. How we will proceed from here, I don’t know, but I do know there are bona fide storm chasers out there who do much more of a service to society than most people realize, and I am proud my daughter wants to join the ranks of the chasers who take tornadoes seriously. Tornado Titans are among those chasers. We are thankful they are safe, and we appreciate their position in the dialogue this has brought up concerning chasing and safety.
A message from Tornado Titans co-founder Chris Sanner this morning: “So many things to say this morning, so as the personality type I am, here’s a list:
1)I was not with Brandon and Brett, thank God they are ok. Brandon has apologized for their chase decisions yesterday and I believe forgiveness should be heavy on everyone’s hearts but I do think key lessons were expressly learned by many chasers yesterday. No video is worth your life and getting close carries some HUGE risks. Let that be a lesson to everyone, this is a time to learn from other’s mistakes to be sure.
2)I was 1.5-2 miles south and west of the tornado at all times yesterday and when it took it’s southern jog I bailed south. We got blasted with the extremely strong RFD for a brief time and that in and of itself was an incredibly dangerous situation. I don’t regret any personal chasing decisions but the combination of the Canadian River, erratic storm motions and….
3)…the fact OKC evacuated south made chasing impossible yesterday. I’m not sure what made KFOR think this was a good idea to recommend but I’m not going to be nice about this. That reckless comment could’ve cost the lives of thousands. It’s criminal to go into a theater and yell fire, I think this is a similar situation. Ridiculous behavior that could’ve turned out much worse. I expect nothing short of an apology from that station.
4)Nothing yesterday got us closer to being perceived as anything but reckless thrill seekers. I for one am fully in support of any and all efforts to police chasing in any way at this point. The numbers are a joke (largely have ruined chasing on the big days), and I have zero problem with any attempts to try to cut those down even if it means I have to stay at home. The fact emergency management had to respond to CHASERS instead of people who were VICTIMS is a HUGE shame. I’m sick to my stomach about that. People could have (and very well might have) died because chasers themselves chose to become victims and had to be responded to.”
I, too, am sick to my stomach – the recent spate of storms and devastation is heart-wrenching, mind-boggling, and stomach-churning.
I can only hope that people do not lose sight of the fact that there are responsible storm chasers out there who are risking their lives not for the thrill of the chase, but for the hope of helping to save lives.
And as if I don’t already have enough blogs to manage, I am having to develop a website-blog for my coursework. My most recent article there was a “localization of a national news story” about the Moore tornado of May 20, 2013, if you’d like to check it out
To see my May 19th chase with future-storm-chaser Daughter Rane: check out A First.
Thank you to everyone who expressed concern for my family’s safety during these recent stormy days. I have found a wonderful world of cherished friends here on WordPress, and for that I could not be more grateful.