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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 10/13/2010

Interview with tornado chaser Reed Timmer

By Jason Samenow

Discovery's "Storm Chasers" with Timmer airs tonight

* Cool rain tomorrow: Full Forecast | Old Farmer's Almanac history *

Tornado chaser Reed Timmer next to Discovery's armored chase vehicle the "Dominator"

Discovery Channel's docu-drama Storm Chasers kicks off its fourth season tonight at 10 p.m. ET. The Capital Weather Gang and readers submitted questions to "extreme chaser" and program star Reed Timmer. Timmer responds...

Capital Weather Gang (CWG): What training did you need to become a storm chaser?

Reed Timmer: Well a love and passion for weather is first and foremost. I've also been studying meteorology my entire life and I'm close to completing my Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma. To become a great storm chaser you really can't go wrong with some extensive study in the field.

CWG: What websites or tools do you use to pinpoint potential storm/tornadoes?

Timmer: is an awesome resource!

CWG: I want a storm chasing experience. How do I do it and do it safely?

Timmer: Actually you can come on one of our Extreme Tornado Tours! Check out the website. That way you can come storm chasing with us - safely!

Funnel cloud forming, August 14, 2009. Courtesy the Discovery Channel.

CWG: What are some of the key questions about tornadoes that chasing investigations can help answer?

Timmer: Besides our love for weather, we ultimately want to save lives. The data we are collecting will hopefully allow engineers to construct more sound structures to prevent massive damage and we hope to create an effective warning system which will warn residents if a tornado is about to hit their area.

CWG: Can you comment on the VORTEX 2 project? I know your team wasn't involved but you definitely have some insight to the personalities on the team. In your opinion, was the VORTEX 2 project a successfully run operation?

Timmer: VORTEX 2 has a large group of people so when there are that many individuals coordination is going to be your biggest challenge. An example of that is on May 22 which was a perfect opportunity for chasing that wasn't capitalized on. The funding for supreme storm chasing is certainly there. Hopefully there will be a bit more success on their end at some point soon.

CWG: Also, can you comment on the "Chaser Convergence" issue that took place in Oklahoma in late May. In general, there was a lot of controversy surrounding bad driving behaviors (including the Discovery crew) that prevented the researchers from getting into position. What's your take on all this?

Timmer: I was in Mississippi at that time so I actually wasn't there. Team TVN was getting the radar and cannons upgraded for the Dominator [the team's storm chase vehicle]. Generally when Team TVN chases there isn't a crowd and scenarios like chaser convergence doesn't happen.

CWG: What can we look forward to in Storm Chasers 4th season, and why should we watch?

Timmer: This season is our best yet. ... [W]e saw more storms than any other year. The drama between the teams is just as intense as the storms we see out in the field. Episode one shows us the first on the scene at Yazoo City, Mississippi where the damage was so extreme and the entire area was completely devastated. We were the ones that actually called in the report to emergency services in order to alert the area that a major storm was on its way.

By Jason Samenow  | October 13, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Capital Weather Gang, Features, Thunderstorms  
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Love the vehicle in the photo. It looks like it could take a hailstorm whupping for sure.
I've never see the show. Reads as if there's sometimes a lot of people out on those roads chasing storms & getting in each other's way.
Let's see, bad storms, excited amatuers, producers & researchers all driving fast on wet roads.....recipe for disaster completely separate from the funnel cloud type.
Be careful Mr. Timmer.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | October 13, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

One of the reasons VORTEX 2 has so much trouble getting to a tornado is amateur storm chasers. The roads are generally clogged with them, creating an unacceptable hazard, so the VORTEX team backs off. It's a real shame, as unlike the hobby storm chasers and thrill junkies, their team can actually help us understand these storms. (and no, just driving up close and taking some snapshots or video doesn't add much to our understanding of these storms) If you want to storm chase, stay at home and watch it on TV, and let the researchers (and public safety personnel and evacuees) get in and out as they need to.

Posted by: danacruikshank | October 13, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Agreed...Storm-chasing teams should be COOPERATING not competing with each other.

In addition, are NASA and NOAA involved in coordinating any of the major storm-chasing efforts in progress? Improved scientific research will eventually translate into earlier warnings on small-scale or mesoscale events, including tornadoes, derechos and other pulse-storm related systems.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | October 13, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm a little bummed. I think he skirted the main issues. Also, he's one of many that give these types of tours. Sure, plug your own, but you are amazingly successful, how about you share some of a the limelight with the rest of the chaser community. I'm also a little unsure why he doesn't give the VORTEX 2 project more credit. Having studied it from an academic perspective I know it has it's flaws, but there's a lot of good that they did as well.

It's a very complex issue. I DO want to thank CWG for getting this quick Q&A though. Very insightful!

Posted by: amandap2986 | October 13, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

But you all might still watch the program, right? :)

Posted by: Camden-CapitalWeatherGang | October 13, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse


NOAA and NSF are involved in funding VORTEX2 (it was approx. $12 million in federal funds and I believe some private money thrown in as well...)

Camden: I do love the show, but after following VORTEX2, there is another layer of drama and disgust around some of it. I too really want to go on a chasing tour, but learning about chaser convergence makes me think twice about supporting organizations that are not regulated by any state or local gov't (there are some limited examples of rules, I think) and do pose a public threat.

Posted by: amandap2986 | October 13, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I will most definitely be tuning in tonight. Wearing my tornado t-shirt that my boyfriend gave me... yep, that's how you know you love weather; when you start wearing it!

Posted by: CuseFan07 | October 13, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

CuseFan07 - excellent. Wear it proud!

Posted by: Camden-CapitalWeatherGang | October 13, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

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