MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif.- The heartland disaster in Oklahoma is prompting us to take a closer look at storm chasers. These men and women have said they play a vital role in trying to put out warnings before the disaster strikes. Now changes in technology are giving these brave people better tools work with.
There's interactive radar maps online, that storm trackers and even media outlets can use to see where other storm trackers are located (http://www.reporternews.com/weather/). We sat down with one of our local National Weather Service meteorologists to find out how technology like this is changing the way storm chasers do their research.
"Of course it's exciting, but at the same time you know you learn a lot and then you also gain a respect for these storms and you realize these things do change people's lives," said Monterey-based NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Logan Johnson.
Johnson said he's chased so many storms in his 10 year career through Kansas, Indiana and Florida, he's lost count. But in Kansas a "supercell", Johnson calls the worst kind of thunderstorm, split down the middle right in front of him, leaving him with an experience he'll never forget.
"Well unfortunately for me, the one moving to the left came directly at me. So I had the storm on top of me within just a matter of seconds, had to kinds of pull over, the wall of dust came through blowing in the 85 mph winds. You know the visibility was at zero, the car was kind of rocking side to side," Johnson said.
Johnson said made it out safely and gained valuable knowledge by being an eyewitness to nature's wrath. He remembers the days when technology wasn't so accessible.
"So on stormy days groups of chasers would come into the weather office and say can we look at your computers? We want to know where we should go today," Johnson said.
Now storm chasers carry smart phones, laptops and tablets to instantly see where a storm in located.
"They have the capability to stream video live, audio live. We can monitor the progress and the affects of these things better than we ever have before," Johnson said.
He said that's making our communities safer. The NWS said studying severe weather should only be done by experts and law enforcement has said its way too dangerous. If a severe weather warning is issued, Johnson said the goal is to have a plan beforehand in case you need to take shelter immediately.