Thursday, June 02, 2016

Storm chasers make rural roads more dangerous

Storm chasers in "Tornado Alley" are getting so numerous and reckless that they are making rural roads more dangerous, meteorologist Eric Holthaus reports for Slate.

"Weather fanatics call this traffic phenomenon 'chaser convergence,' and it’s increasingly making rural roads unsafe at the worst possible moments," Holthaus writes. "Chaser convergence has been around for years but likely never on this scale (each red dot represents a storm chaser reporting his or her location):"
Holthaus offers other maps, and photographs, as evidence of road congestion caused by storm chasers. "And those are just from two days in late May," he writes. Earlier in the month, "A storm chasing team that calls themselves 'Basehunters'—a well-known group with more than 50,000 Facebook fans—flirted with the outer edges of a tornado in Oklahoma, all the while rolling film and calling chasers that were even closer 'ballers.' At one point, their vehicle backs up at a high rate of speed on a highway as telephone poles are falling around them. At another point, one of the chasers says, “I don’t think we’re going to get a ticket, not with the tornado right there.” Thankfully, that video wasn’t widely shared (and I won’t embed it in this post in hopes that remains the case)."

Holthaus writes, "I have no problem with storm chasers (many of whom are meteorology students) who keep a safe distance from tornadoes and are out there to learn about, and witness, some of the most beautiful and powerful storms on the planet. But I don’t have many kind words for the people trying to get as close as possible, cameras rolling with dollar signs in their eyes, as bystanders’ livelihoods are destroyed. . . . I can’t think of another activity in which enthusiasm is so juxtaposed with actual suffering."

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