Few things in nature are as terrifyingly beautiful and destructive as a tornado — or a “twister,” depending on what part of the country you call home.
We’re trained our entire lives — especially those of us who live in “Tornado Alley” — to take every precaution to avoid these swirling columns of violent wind, mainly because they tend to break everything in their path.
But AccuWeather’s Reed Timmer — formerly of Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” fame — didn’t just get up close and personal while chasing a developing storm situation west of McCook, Nebraska.
He’s now one of the first people to actually document what it’s like to be inside a tornado, on foot, as it’s forming.
That’s nuts. Crazily enough, Timmer, who refers to himself as an “extreme meteorologist” on Twitter, lived to tell the world what he’d seen.
On Friday, Timmer and his team were trailing the severe storm complex in their famous — and super cool-looking — “Dominator 3” tornado intercept vehicle, according to AccuWeather.
It’s not uncommon for chasers like Timmer to park their vehicles temporarily and walk into a nearby field to size up the situation and get the best camera view.
It didn’t take long for Timmer to realize something bad was about to happen, as a nasty dust cloud hindered his vision while the storm exploded overhead and the vortex of a tornado began to form.
“I was unable to get back to the vehicle and couldn’t see it, so I just turned my back to the wind and hoped for the best until it passed,” Timmer said about the harrowing experience.
The AccuWeather report said his car was roughly 50 feet away at the time.
Luckily, Timmer escaped unscathed, short of being covered in what later turned out to be manure, not dirt as he first assumed.
“I was digging that field manure out of my ears, and it was covering my face as well, all over the inside of the vehicle,” Timmer said.
Considering he made it out alive, a little manure on the face is a small price to pay.
Timmer, who has a his Ph.D. in meteorology, noted how important it is for unqualified individuals to refrain from chasing tornadoes without the proper equipment or training.
It’s an excellent, and crucial, point.
While some may think chasing severe weather — specifically tornadoes — is nothing more than searching for an adrenaline high, the significance of the scientific data collected from such encounters has led to increased warning times and a greater understanding of how and why these violent storms form in the first place.
For full disclosure: As an amateur severe weather geek, I’ve been a huge fan of Timmer’s for nearly a decade and proudly display an autographed picture of him on my wall.
I’m beyond thankful that people like him have the courage to be on the front lines, gathering the critical data that can help mitigate the loss of life from future severe weather events.
Keep chasing, Reed.
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