One of the first storm chasers, David Hoadley, got his start in North Dakota in 1956 after he witnessed a severe thunderstorm rip through his hometown. Hoadley has since chased storms all over the United States. He helped to establish the framework that storm chasers, like Sean Schofer follow today.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Sean in between storms to talk storm chasing. Here’s what he had to say:
Sean: I’ve loved storms and have always been fascinated by them ever since I can remember as a kid. Years later after I got my driver’s license, I use to hop in my vehicle and watch the storms from a distance. After that, I was part of a local storm chasing team from Saskatchewan for a couple years when I met Reed Timmer. That’s where he asked me to join Team Dominator and it’s where I’ve been ever since. After joining their team, I realized we never really knew what we were doing before that. Reed and the rest of the team have taught me so much. Their knowledge and experience cannot be replaced by anyone.
Sean: The typical day for us when we’re chasing storms is we wake up early and check the models. Once we see what we like, we pick a target. Then we set up all our camera gear and equipment. We do a double check on our probes and make sure everything is working properly. After that’s done, we have a check list of tests we do on the Dominator just to make sure everything is working properly. After that, we head out on the road, for what is usually a long drive ahead of us. As we drive toward our target we are continuously checking the new models as they come out which could possibly change our target depending on what we think is going to happen. Storm chasing isn’t all action which a lot of people think it is. It’s many long grinding hours on the road. But it usually pays off for us in the end.
Exogear: What kind of equipment do you use to chase storms?
Sean: We have several different kinds of probes we are trying to get into the tornado to collect data. We also have several different methods to get the probes into the tornado. One method is where we secure several probes right to the Doninator and drive into the tornado. Another method is where we put a probe inside a Zorb which is like a beach ball with a hollow point through the center where we can place our probe. We also bring along our air cannons which shoot probes into a tornado. Then of course there’s our ground probe that we place in front of the tornado to take a direct hit. Mounted on top of the Donminator is an anemometer which we use to measure wind speeds. There are ten GoPros set up in and outside the Dominator at all times. And of course we use cameras and video cameras. We all have cellphones, iPads, and laptos to read maps and radar. The Dominators are equipped with Exogear cell phone and iPad mounts.
Exogear: How do the Exogear mounts help you chase severe storms?
Sean: Exogear mounts are very important to us. Especially with me being a driver of the Dominator. My #1 responsibility as a driver is to keep everyone in that vehicle safe at all times. When we’re going in to intercept a tornado things get really intense. When I’m approaching a tornado and planning an escape route in my head in case we need it or need to see radar to see exactly where we are in a storm, I can’t take my eyes off the road to look down at my iPhone or iPad. Exogear mounts have my iPhone and iPad secured directly in front of me so I can safely take a quick look at what I need to see without taking my eyes off the road. I’d highly recommend them to any chaser or anyone who uses a cellphone or tablet.
Exogear: What’s your most memorable moment as a storm chaser so far?
Sean: We’ve had so many great chasing experiences, it’s really hard to pick out just one memorable one. But I’ll go with last June when we chased three days in Nebraska and South Dakota. The first day we chased near Pilger, NE. The first tornado came down almost on top of us. Within five minutes there was a second tornado on the ground only a few hundred yards from the other one. It’s rare to have two tornadoes on the ground like that at the same time. Unfortunately the one tornado took a direct hit on the town of Pilger, so we had to stop the chase to do search and rescue. The second day we intercepted a tornado near Coleridge, NE. That was probably the most powerful tornado I’ve ever seen. It was a very intense intercept and we mangaed to get some of the best intense tornado footage I’ve ever seen. On the third day we chased near Alpena, SD. That day we had another event of twin tornadoes being on the ground at the same time. That was probably my best three day chase ever.
Exogear: Any advice for future storm chasers?
Sean: The best advice I can give to someone who wants to get into storm chasing is they should start by taking a Skywarn or Canwarn course. After that, I’d recommend they go on a tornado tour with a reputable company. They teach you so much on those tours.
Exogear: Thanks so much for the interview Sean. How can our fans and followers keep up with your storm chasing adventures without being on the path of the storm?
Sean: If anyone wants to follow what’s going on with us, you can follow me on: Twitter @seanschofertvn, Instagram @seanschofertvn or Facebook SeanSChoferTVN.