Experts call storm chasing a critical tool in saving lives

7:08 PM, Jun 3, 2013   |    comments
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MAPLE GROVE, Minn. - The recent deaths of three experienced storm chasers following Oklahoma tornadoes is reminding local chasers the importance of using extreme precaution.

"We always preach safety. It's number one," said Michael Stanga, a long-time storm chaser in Minnesota. "It can be very dangerous."

Despite the risks involved, Stanga continues to chase massive storms. It's not the thrill he's after, but the science.

"We forecast days in advance, pour over models and study data," he says. "Many of us have advanced degrees and we understand the atmosphere and storm dynamics."

In many ways, the National Weather Service relies on information gathered from chasers and spotters.

"The ones that help us report tornado touchdowns immediately," says Todd Krause, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "There are lots of excellent video they provide us. It helps us teach our weather spotters."

Krause believes information from storm chasers can assist in when to warn the public.

"Storm chasers are good at figuring out what storms will produce tornados and which ones won't," says Krause. "That information can help with lead times."

Michael Stanga believes it's critical for someone to report the "ground truth" in severe weather.

"Radar can only do so much," says Stanga. "Storm chasing is very scientifically driven."

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