Chaser "Acceptance" - Newbies and Veterans

Yet another gripy essay


Chuck Doswell

Posted: 21 December 2002 Updated:

As usual, this is my opinion. Offended by what I'm saying? Feel free to respond (email:

Chaser "Acceptance"

Of late, it has come to my attention that there are those who have been offended by my remarks on my storm chase summary pages, or by perceived attitudes among those of us who are veteran storm chasers. To summarize the gist of the feelings expressed by the offended parties, I'll provide a paraphrasing of their comments. No doubt, this will offend some of them even more than I already have, but I'm charging ahead nevertheless.

Generally, it seems that these comments and concerns are expressed by those who are relatively new to the chasing game. There's a widespread perception among these "newbies" that the veterans are contemptuous of them simply because they're new to chasing. These newbies apparently yearn for "acceptance" by the veterans, and chafe at being "unfairly" characterized (lumped with the yahoos or whatever). The very term "newbie" seems offensive to them and perhaps is considered as symptomatic of a lack of respect on the part of the veterans. They cry about how "unfair" it is for us veterans to judge them (Who said chasing was "fair"?), and some of them believe the veterans treat all new chasers as if they are not responsible, or whatever. All the new chasers want, they claim, is to be treated with the respect they believe they deserve.

A few years back, this sort of whining and angst over "acceptance" and "fairness" was a major reason why I quit participating in the WX-Chase Newsgroup. Now, it seems, that whining is coming directly to my "doorstep" and I feel the need to offer my opinion about it.

My primary reaction to all of this weeping and whining is to ask: What does it matter to you what some veteran storm chaser thinks of you? Why should my opinion (or that of any other veteran storm chaser) mean anything to you? Will our endorsement make you a better chaser? Will it get you to any more storms? Does the lack of our endorsement prevent you from chasing? As my good friend, and long-time storm chaser Gene Moore has said about these crybabies, "For these guys, it's not about storms, it's about them!"

Chasing is not some sort of social fraternity, where being "blackballed" by any veteran keeps you out of the club! The opinion of some veteran (or of all the veterans, for that matter) isn't going to prevent anyone from doing whatever they want to do while chasing. We (the veterans) have no power over any other chasers, so our "acceptance" has to be one of the most meaningless things we could possibly withhold from a new chaser.

Frankly, anyone who worries about "acceptance" strikes me as someone with a serious personal problem, but that problem is not being driven by the perceived attitudes and behavior of the veteran chasers. If someone chases for acceptance by veteran chasers rather than simply to see and learn about storms, then they probably should be seeking psychiatric counseling.



If a chaser wants the respect of veteran chasers, it seems to me that this respect needs to be earned. It's not your due, just because you go out a few times and call yourself a storm chaser! Show me what you've done - I'm not at all interested in hearing you talk, without the deeds to back up that talk. Not all the veterans are 100% responsible, 100% of the time, but they have all paid their dues by going out and chasing, usually with little or no prospect of any reward other than seeing a good storm, when there was no one around to tell them whether they were doing it right, or doing it wrong. We didn't go chasing to gain the approval of our predecessors, because we didn't even know there were predecessors!*

* Dave Hoadley and Roger Jensen were not known to us at the time, and once we found out what their history was, we knew just what they were about, because (like us) they had been chasing, not for acceptance by us (or anyone else) but because they really wanted to see and learn about storms! We could relate to that, and so we came to love and honor these men who dared to chase long before it ever became fashionable and trendy.
It's hard for me (and many veterans) to relate to some newbie, crying over withheld "acceptance"! This sort of whiny nonsense is pathetic and contemptible and says to me that those doing the crying have a lot to show me about their commitment to storms, if they actually want my respect (for some unknown reason).

In today's world, lots of folks are out chasing to get famous and be on "TeeVee" - or to make money by selling their video to the TeeVee. Others seem to think of chasers as some sort of social fraternity, complete with hazing of the pledges by the older members, etc. Membership in the "club" is what seems to matter to them. Still other chasers are pure "thrill seekers" it seems - I have no problem with being thrilled by a tornado or a great storm, but for some, it's all about the danger and not the storms, per se. No, there's a lot of chasers out there I definitely don't respect. I will not go out of my way to meet every chaser. There's a good chance a chaser I don't know is someone I don't want to know. I can live on quite comfortably without knowing every chaser.

A good chaser is someone whose deeds and actions will speak for themselves. No need for self-promotion, garishly-decorated chase vehicles, and wild statements to the ever-present media. If you want my respect, show me something that says you're about storms, not about you!


Chaser Convergence

I've expressed my loathing for chaser convergence, of late, and this has offended some folks. It used to be fun to run into chasers during a chase, because there were so few of us. It seemed like magic to be alone one minute and have some friends show up at the same time and the same place, just as a storm was doing something interesting.

Today, there can be hordes of chasers, most of whom are strangers, lining up in long, winding caravans on isolated Plains roads - trapped by the lack of road options into converging onto a single storm, like a school of piranhas swarming around one piece of meat tossed into a stream. I find myself uncomfortable being recognized in such a convergence. People want to run up and talk to me while a tornado is going on, for Pete's sake! This is an aggravating intrusion into what is a very personal moment for me. I want to savor the experience and to focus on getting the stills and videos I've worked so hard to obtain. The last thing I want to do is engage in idle chit-chat at such a moment. Leave me the hell alone, when a storm is happening! The fewer chasers around me, the better. Most of my veteran friends know better than to intrude on such a moment - they too are focused on the event, not on turning this into a social experience! For us, it's all about the storms, damnit!!

And what about those hordes of chasers? Choice spots to pull off the road are all taken ... even on the Plains, there usually are only a few really good places to pull completely off the road and get the best viewing. In many situations, it's tough now to find any place to pull over, for all the dozens of chase vehicles (literally!). In such a large congregation of chasers, it's almost inevitable that a few of them are doing stupid and reckless things. Vehicles flying every which way - chasers doing U-turns - chasers not pulled completely off the road - chasers going too fast for conditions - all that traffic creates lots of hazards for all of us. How can anyone wonder why I'm so bummed about chaser convergence these days?

It's still possible to have the experience of having a storm to yourself once in a while. Our Throckmorton tornado experience (07 April 2002) involved no other chasers in our immediate vicinity. As is common these days, we learned only later that there were other chasers on the storm ... I have zero problems with having other chasers see the same storm. What mattered on that day was that I wasn't in a chase caravan with dozens of other vehicles or having someone intruding into my experience by wanting to talk about something during the tornado. We were alone when it happened and that was what counted. Such experiences are hard to come by in certain places at certain times of the year.

After the chase is over, provided it's not dozens of people (like it was in Childress, TX on 29 May 2001), I usually enjoy meeting some friends (and perhaps even a few newbies) in some restaurant. I like that social experience as much as anyone. In a horde, even after the storm, however, I have no wish to participate. I'll go elsewhere - anywhere but there!