Meteorologists: Leave storm chasing to the experts

Published: Mar. 4, 2020 at 6:55 AM CST
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Although it may sound like a job for adrenaline junkies, it's more serious than that. Our storm spotters at KWCH work with our meteorologists to keep you safe during severe weather.

Jake Dunne, who is a meteorologist as well as a storm spotter, says it's not for amateurs.

He says placement is key while spotting a tornadic thunderstorm. Spotters have to know the structure of the storm and know if it has a chance of changing paths or moving backwards.

"If you're in the wrong spot or not in a safe spot, it could mean the difference between life and death," Jake says.

Storm spotters are certified. Some have degrees in meteorology and spotting. Radar shows a lot about storms, but forecasters like Jake rely on reports from the ground to keep viewers as safe as possible.

"If I show people 'Hey, look, this is what happened in Harper County five minutes ago', people in Wichita maybe go 'oh wow, this is a real storm with a real tornado'," Jake says.

So if you're tempted to go out in a storm hoping to get pictures or videos - don't. Leave that to the professionals.

"We definitely need them, but, again, we need them to be trained and we need them to be safe and we need them to give us that information in a timely fashion," Jake says.

KWCH storm spotters feed their video to the news station live. Jake and the rest of the weather team watch what is happening instantly.

If an amateur shares photos or videos online, it could take a minute or two to upload and share it. During severe weather, that's took long.

Don't risk your life in a storm. Don't take pictures; take shelter.

You may not always be home when severe weather hits. Anytime the road conditions are stormy, turn off your cruise control.

Anytime you need your windshield wipers, you should also have your headlights on.

If you get stuck in really severe weather, like a tornado, and you can't find shelter, get out of the car and lay down in a low, open area, like a ditch or the bottom of a hill.

The safest thing to do is not travel at all in severe weather or know when severe weather is approaching.

Whether you're going somewhere in Kansas or traveling out of the state, look at the weather forecasts for the entire route to your destination.

The Storm Team 12 app is a great tool, but there are other tools available, too.

Jake says you should know which radio stations in the area will cover severe weather if it happens.

Do your homework before and know those radio stations that do go into non-stop coverage. Not everyone does but some stations will go nonstop, wall-to-wall if the weather gets bad enough," Jake says.

KWCH partners with KFDI during severe weather. If you are not around a TV or do not have access to your phone during a storm, tune your radio to 101.3 KFDI for severe weather coverage.