Professional storm chasers follow wild Prairie weather

stormchaserManitobans battered by severe summer storms aren’t the only ones watching to see what the heavens deliver next — storm chasers are also keeping a close eye on the province’s wild weather.

“Storm chasing is not nearly as prevalent as it is down here, but there are more and more storm chasers in the Canadian Prairies,” said American celebrity storm chaser Reed Timmer.

The star of the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers — who has witnessed more than 400 tornadoes and hurricanes across the American Midwest — said he’s been crossing into Canada more often.

“Last year we were up there a lot,” he said. “The tornado season on the Canadian prairies was particularly active last year, similar to 2006.”

And while he spends much of his time in Tornado Alley, which runs from Texas to South Dakota, Timmer knows the border is no barrier.

The June 23, 2007 tornado in the rural municipality of Pipestone was one of the biggest Timmer has witnessed this side of the 49th parallel.

“It was almost a mile wide and all over the rural countryside,” he said.

On July 3, 2012 they swung back across the border again near Swift Current to watch a spectacular white rope tornado rip through the countryside southwest of the Saskatchewan city.

Storm chasers collect data that improves understanding of how tornadoes form, the damage they cause, and how advance warning systems can be improved.

Timmer said he thinks Canadians aren’t well-prepared for extreme weather events.

“You definitely should be ramping up for weather safety on the Canadian Prairies,” he said.

“There definitely needs to be tornado sirens. Down here in the U.S., people have battery-powered radios with alarms so if a tornado warning is issued the alarm will go off and they know to take shelter. And people have above-ground safe rooms if they don’t have basements.”

Manitoba sees, on average, seven to 10 tornados per year, with most occurring in June and July.

Timmer spoke from North Dakota last week, where he was travelling with fellow storm chaser Sean Schofer of TVN Weather. The pair and their team use the tank-like Dominator 3 to enter ‘near tornado environments’ to deploy their data-gathering instruments.

Of course, no one should ever chase a tornado unless they’re trained for the job. They’re unpredictable and can change course abruptly. Even it if appears to be standing still, it can be moving in your direction.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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