That’s the tag line to recent commercials airing for Discovery Channel’s show about people who follow severe weather around, Stormchasers. The commercial shows a mother and her daughter running to the basement as the video breaks away to an oncoming tornado, and then the tag line, “this is why we chase” appears on the screen, implying these guys are physically chasing tornado outbreaks (and other severe weather events, but mostly tornadoes) in order to help save lives, such as the lives of the little girl and her momma depicted in the commercial. Utter nonsense.
These guys are chasing tornadoes for the thrill; the attention it brings; and the money they might make by selling their videotapes, in roughly that order. They do next to nothing for anyone caught in the path of a storm; they aren’t forecasters, but instead rely on forecasters, only very rarely reporting sightings of tornadoes to forecasters in a way beneficial to their forecasting capabilities. And the regular folks lying along (but not directly in) the path of the storms can do as much in the way of helping the forecasters figure out a storm’s actual track as do the stormchasers.
I think it rather poor taste for these publicity-hound daredevils to be afforded any sort of the respect that is implied by having a show devoted to their antics, and particularly so now, as it appears 2011 will be one of the deadliest and most destructive of severe weather years ever, and hurricane season hasn’t even begun. Imagine losing your house, and perhaps your family, in a devastating F4/F5 tornado, only to see it blown away again on a video taken by some high-fiving cretins, cheering in the background on the soundtrack, thrilled at the chance to videotape nature’s fury, never mind the death and destruction it wrought.
It reminds me of Don Henley’s (band member of the Eagles) song, Dirty Laundry, where the “bubble-headed bleach blonde comes on at five, tells about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye”.
The Stormchasers series seems to wish to portray these guys as something of dark heroes, courageously willing to brave the elements, to bring us, what? Video footage of tornadoes? Big whoop. If you’ve seen one tornado video, you’ve seen ’em all, because they must necessarily be filmed from afar if the tornado will be destructive enough to be interesting. If these guys really wanted to do some good with their chasing, they’d strap on a helmet cam and dive directly into an F5 tornado–a sort of suicide-videographer–so we can see what it looks like from the perspective of a storm victim, as the wind flips them around like a rag doll. Then, when the video and what remains of the stormchaser’s body is recovered several miles away, the evening news can show what really goes on in a killer tornado, and perhaps elicit some small measure more of compassion for the people who endured it.