Storm Chasing Second Grader
Documents Supercells,
Tornadoes and Lightning

Being face to face with an EF-3 tornado is all in a days work for second grader Chase.  At age 7, he has already witnessed a dozen tornadoes on storm chases in Texas, Florida and Kansas with his mother and I. 

He had really begun to show interest in photography and weather for the last couple years, so we started bringing him on local storm chases. In May of 2016, we decided that he was mature enough to accompany us on setups that are favorable for tornadoes.

Chase has storm pictures that rival those of many adult chasers. Tornado near Minneola, Ks on May 24, 2016 © 2017 Chase / Barcroft Media

Chase has storm pictures that rival those of many adult chasers. Tornado near Minneola, Ks on May 24, 2016
© 2017 Chase / Barcroft Media

Chase witnessed several tornadoes as a cyclic supercell moved through Kansas on May 24, 2016. 
Image by Savannah Weingart

He is very well mannered and behaved during incredibly long trips. Chase says that he likes to storm chase because he "gets to travel and spend time with his family". He has already visited 21 states on family trips, so being on the road a lot is no big deal to him. There are days we spend 16 hours on the road. He's also very careful around camera equipment, whether it's his own or someone else's. He's even accompanied me on one of my storm chasing workshops and bonded with several guests.

He is exceptional at following rules, especially when he knows it's a no nonsense situation like when we are chasing. It's not so much there are particular rules for a chase, he just knows how to handle himself well beyond his age. We are comfortable that he understands the dangers of disobeying when it comes to dealing with not only the weather, but the vehicles and people.  

Storm chasing really brings us together as we have a common interest and work towards a goal. It helps us spend a lot of quality time out together and in the process teach Chase about many different things, far beyond the weather.

Not all chase days are the same. There are certain setups he can't go on. Some days visibility is limited and the storms are moving tremendously fast (over 60mph) through populated areas and in difficult terrain with trees and hills. Those types of days have an added element of danger and that's not something we want to expose Chase to at this moment.

Chase caught this image of the Groom, Texas tornado on May 22, 2016.  © 2017 Chase / Barcroft Media

Chase caught this image of the Groom, Texas tornado on May 22, 2016. 
© 2017 Chase / Barcroft Media

Chase grabbing some video of lightning off the coast of Jupiter, Florida
Image by Savannah Weingart

When Chase does accompany us, we tend to hang back away from the storm a bit and focus more on teaching him the photographic and meteorological aspects of the event. Chase is also sent immediately to the vehicle if lightning strikes within 10 miles of our location. When asked if he is concerned about the risks associated with his hobby, he replied "not really. I trust my mom and Jason to keep me safe". 

Chase says his favorite part about storm chasing is "getting to see things like lightning and tornadoes".  While the worst part about chasing is "If a city gets hit by and tornado and people get hurt". 

Chase and stepfather, Jason Weingart discuss photographing lightning from the coast of Jupiter, Fl. Image by Savannah Weingart 

This year, Chase is setting his sights on creating a book to help teach other kids about clouds and the weather. When asked the number one thing he wants to achieve with his chasing, he answered "I want to see more tornadoes than anyone ever has". Getting a start at his young age, he has as good of a chance as anyone. 

You can see more of Chase's photography and follow his adventures on his Instagram page. 

 

 

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