Storm damage isn’t cool, weird or awesome, but the ways we spot storms and warn people about them are pretty great. And they’ve come a long way from the time when the US Army Signal Corps banned anyone from using the word “tornado” in forecasts so as not to scare the public! Plus: the story of an engagement between two storm chasers that will literally blow you away.
Illinois Tornadoes Prior to 1916 (Illinois State Water Survey)
Imagine that the earliest warning you got of severe weather was some guy writing about it years later!
The most common emergency at this time of year is severe weather and storms.
We’ve already seen quite a few strong ones, including many powerful tornadoes.
Storm damage is not cool, weird or awesome, but the way we’ve built this whole network of satellites, weather stations and early warning devices is pretty great.
And it’s all come together fairly quickly, too.
Even though tornadoes have been around for as long as there’s been weather, the way we try to predict, spot and warn others about them is all pretty new.
There was a famous report of a tornado on this day in 1805, the first recorded in that broad stretch of middle America that’s called Tornado Alley.
The reporter said the storm was three-quarters of a mile wide and strong enough to carry pine tops from Missouri into southern Illinois, and fierce enough to wash water out of the rivers and lakes in its path.
The US Army Corps of Engineers first started trying to develop an early warning system for tornadoes in the 1880s, but there was a big obstacle to overcome: the US Army Signal Corps banned anyone from using the word “tornado” in forecasts so as not to scare the public!
That ban would last decades.
It wasn’t until the 1940s that some very dangerous storms convinced the forecasting community to change course, and technological developments like radar allowed them to better spot storms, and mass media (not to mention those loud storm sirens) made it possible to warn more people than ever before.
The irony of course is that in developing ways to spot storms, predict their paths and warn people about them, now we’ve got storm chasers, who use the information about how to stay away from storms to get closer to them.
Storm chasing is one of those things that you either love, or you don’t do.
Joey Krastel is in that first category.
He works as a meteorologist for the state of Maryland and says he’s chased some 70 tornadoes in his free time.
He’d been dating a fellow storm chaser, Chris Scott, who said his favorite movie growing up was the movie “Twister.”
And when Krastel decided to put a ring on it, he decided to pop the question to Scott – where else – during a tornado chase in Kansas.
The engagement photo shows Krastel on one knee with a ring in front of Scott, and a big tornado in the background.
The photo caption Krastel wrote: “The 2 loves of my life.”