Storm-chasing tours are a thing in the summer – and they are getting bigger each year, but many in the field to say it is risky business turning Mother Nature's furious forces into an expedition, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"People kept asking if they could go storm chasing with us, so we decided to create this company so they could book a tour like a cruise," veteran storm chaser and Tempest Tours founder Martin Lisius, of Arlington, Texas, told the newspaper.
The company started in 2000 and now sells out its tours that can run to 11 days and cost from $300 to $3,850.
Of course, not even storm chasers can guarantee to see a tornado – the Holy Grail of storm chasing – and the tours are off to a slow start this year with half of normal tornados popping up so far this year, the Journal wrote.
The uncertainty of storm chasing has not slowed its interest, with similar storm-chasing tour companies appearing around Texas and the Midwest over the past 20 years, the newspaper said. Those include Silver Lining Tours, Extreme Tornado Tours, and Extreme Chase Tours.
While no one can point to deaths from storm-chasing tours, the dangers are real. Veteran storm chaser Tim Samaras, his son Paul and chase partner Carl Young died in 2013 after being swept up and rain-shrouded tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma, according to the Dallas Observer.
In 2017, three storm chasers -- Kelley Williamson, 57, and Randy Yarnall, 55, both on contract to The Weather Channel, and Corbin Jaeger, 25, of the storm chasing group Monsoon Madness – died when their SUV and Jeep smashed together while pursuing a tornado near Lubbock, Texas.
Authorities told the Wall Street Journal that they believe that adding more people on the road during the time of dangerous stories only compounds the potential peril.
"The truth is it is becoming dangerous (for the chasers), with the traffic congestion and unsafe speeds," Sheriff Darren Atha of Roger Mills County, Oklahoma, told the Journal. "And I have great concerns about their passengers."
Tour operators told the newspaper, though, that they emphasize safety, such as avoiding unpaved roads where a vehicle might get stuck and making sure to always have an escape route.
Operators admitted that the increased number of storm-chasing vehicles that clog back roads this time of year in an increasing concern, the Journal reported.
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