“We are your calm during the storm.” That is the motto of the North Mississippi Storm Chasers and Spotters (NMSCS). When Mississippi weather looks iffy, a group of 35 volunteer storm chasers gear up and head out to track tornados, lightning storms, and more. The group’s primary mission is to relay any spotted information directly to the Mississippi National Weather Service (NWS) and ensure its 70K and growing Facebook followers have the latest news to be safe.
Reports from trained weather spotters have saved countless lives, especially during heavy rain, thunderstorms, and wind storms. Storm Spotter volunteers, in general, are essential to all communities to provide severe weather reports. Spotters relay their messages to the Weather Service in real-time. NWS forecasters use this information to track storms and alert the public to dangerous weather situations.
Like-minded people founded NMSCS. Each chaser has deep respect and curiosity for severe weather and a passion for helping provide lifesaving information to the public. Correct information given promptly allows families to protect themselves and avoid dangerous areas. But the work doesn’t only happen on weather alert days. Days before an active weather day, chasers are already starting their hunt.
Before the general public is aware of a potential weather alert day, NMSCS has been monitoring forecast models and information from the National Weather Service and Storm Prediction Center to determine the best place for the storm to develop. The workload leading up to a severe event, especially during the event, gets stressful, making sure the information is accurate and reliable.
Stan Dorroh of Starkville, Mississippi, is NMSCS social media administrator and has been storm chasing for over ten years. Doris says storm chasing is dangerous work.
“Storms can change direction without notice, especially here in Mississippi. They often move more than 50 mph. They also tend to occur more at night. And all of our trees can limit the view of the storm. Combine all of those factors with the fact that we usually try to position ourselves within one to two miles of the storm/tornado, and it is easy to find yourself in a very precarious situation,” Dorroh said. Due to the conditions Dorroh mentioned, he has survived three tornadoes in his vehicle while chasing. Yet, the thrill of the chase and the call to protect the public keep him rest running toward storms.
Safety is NMSCS’s top priority, so they look for weather watchers and chasers who have been through the NWS Emergency Management Storm Spotter training classes. Mississippi MWS offers courses throughout the year and some online. Dorroh encourages everyone to take the class if they’re interested in weather watching or just for basic knowledge of what to look for in changing weather.
During an active weather day, Dorroh stays extremely busy publishing the graphics, disseminating information to the Facebook page and other sites, and answering questions from followers about what has or may unfold. NMSCS is also directly affiliated with WTVA in Tupelo and provers the station’s weather coverage, photos, videos, and live streams.
“People know they can come to our Facebook page anytime or night for the latest information,” said Dorroh. “Being able to give people peace of mind or a heads up to hunker down keeps me going.”
Follow the group on Facebook @NorthMississippiStormChasers and never venture into a storm alone without being prepared. If you’re interested in becoming a chaser or spotter, reach out to the pros first!
Photos provided by North Mississippi Storm Chasers.