Name: Ethan Gonzalo
Storm chasing name: Razorback Storm Chasing
What influenced you to start storm chasing?
Gonzalo: There are a lot of factors that influenced my decision to start storm chasing, but one of the major factors is deep in my childhood. Every night I would watch daily episodes of Storm Chasers on The Discovery Channel and I had a very deep love for weather and learning all about it. Ever since my elementary days, I would always be the A+ student in climate science classes and when it came to learning about weather, I was all in. My school had a special weather forecast setup for me to tell the whole school about for the daily announcements for my school. BUT! My main influence for storm chasing has got to be from watching Storm Chasers.
How many storm chases have you been on and what’s your favourite to date?
Gonzalo: I’ve been on countless chases since 2016 starting with my father. Every year me and my father would always go storm chasing when the opportunity arose in the afternoon after school. I’ll make a guesstimate, I’ve at most been on close to 13 chases thus far since 2016. But my most memorable favourite chase of mine was from October 10th of last year when I went on a full convoy chase with my chase crew at Razorback Storm Chasing in western Oklahoma.
During a chase, what excites you the most?
Gonzalo: Getting to see a tornado develop from birth to maturity all the way to death stage. Also getting to watch lightning shows at night from storms excites me as well.
What is the most dangerous thing you’ve had to deal with whilst chasing?
Gonzalo: Getting way to close to a tornado in or along it’s damage path or going through a massive hail core with “GORILLA HAIL!!!”
– LET’S DISCUSS CHASING IN DETAIL –
When do you start planning for a chase?
Gonzalo: Usually when the Day 3 outlook is posted by the National Weather Service Storm Prediction (SPC) and all models from NAM to HRRR are in agreement and are consistent I would get my chase crew on “Code Yellow” which in our terms is monitor mode before the day of the event and look at local environment and if we are chasing outside of Oklahoma. I would look for good cheap hotels for us to stay at the day before the severe weather event (Day 2 – Day 1 according to the SPC) and keep monitoring. If all is still consistent on the Day 2 outlook, then our team goes into “CODE RED” meaning chase mode is activated.
What steps do you take to plan out where your severe weather (tornado) target will be?
Gonzalo: Keep an eye on consistency of weather models and HODOgraphs watching for any notable instability where a high chance of a tornado developing and getting a hotel near or around the potential area for the most tornado developments. We always watch HRRR and NAM models.
What do you take when you go chasing?
Gonzalo: Usually we take portable CB and HAM radios with us to keep in contact via antennas and also we take our mobile devices with ZELLO installed where reception permits we use ZELLO. We also pack emergency equipment including jumper cables, emergency roadside lighting, medical supplies and various tools in case anything on our vehicles malfunctions or break.
What equipment do you use to chase?
Gonzalo: On my chase rig, I have a Bearcat Uniden CB radio and a portable HAM Radio to communicate and keep tabs on various Skywarn spotters in the region and listen into what’s going on in various areas. I also have an anemometer along with a pressure sensor with it on top of my vehicle to give me live wind and pressure readings of the environment when stationary. I also bring portable weather data gathering devices from when I’m on my feet outside I can use anywhere to get wind speed, pressure data and dew point and humidity readings.
Also, what equipment do you use during a chase?
Gonzalo: I have emergency traffic advisors installed on my car in amber and white colour (legal in the state of Oklahoma) for when I’m on the side of the road monitoring the weather and watching what the storms are doing and also to help people see me from afar to keep me and fellow drivers safe. I also keep in communication with my chasers in convo with my CB radio to get tabs on what they are seeing.
If someone wants to start chasing, what should they learn or do and what should they expect?
Gonzalo: First of all they should learn the basics about supercell development in various settings. Learning the differences between hail indicated rotation and tornado indicated rotation. How to associate triple point vs a single point like a dry line. They should expect a lot of the unexpected when chasing as it’s mentally and physically draining when watching models because you never know if something is going to happen.
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