Metro storm spotters, chasers prepare for possibility of severe weather

OLATHE, Kan. – The chance for severe weather this week has storm spotters on standby if conditions turn violent.

John Hale and Carl Hobi have been fascinated with the weather practically their entire lives.

“We live to chase. That’s what we love to do,” Hale said.

The two men have been chasing storms together since 2015. They call themselves the KC Storm Trackers.

“You see pictures of what these things can do, and being up close and personal is a feeling like no other,” Hale said.

Hale is the navigator for the pair while Hale monitors radar and forecast models. Both men are certified storm spotters for the National Weather Service. They said the job is 90% driving and 10% chasing.

“You’re driving, trying to get to this spot and that spot. Models are constantly changing,” Hobi said.

“If you’re just out there to get a thrill, you really shouldn’t be out there,” Hale added.

They’re itching to get out on the road again and chase. Last spring, they were only able to capture an EF-3 tornado in Tescott, Kansas, about 30 minutes north of Salina.

“We were within a mile or two of it,” Hobi said.

In general, the weather across the Kansas City metro area was fairly tame last spring. There was just one week in May when severe weather hit, producing five weak tornadoes.

“A couple of things happened last year. One, we had that ridiculously cold April,” FOX4 meteorologist Joe Lauria said. “This April has not been nearly as cold.”

Lauria predicts the plains might see some bigger storms develop this year but the severe weather outlook will likely be average.

“We’re going to see a little bit of an uptick in tornadoes on the Kansas side, maybe a small uptick on the Missouri side, but I don’t think this year is going to be overwhelmingly bad,” he explained.

It’s not exactly the news Hale and Hobi want to hear, but they also know how destructive storms can be.

“We understand they destroy lives and property, and we don’t wish that on nobody,” Hale said.

The men said safety is the most important aspect of storm chasing. They suggest anyone interested in learning about it ride-along with trained professionals first. They added that no one should ever storm chase alone.

FOX 4 meteorologists Joe Lauria, Karli Ritter, Michelle Bogowith, and Garry Frank will keep you apprised of any severe and dangerous weather in our area.

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