For many residents of Texas and Oklahoma, the idea of getting trapped in gridlock traffic on I-35 is scary enough. But seeing the interstate and all surrounding roads at a complete standstill with a violent tornado on the way? That’s what David Reimer, founder and owner of the popular company Texas Storm Chasers calls one of his scariest storm chasing moments.
“At the advice of local television meteorologists and out of pure fear many residents took it upon themselves to evacuate out of the path of the storm,” Reimer said of the storm that tore through Oklahoma on May 31, 2013. It was a storm that Reimer and his girlfriend Paige Burress happened to be chasing. “Combine Friday evening rush hour with several hundred thousand folks evacuating and you have the recipe for complete gridlock.”
Thanks to Burress’ navigational skills, Reimer says, the pair was able to keep moving out of harm’s way.
For Reimer, chasing storms is a way of life.
It was the fall of 2008 when Reimer chased his first storm, accompanied by his dad and an AM/FM radio in a minivan. Just 16-years-old at the time, Reimer’s dream of seeing a tornado in person was fueled by an increasing number of storm chasing videos he saw online, thanks to the advent of social media.
“I had been enthused with weather since I was a child,” Reimer said. But between seeing videos from storm chasers and taking a storm spotter class as a teen, “I found myself wanting to help make a difference by reporting severe weather.”
Reimer never expected to make such a significant difference so soon.
When Reimer founded Texas Storm Chasers in 2009, he didn’t think much of the decision to create the company’s accounts on social media.
“I expected to have a few hundred folks follow us—mainly other storm chasers,” he said. But Texas Storm Chasers’ following grew more quickly than expected.
According to the company’s website, the already large following exploded one day in September 2011 when wildfires were devouring the state of Texas after a months-long drought. Reimer updated his Facebook status, asking followers to post any information about wildfires on Texas Storm Chasers’ page as a way of sharing information.
Two days later, the number of page likes went from 14,500 to around 75,000. That momentum didn’t stop.
Today, Texas Storm Chasers boasts over half a million followers on Facebook and nearly 160,000 Twitter followers. Their website provides live weather updates from all around Texas while showcasing professional storm chasing videos and photography. And it’s all done with a team of three—Reimer, owner, Burress, photographer, and Jenny Brown, blogger and photographer.
Just two months ago in May, Texas Storm Chasers released its first movie, Persistence: Spring 2016 Storm Chase Adventures. The movie is a compilation of the company’s professional storm chasing footage ranging from December 2015 to May 2016.
Eight years after hopping in the minivan with a radio and his dad, Reimer’s adventures have made him even more passionate about storm chasing. Originally from New Jersey where his family lived until the mid 90’s, Reimer says storm chasing in Texas provides a unique experience.
“Texas covers nearly 270,000 miles of real estate while Oklahoma and Kansas cover 70,000 and 82,000 square miles respectively,” Reimer said. “One could be chasing storms in the relatively flat plains of North Texas one day and be in the piney forest of East Texas the next.”
Reimer added that the Texas Department of Transportation’s roadway maintenance—“and the 75 mph speed limit”—are added bonuses.
In the future, Reimer said Texas Storm Chasers plans to continue “providing life-saving safety information to the general public via our mobile app, website, and social media outlets.”
Reimer has personal goals as well. He said he wants to have fun, “capturing Mother Nature’s worst on film, and providing real-time severe weather reports to the National Weather Service.”
And what will storm chasing in Texas look like for the remainder of 2016? Reimer said while he doesn’t believe in long-term weather predictions, he does think “we’re overdue for a hurricane landfall in Texas.”
But not to worry—Texas Storm Chasers has information on their website about where to go and what to do to stay safe in different kinds of weather conditions Texans often find themselves in.
And while other Texans follow their advice and run for cover, they’ll be chasing the storm.