31 January 2012

Chaser Profile: Jake Ferden

* Jake Ferden at The Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction, Colorado August 2011

1) What is your name and where do you live?

Jacob (Jake) Ferden, Norman, OK, originally from Minnesota

2) Do you have a website or a brand name that people identify you as?

Not at the moment, but I've been kicking around the idea of using blogger to post some forecasts, chase logs, photos, etc. Maybe reach a slightly wider audience than my Facebook friends list.

3) What got you interested in weather?

Interested in weather since I was a little kid. I remember watching TWC's tornado specials back in '95 or '96, somewhere in there, and really developing an interest from that point forward. I I can definitely say that I was aware of chasers before Twister came out, so I have that going for me. 

4) What is your favorite aspect of weather?

I'm a pretty visual person. So I'm big into supercell structure, photogenic moments, etc. I'm still waiting for a tornado from some high plains LP supercell. I'd love to get that shot.

5) When did you first start chasing?

Did a little tentative local chasing" in Minnesota in 2008. Went on my first actual chase on April 9, 2009 in eastern Oklahoma. Probably took a bit of an unorthodox route into it, I just went off on my own in my car with a road atlas and my phone. Didn't see anything but the back end of a squall line, but I was hooked after that.

6) What do you see chasing as... a hobby or a business?

Hobby all the way.

7) Who do you credit for getting you into chasing and what have they done to further your career?

I don't know that there's any one person that I can credit for it. It was more the type of thing that gradually built as I aged. One thing that really piqued my interest by the time I got to OU was reading through the chase logs of some of the veteran chasers going back over 10 or 15 or even 20 years.

8) Do you have any chase partners?

I have chased solo the vast majority of the time, although I have a few people in Norman who I've chased with on occasion. There is something rewarding about scoring on a solo chase, although I also enjoy the companionship of chasing with other people. There are pros and cons to both.

9) What is your most successful chase?

April 22, 2010. The one textbook, perfectly executed day of my short career. Drove to my target in the Texas panhandle, refined it, got on a great supercell, witnessed awesome backlit tornadoes. Sheer bliss. Probably the happiest day of my life.

10) What is your most terrifying moment?

The evening of April 25, 2009. At that point I still didn't have much of a clue about what I was doing, wound up driving into a monster supercell after dark from the northwest. Narrowly missed getting tagged by the EF2 tornado that went through Enid, OK.

11) About how many tornadoes have you seen?

This is a tricky question to answer due to a couple of relatively ambiguous situations. I can definitely say that I witnessed one on 04/25/09, one on 06/12/09, at least a half dozen, and possibly up to 10 or more on 04/22/10. 05/10/10 and 05/19/10 were days with fast moving storms and poor visibility, respectively. I may or may not have witnessed actual tornadoes on both of these days. So eight for sure, possibly up to 10-15 depending upon what actually happened or how one counts things.

12) What do you think about people who chase for sales and the need to get up close and personal with Mother Nature?

I think chasing for sales and only sales kind of negates part of the beauty of chasing itself. I am extremely fond of driving to the target, waiting at a truck stop, engaging a developing storm, watching a supercell cycle up and down...all are positive feelings I take back from every successful chase. As far as how close one chooses to get, to each their own, so long as they aren't endangering the lives of anyone trying to stay out of the way.

13) Describe your dream chase.

 My dream chase? 04/22/10 was darn close, I would say. A family of backlit tornadoes in open country. I used to say I wanted to witness a wedgefest but 2011 has kind of put things in perspective as far as what bad things can happen. One thing I wish would happen in a more general sense is a return of frequent great storms to the Texas panhandle. You won't find better chase terrain anywhere in the world, and I've always enjoyed reading chase logs from the '90s about the awesome supercells that used to occur out there with some regularity.

14) What is your favorite set up to chase?

Classic dryline-triple point-warm front. I'm a dryline man in most circumstances, but it's nice to have all three targets to choose from.

15) Which state has brought you the most success? Least success?

Texas has brought me the most because of that one fantastic day. Kansas has probably brought me the least, as I have yet to witness a tornado there in three years of chasing. Probably in pretty select company in choosing Kansas though, as in past years it's been a chase mecca.

16) Do you want to pursue a career in meteorology? Would you ever chase locally for a t.v 

 I originally was pursuing meteorology at OU but switched out due to various reasons. I can't see myself in that field at this point, sadly. As far as the T.V. station idea...my one issue with that has always been that it tends to restrict you to the station's viewing area. I've never been one who likes settling for a closer secondary target. In other words, I'd rather drive 300 miles to my favored target than 100 miles to a more conditional situation. I certainly would be open to the idea in the right circumstances.

17) What do you see chasing as being like in 5-10 years?

I think the increase in gas prices, along with the demise of the Discovery channel series, may result in an eventual decrease of the chase mobs which, IMO, were at their absolute peak in mid-May of 2010. I don't think we're ever going back to the days when you could have a supercell entirely to yourself, but I would not be surprised to see a moderation of the current chaser convergence issues.

18) Despite all the deaths and destruction in 2011, are you looking forward to chasing in 
2012 knowing you can run into a Tuscaloosa or Joplin?

I'm actually really looking forward to this spring for one simple reason...recovery. 2011 was far and away the most trying, disappointing season I've had, and I'm eager to put it behind me. My stance on the mass casualty issue is that I can't control what the tornado does. It's going to do the damage and killing regardless. If I come upon that sort of situation, all I can do is help as best I can. I'm sure I'll witness destruction many times in the years to come. It comes with the territory.

19) Is there any point in time where you had no desire to chase anymore? What caused that and what gave you the power to move on.

 I came close once, in late May of 2010 following the awful chase caravans and other various incidents. Not an anger at the situation, but more of a fear that I might have been unduly contributing to it. I snapped out of it quickly enough, though.

20) How long do you plan on continuing chasing?

 As long as I'm physically, mentally, and monetarily able. I don't know if that will be for one year or ten years or fifty years. However long it is, I'm going to savor every minute of it, because there's nothing I enjoy more.

21) Outside of chasing, what do you like to do?

I love traveling to various parts of the country. I kind of view myself as a bit of a free spirit. So I love going to national parks, hiking a trail, eating in diners, sometimes I just drive somewhere for the hell of it. Love the open road.

*Tornado near I 40 on 4/22/10

*Tornado near I 40 on 4/22/10

* LP supercell near Greensburg, KS - 4/9/11
What Jake has to say:

I view chasing as an extension of who I am, what I do, and what I am thinking about with regard to everything in life. When I am standing under a meso, or watching a tornado in progress, or even when I’m just driving to a target under a sunny sky with puffy cumulus developing ahead of me, I just feel…alive. Secure in who I am, relishing a connection with the earth and its atmosphere, in sync with everything that is going on around me. To me, chasing isn’t about me. Chasing isn’t about the storms. Chasing is about both. Every day I chase I feel permanently and irreversibly connected with everything that occurs, for better or for worse. I am not a religious person, but I guess you could say that it is my time of harmonious, spiritual realization. A time of growth. A time of rebirth. That is why I can’t imagine stopping any time soon. To take such a powerful, unrelenting pleasure from anything is something that a person can’t afford to take for granted, and who knows what the years ahead will bring? But I know this…as long as I’m able, I’ll be out there. Maybe I’ll see you under a meso this year.

Jacob Ferden

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