19 February 2012

Chaser Profile: Jim Zandonai


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

Jim Zandonai- Rockford IL.

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

For weather it is- onthegustfront.blog spot.com which has accounts of many chases ,local events, and photos etc.

3) What got you interested in weather?

Way back in 7th grade seeing amazing cloud structures, thunderstorms and visiting the weather service at Rockford at the time.

4) What is your favorite aspect of weather?

 It provides many photo opportunities and It's always usually something going on somewhere. It's rarely boring for very long.  Supercell thunderstorms rule.

5) When did you first start chasing?

Around 1987 and that was just with nothing but a weather radio then and map.

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

For me it's a hobby..If I sell a picture or two great but it has always been a hobby.

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

Just myself. No one got me into chasing as  I started on my own initiative.

8) Do you have any chase partners?

No, Although these days having a  good driver would be nice.

9) What was your most successful chase?

There has been a few as far as photographs go or punching the core. One of the best ironically was one that I didn't even have any equipment or a laptop and my weather radio batteries died. That was the July 13th 2004 Supercell which tracked Southeast from NW IL to east IL. The storm provided some terrific pics on the backside. That was the same day of the Roanoke Tornado which I had no idea was happening because of a dead weather radio and no laptop.  I was only a couple counties from it besides. If that would have been today it would have been grand.
Still had rotation form right in front of me on that day..was great in N.Livingston Co and S La Salle co. IL.

10) What was your most terrifying moment?

Really it's probably been close lightning strikes in some storms.

11) About how many tornadoes have you seen?

Unfortunately none worth of note besides funnels. The closest on July 13th 2004  and one that I Iost sight of in the early 80s after it past my house. However, I am content with great storm structure that provides and excellent photos.

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

To each his own ..I do not do it for the money.

13) Describe your dream chase.

Catching a decent Tornado in the open with decent daylight still  and capturing great pictures of it.

14) What is your favorite set up to chase?

 Sunny, Warm and  humid day with lots of cape and weak cap to begin with and an active frontal zone in the area with of course Wind shear !

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

I only chase in IL and South central WI.  No luck when in IA.

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

No not anymore.. I had a chance in 1985 going to NIU and didn't continue to that point.
For a TV station I might but it would depend on conditions..doubt that will happen here though. I share pictures though with a local TV station however. As long as they give me credit I am fine with that.

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

Probably like it is now and perhaps more congested in the plains.

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?

Sure I try and chase as much each year . Obviously I hope I wouldn't place myself in the direct path of  it obviously IF that were to occur. 

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.

Not yet..

20) How long do you plan on continuing chasing?

As long as I have desire and I can safely.

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

Besides watching the weather.. photography, being on facebook, watching movies, traveling when I can , being near on a lake and spending time with my cat and girlfriend.

22) What kind of music do you like to listen to on the chase or in general?

Generally classic rock or 80s.

23) What is your favorite professional and college sports team?

Depending on the Sport-- S.t Louis Cardinals baseball and Miami Dolphins football..Not really into college much but did like the Hurricanes for a while.

24) Do you have a family or pets?

     Yes I have a cat . She is is now an elderly 22 years old !

25) Tell me 3 things that someone outside of chasing may not know you for.

  I was a police officer for Rockford IL for a while in 1993-94 before I decided I did not like it as much I thought I would.
  I was the IL state, central states and Mid- American bodybuilding champion in the mid 80s in the 154 1/2 lb class and competed nationally.
  I had my appendix removed in 1985.

26) If you have kids or plan on having them... would you like to involve them in your chasing?

No kids and none in the plans.

27) Do you have a job and what do you do?

 Work for a large cable company as a customer care specialist. Chasing has been a challenge working around work schedule for past 5 years.

28) How do you feel about people who say they chase tornadoes for the sole purpose of saving lives?

 If they actually believe that I guess it's good but most its just an excuse for why they are really there.  I chase for the photography,  and to experience the power and glory of the storms. Of course being a NWS spotter I report too.

29) If there was one event in history that you wish you were around for to chase, what would it be?

Well realistically based on where I am probably the Belvidere Tornado in 1967.

30) Do you only chase severe weather or do you chase hurricanes and winter weather as well?

Just severe weather.

31) Do you go to a college or university, if so, what do you major in?
I went to Rock Valley college and have a degree in Earth Science.
I also went to the University of IL. and got a my Law Enforcement Certification there for RPD.

32) What do you expect in 2012?
Well provided I can get to chase on some good days working around my work schedule, I hope much with great photos and accounts.

I love to storm chase which has always been in the N.IL or S. WI.  It is to experience the power and glory and capture it in photos the best I can .

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