04 February 2012

Chaser Profile: Matt Sellers


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

Matt Sellers, from Beulah, Colorado.

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

eyeofthetornado.com    (The site is still in a primitive state.)

3) What got you interested in weather?

I’ve been interested in weather since age 5 at the latest – as early as I can remember. I used to make forecasts for my kindergarten class (as I’ve been told!) Simply said, I think I was born with an interest in meteorology.

4) What is your favorite aspect of weather?

Any aspect that is not “normal.” I follow weather from certain locations all over the world that are known for extreme conditions. Example: Oymyakon, Sakha Republic, Russia.

5) When did you first start chasing?

May 30, 1996. I’d turned 16 7 ½ months earlier and had greatly anticipated my first chase season. I got very lucky on my first solo chase on that day; seeing anvils on the northern horizon from a town east of Pueblo, I turned north and drove toward them. 150 miles later, I was watching an F3.

I had a few more chases in 1996 and chased several more times in 1997, failing to see a tornado except for one that dropped 10 miles north of Beulah in August, 1996.

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

100%  hobby.

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

The June 6, 1990 Limon, CO tornado, as reported on KOAA-TV by Mike Daniels; Jack “Thunderhead” Corso (the first chaser I ever knew of via standard media); and the many chasers who had videos on the 1991-1995 TDC/TLC tornado shows. Those events/people furthered my chasing career in the fact that they got me interested in chasing in the first place.

8) Do you have any chase partners?

Currently, my wife Jenn is my only chase partner (2002-present.) I have had several over the years: In 1997-1998, my brother Mike went along for one chase, as well as a couple high-school friends on two other chases. Bored them to tears!
While living in Oklahoma, my main partners were Shane Adams (1998-2003), Tom Pastrano (1999-2001), Greg Clark (1998-99), Jeff Johncox (1998-99), and Dwain Warner (1998-2001.) My chases have been sporadic since 2002-3, but have had excellent chase partners in Scott Weberpal (2002, 2003, 2006), Marcie Martin (2002), Graham Butler (2002), and Erik Burns (2011) alongside for my brief Plains appearances.

David Drummond and I caravanned for one memorable chase (5.27.2001) for both of us – he lost his back window to a wind-blown pebble then I ended up driving through a field in zero visibility due to blowing dust in 100mph winds (while David was filming.)

Aside from my high-school friends, I’ll gladly chase with any of them again.

9) What is your most successful chase?

5.31.1999, southwest Oklahoma. I’m defining “successful” as ‘most variety of severe weather seen in one day’ for this question. Saw tornadoes, decent-sized hail (maybe golfballs), experienced a very warm RFD, saw another tornado well to our east, and then hunkered down underneath an east-facing storefront as the squall line moved through Lawton. Winds were probably 70mph.

10) What is your most terrifying moment?

5.5.2002, near Lesley, TX. Jenn and I were among many chasers along TX-256, the only main east-west highway in Hall County. The Happy, TX supercell was still ongoing at that time, but seemed to be just north of the highway and would stay just north of all of us.

We were wrong. The storm cycled and produced a tornado to our immediate east, coinciding with a huge RFD back where we were. Winds went from west to NW then blew down the power lines on the north side of the highway across from us. Jenn freaked – she hadn’t been in winds of that strength before – I knew we were on its back side due to the wind direction but that was of no consolation until the winds subsided. The wind – 100mph or so - blew all of my mag-mount antennae off the top of the car (I found them stuck to the passenger door), and took the top section of one antenna away completely.

11) About how many tornadoes have you seen?

35 or so.

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, their own. Chasers are all out there, fundamentally, for one reason. What they choose to do out there and/or make of it is not my business and will not be any concern of mine.

13) Describe your dream chase.

Any chase that results in tornadoes in my viewscreen, especially one where I correctly forecast the target at least 24 hours in advance.

14) What is your favorite set up to chase?

High-instability / low-shear days. Just about anything can and will happen, and the storms move much more slowly than March and April stuff that most often requires one to bring along their own personal rocket. Not to mention that the storms are much more structurally picturesque.

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

Most: Oklahoma, mostly due to chasing the 10.4.1998, 5.3.1999 and 10.9.2001 events, and my close proximity to being able to chase on those days (and many others) having lived in Norman, OK at the time.
Least: Missouri. I learned early on – 1998 – to not chase rocket-speed storms in the Ozarks. That was followed by a not-so-fun trip down Prospect Blvd. in Kansas City with Shane Adams in 2001 while we drove from a bust chase in Nebraska toward Little Rock, AR. My navigational “error” (though the map was right) ended up in us driving directly through the ghetto. The doors were locked and our eyes were straight ahead for about 15 minutes.

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

I chased for KWTV briefly in 1998 and pursued a meteorology degree at the University of Oklahoma until 2000 – credits I earned at OU transferred to Colorado State University-Pueblo and allowed me to need only business-core and accounting classes to get my accounting degree, which I finished in August, 2011. With that degree, I can, in theory, apply to a met school somewhere and be able to bypass the gen-ed stuff – but I’d have to retake the math/physics/etc as well as all of the met classes. If the opportunity presents itself, I might revisit that option.

I’d consider chasing for a TV station again, but only on my own terms or something very similar. I won’t alter the way I chase because a TV station tells me to go somewhere. Realistically – that will not happen.

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

Much like it is today. 4G networks will be much more widespread by then (if not more advanced), and chasers will still have as many technological gadgets as they want, but their ultimate success comes down to how well they are able to forecast as well as interpret changing conditions on the fly.

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?

That’s a risk we all (as storm chasers) take each time we head out. The chances of seeing anything like those events are very low, but certainly worth consideration. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

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.

The last 8 years have been a period where I would have loved to chase, but couldn’t. Starting a family, getting a house, and then moving on to another career a few years later were higher priorities than storm chasing. I never lost the desire to chase, but put chasing aside knowing that the tornadoes will always be out there to chase no matter what.

20) How long do you plan on continuing chasing?

As long as I’m physically able to do so.

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

I maintain a weather station from home, with a station observation record nearing 10 years. I play guitar (both standard and bass), sing, and have played drums.  I play golf, follow the sport religiously, and like watching it on TV.

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

Mostly metal, but I can tolerate just about anything except new pop or rap.

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

Denver Broncos and Oklahoma Sooners. I follow the other Denver pro teams but I can’t sit and watch those sports for every game like I can with football.

24) Do you have a family or pets?

Wife Jenn, daughters Emily (7) and Abigail (4), and two cats.

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

1. I drove my father’s pickup off a cliff when I was 4 years old.

(The cliff was short – maybe 35 feet – and the base was the adjacent highway. And we landed on the wheels then drove home in that truck.)

2. On that note, I have a great memory for dates. The truck-off-cliff incident occurred on June 23, 1984.

3. I keep daily weather records in Beulah and have done so for the last 10 years that I have lived here (6 years in the 1990s, then early 2008-present.) The difference in climate between Beulah and the plains 5 miles away is incredible.

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

If they still show interest once they reach adolescence – definitely. I would love to take my daughters along but if they’re not interested, I certainly won’t force them to come with me.

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

I am the CFO and general manager at Pine Drive Telephone Company, the local telecommunications service provider for the Beulah, CO area.

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

Their intent is noble, but I think people that say that are BSing themselves and everyone that sees their stuff on various social media outlets or message boards.  They chase tornadoes to see tornadoes just like the rest of us. I think they initially try to justify the hobby to others close to them (or potential sponsors) that may perceive chasing as a “dangerous” hobby by claiming that their only purpose in chasing is to “save lives”, and that statement quickly carries forth into their dealings with other chasers.

Chasers have doubtlessly saved many lives over the years, but they have done so because of their actions (calling in reports, aiding rescue efforts, etc.) without any mention of “saving lives” as their main reason to chase storms.

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

Limon, CO, June 6, 1990. That was such a huge storm as seen on TV, being under its base would have been awesome.

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

I don’t have to chase winter weather! (Beulah’s season-average snowfall: 120”.) Have yet to chase a tropical system of any type, but did experience the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin in 2007 in Oklahoma, which was pretty close.

31) Do you go to a college or university, if so, what do you major in?

Currently I’m taking a one-semester break from MBA studies at CSU-Pueblo.

32) What do you expect in 2012?

Hopefully, more chases than in any year of the past 9 (2003-11.) If I can get out there 5 days, that’ll be fine. The more the better, of course, but there’s no way I should expect to get back out on 25 days in a season again right away. I’d be extremely pleased with a few good chases and some good times with chaser friends, old and new.

* Tornado near Elba, Colorado May 30th, 1996
*Tornado near Parsons, Kansas April 19th, 2000
* Tornado near Foss Lake, Oklahoma October 9th, 2001

Personal Thoughts and Reflection: 

Just chase it. See you out there!

No comments:

Post a Comment