07 February 2012

Chaser Profile: Scott McClellan


1) What is your name and where do you live?
  Scott McClellan. I live in the middle of ‘The Jungle’: Birmingham, AL. 

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

 Alabama Storm Spotters on Facebook; @alastormspotter on Twitter; Alabama Storm Spotter on YouTube. And currently working on a new website which should be up and running mid 2012.

3) What got you interested in weather?

Always had an interest from about age 5. No one event set it off. One event DID push it along though. December 3, 1983 tornado in Oxford, AL. 5 miles from my home. Destroyed a Winn-Dixie supermarket, killing 3.

4) What is your favorite aspect of weather?

 The sheer power of it. All facets.

5) When did you first start chasing?

1988. The days of rolled maps and portable weather radios.

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

Hobby. Business when photos and video come into play.

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

Actually my late father. He always pushed me to pursue the passion for weather that I’ve always had. 

8) Do you have any chase partners?

 My wife accompanies me on about 75% of the chases I go on. Other than that, it’s solo. 

9) What is your most successful chase?

April 27, 2011; Incredible day that I hate to call a success. So many giant storms roaming Alabama, that you literally had your pick as to where to go, within a 75 mile radius.

10) What is your most terrifying moment?

Palm Sunday 1994. Just outside of Piedmont, AL. Getting caught within about a quarter mile of an EF-4, and having to abandon our vehicle for a ditch. Also, on April 27, 2011...hearing that my kids’ hometown of Rainsville, AL had taken a direct hit from an EF-5, and not being able to contact them for over 7 hours afterwards. Pure hell.

11) About how many tornadoes have you seen?

Approximately 100-125.

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

As long as they have a true, old school passion for it…and not the ‘rock star’ mentality, and they’re properly trained, Im good with it.

13) Describe your dream chase.

 I’d actually like to see an open plains wedge…doing NO damage whatsoever. Just to watch and follow.

14) What is your favorite set up to chase?

Living in Alabama, I usually don’t have to go very far. They come to me. Preferably, nearby (within 100 miles)…and in daylight!

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

 Oklahoma/Alabama for most success. Tennessee…thumbs down.

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

 If I ever got the call from a station, sure I’d give it a shot. That business degree was tough enough back in 1993. I’ll stick to chasing. J

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

Hopefully it will steer away from becoming a ‘business’, like it seems to be heading towards now. Don’t see that happening though.

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’ve seen the power of 3 EF-5s, and I saw Tuscaloosa up close and personal. Nothing really scares me anymore. You just help if you’re in the position to. And always look ahead to what is coming up.

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.

Seeing children being taken out on pieces of church pews and doors, after the Palm Sunday 1994 tornado struck Goshen United Methodist Church in Piedmont, AL. There are a few more instances, but that one sticks out the most. They had no warning it was coming. When you see bodies being loaded up…it changes you permanently. Always thought if they had a little more heads up, would it have made a difference. Different era, before real time, mobile data. Hard to say.

20) How long do you plan on continuing chasing? 

 Until Im physically unable to, or when that EF-5 finally catches me.

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

 Travel, attend college football games at my alma mater (JSU), fire up the X-BOX 360.

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

Grew up on 80s music, but cut my teeth on 90s alternative. So they’re mixed in on every chase. A staple, for good luck…first song as the vehicle is cranked “Ace of Spades’ by Motorhead. I actually keep an ace of spades card stuck in my sun visor.

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

Chicago Cubs, Boston Celtics, Washington Redskins, Colorado Avalanche; Jacksonville State Gamecocks

24) Do you have a family or pets? 

 Married with a 14 year old daughter/11 year old son/a mini min-pin, and a fearless mini dachshund.

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

 I'm extremely opinionated, love to travel (outside of chasing), and have an unhealthy phobia of heights.

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

 My 11 year old son is fascinated by weather. A mini geek.

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

 I work for Flextronics. A subsidiary company of AT&T.

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

 They’re lying. End of story. Been around long enough to know ‘em. 

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

 The Tri-State tornado of 1925. 234 miles on the ground. Amazing.

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

 Lived through the SuperStorm of 1993, with 26” of snow in Anniston, AL; also lived through Hurricane Katrina on the MS Gulf Coast. I think I’ve earned my badges. J

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

Graduated from Jacksonville State University (AL) with a degree in business management, and a minor in accounting.

32) What do you expect in 2012? 

 The ratio of tornadoes could quite possibly be the same, or at a slightly HIGHER curve than ‘11. We can only hope that it won’t be as severe.

4/27/11 - Large wedge tornado near Birmingham, AL

Personal Statement/Reflection:

The events of the past 72 hours, have shown both the terrible side, and the good side of what our hobby is. While we mourn the loss of one of our own, the amazing bonding of fellow spotters/chasers has been extraordinary. That is how we should treat our craft every day. I know that there are 'differences' and 'drama' between our own at times. But, never forget, we are all doing the same thing, for the same reasons. When each of us encounter a storm, we all have the same reactions. Respect the storm, but respect each other as well.

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