14 February 2012

Chaser Profiles: Stephen Jones


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

My name is Stephen Jones and I currently live in Norman, Oklahoma but, I am originally from Beaufort, South Carolina 

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

I started a project years ago and named the website, Weatherstorm.net and is now my main body website where my photography/stock footage, live stream, and blogs our found… We also link with all the social networking and media on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

3) What got you interested in weather? 

I can’t honestly remember what exactly got me interested with weather… Since I was a toddler, I remember looking outside to the clouds and rain and I would stay next to the window till the storm was over. I also remember when I was a toddler I would still be scared of lightning and thunder, but when I would run to my parents’ bedroom, I would sit and just watch the lightning flashes through the window. Later on in life, I knew I became passionate with weather, almost obsessed. I would track weather with the Weather Channels and finally getting internet, I was always on my favorite weather links, reading books, and even college textbooks on Meteorology by age 8. Twister of course helped with my passion and love for severe weather and helped me think where I wanted to go in life was my dream state of Oklahoma to experience storm chasing.

By age 13, I would actually “Chase” a storm on my bicycle to get to an area of town I know would give me the best angle of looking at the storm.. And that is actually how I saw my first tornado! 

4) What is your favorite aspect of weather? 

I enjoy and love to experience all aspects of weather. From tornadoes to viewing the storm from far distances away. Also, living in South Carolina my whole life, I got to experience all aspects of weather from severe weather to hurricanes and getting to tune in with weather as a surfer on the coast with waves and winds. 

5) When did you first start chasing?

I can say my first storm chase (while being able to drive) was back in March 2008 of my first ever high risk outlook over South Carolina the day after the Atlanta, GA tornado in March. I was actually successful in seeing a nighttime tornado, but I had no camera but my cell phone.

My first ever storm chase in the Plains was actually back in 2009 after I started going to the University of Oklahoma.

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

I see storm chasing as a hobby for my pure pleasure of going out and enjoying the storms and seeing the Weather at its worst. I love photography and capturing the weather and nature. I do have a video broker with KDR Media; I have a site to sell video and photography, but never a goal in storm chasing. I have never went out storm chasing thinking money, but a few bucks helps to pay for a chase on the offside chance I get something worth taking photos or videos of. I just love though the feeling of going out with friends on the road and experience the chase and the people we meet along the way.

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

I can say a lot here… I have so many people that have helped me along the way to become a better chaser and forecaster. I do look up to many folks that I know are by far way better chasers than me and have been around a lot longer than I have. I have a few role models like Mike Hollingshead, Dick McGowan, and Stephen Locke, Jim Reed and few others with the aspect of Weather Photography. As for extreme chasing, I have role models of friends in chasing such as the Basehunters (Colt Forney, Kevin Rolfs, and Scott Peake and Issac Pato), Andy Gabrielson, Brandon Sullivan, and many others I have learned from the past few years. I give credit to all them for sharing tips and experiences while out chasing in the field. I would also have to say the support of my fiancée, Emily McMichen, for being there for me and even chasing with me, my best friend and partner Zach who has kept me cool under pressure and the list goes on and on.

8)  Do you have any chase partners? 

I never have really ever have had dedicated chase partners… I chase with friends… Although, my best friend and roommate, Zach Elliott. He is usually my partner in storm chasing. We have great chemistry together as he is usually my navigator and helps me in so many other ways… Otherwise, I pack a car full of friends and head out chasing.

9) What is your most successful chase? 

This is a really hard question. My most successful chase would probably be a tie between June 20th, 2011 and November 7th, 2011.

10) What is your most terrifying moment? 

I have had some pretty close calls of dangerous moments in storm chasing.. My scariest is probably April 8th, 2011 as we were chasing a tornado warned storm near Ponca City, OK. After viewing the tornado and saw it occlude at night.. We waited behind a smoke shop on the north side of town when what we thought was and RFD coming our way… During our time of not watching radar, we notice winds switch from the E to the S and we saw the power grid in town go out…Finally power went out where we were and heard a roaring sound as hail picked up… Somehow we turn to the north of the building to get into our cars for cover but in between lightning, we saw a fairly large tornado maybe 500 yards in front of us moving away… As we drive out of the way of the storm moving South through town, all power was out and debris in the road. And when bad goes to worse, a new couplet formed and was moving our way.. We had no choice but to ditch inside a hospital basement and wait it out.

11) About how many tornadoes have you seen? 

I have seen 37 tornadoes in my lifetime so far.. Not too shabby… Although 4 of those were waterspouts.

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

I personally see nothing wrong with it at all. If that is what they want to do then that is their purgative. I enjoy seeing their footage and love any kind of aspects of the weather, even getting really close for that “money shot.” The only thing I dislike about this is sometimes folks see it as a big competition of getting the best shot with the best cameras.

13) Describe your dream chase. 

My dream storm chase would be in the month of June somewhere in the North Plains with amazing supercell that produces monster after monster and photogenic tornadoes over open fields and we are able to track close to then all day long with 20kt storm speeds and insane structure.

14) What is your favorite set up to chase? 

My favorite set-ups are west of I-35 that have high instability and moderate shear chases… These for me have worked in the past in being the most successful kind of chases.. Let that CAPE get over 2000 JKG Please!!

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

The State that has brought me most success so far has been Oklahoma, Texas, and Nebraska. I have yet to have great luck in the state of Kansas, but I think the biggest state of disappointment is Arkansas 

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

I am currently pursuing a degree in Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. And I do hope to keep on going into grad school to get a Masters or higher. 

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

I think chasing will still be popular as it is now, but I don’t think it will be as main stream as Storm Chasers is now off the air and could maybe see a few less of chasers on the road in the next coming years. The only thing I can see changing is it will become harder to be the only one to get great views of storms, as people are now obligated to get closer and closer.

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 did go see the damage and volunteer for the Red Cross in Hackleburg, AL and saw the horrific EF-5 damage and seeing the damage is very heart breaking. But it does put fuel in the fire for me in chasing. Especially in being prepared for situations of destruction if I ever directly stumble onto it after the tornado and need to help victims.

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 honestly have never felt this before. I have always have been passionate about chasing and will chase days on end.

20) How long do you plan on continuing chasing? 

I plan on chasing as long as I can. I am currently in college and am able to chase frequently, but growing up, family, job..etc could keep me from chasing as much as I would love to, but I plan on chasing till the day I leave this Earth.

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

Outside of chasing, I love to play and watch football, Hang with friends, and when I am back on the coast, I love to surf and ride big waves. I used to be a big surfer back on the East Coast and surf almost any chance I got. I also like to go Camping, Hiking, Photography Adventures, and swimming. I also love thrill seeking such as riding roller coasters, extreme sports, and experiencing adrenaline. 

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

I mostly listen to classic rock or country music while storm chasing.

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

Of course, I am going have to say the Oklahoma Sooners is my favorite college team, but I am also a Dallas Cowboys fan as well. (From my Mom’s Side)

24) Do you have a family or pets? 

I have a beautiful fiancée named Emily.

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

1. I used to be a surfer and compete along the East Coast. 
2. I was the town’s weatherman.
3. I was also part of Roller Coasters Enthusiasts group

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

I would love to evolve my future children with storm chasing as they got older, and share my passion with them, although, not so sure that would go over well with the Mrs at the time. We shall see.

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

I currently am a Technical Sales Supervisor at an OfficeMax in Norman, OK.

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

I honestly feel that when people say that it is a complete load of crap. But, I do not judge a person for the reason why they chase. I think people chase because they love to chase.. Simple as that. Whether if it is for money, fame, glory, photography, or personal interests. We are all storm chasers, a family together.

29) If there was one event in history that you wish you were around for to chase, what would it be? 
Of course I would have loved to chased Campo, CO tornado. I was hoping to chase that day but school got in the way… Sooo wish I would have went.

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

I usually love chasing just in general in all types of weather phenomena. I do chase winter weather events and hope to chase a few hurricanes whenever they decide to actually come close to the US. 

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

I got to University of Oklahoma and am in the School of Meteorology. I am currently this semester going to a community college to get other classes done.

32) What do you expect in 2012? 

I am hopeful and expect another great tornado season in the Plains. I also think it will be an early starter with the Gulf of Mexico not completely shut down. I will make the best out of it and enjoy every set-up, even busts.

It has been my dream to be out in the Plains and chase ever since I was young. I am now finally living that dream. Regardless of a bust or a score, I really love the feeling of being out in the Great Plains seeing the nature and beauty of God’s Country. I hope every year I will keep the same passion and fire I have kept all these years and am here to cherish God’s fury and the people I meet along the way. Recent events have taught me to cherish each chase, even the bust. Running into familiar faces out in the middle of nowhere is sometimes the best feeling there is and to feel and share the rush of a tornado with the person beside you.

No comments:

Post a Comment