*Kansas Sheriffs Departments Want to Arrest the Problem of "Gawkers"
The Dickenson County Kansas Emergency Manager, Chauncy Smith complained that chasers got in the way of emergency personnel in his area, and then a whole slurry of news articles and reports came out about the perils of storm chasers. I was in Salina Kansas on the14th of April, chasing, and I noticed a traffic jam of sorts, myself. However, out of all the people out and about, almost all of them seemed to be respectful of everyone around them and of the danger, and when Sheriffs came up from behind with lights and sirens, everyone pulled over to let them pass with little trouble. I won't say I witnessed perfect behavior out there. A WIBW news crew decided to stop at the abutment of an inter state bridge to talk on the phone blocking half a lane of 75 mph traffic. I saw some chaser types showing off and hot rodding around. They seemed to be kids with a bottomless credit account. The biggest hazards I see are people roaming around with cameras with lightening striking close by. I've got a new rule for myself -- don't get out of the car in severe weather, even if it means my photograpy has to suffer. Lightening is too dangerous. Also, it is good to have a chase partner who deals with the distractions, while the driver concentrates on the driving, and the other distracted people on the road. I'm sure a few accidents are caused by people being distracted by their many screens in the car or looking at the weather and not the road. Saturday was a high risk day, which was hyped heavily by media outlets and weather blogs. That means that everyone and his brother was out on that day. Experienced chasers are not used to that in a normal chase day, but then, a day like Saturday was rare because we all didn't drive a long way just to look at clouds. I've been to many tornado scenes. Unfortunately, the gawkers do come out. Most of them are local and are not there to help. Some are even there to add to the chaos. That was certainly true on Saturday as many local teenagers came out to hot rod around and get in the way of everyone. It is a mistake to confuse them with storm chasers. Most sheriff departments and county emergency personnel are very professional and often appreciate the extra eyes and help, as long as people stay out of their way when they need to do their jobs. However, it is wrong to assume that the way to handle the extra traffic is to push everyone way back or to ban or harass people who are suspected of chasing. That helps no one and would probably hurt the situation more than help. Everyone needs to know that if they take on the danger, they are on their own. The worst thing would be to put yourself in a dangerous situation, then force somebody else to put themselves at risk trying to rescue your stupid ass. In those cases, I think it would be very justified for the county rescue people to forward a bill to someone who put themselves where they didn't need to be. It would suck to have an entire city/county rescue budget put out of whack by a car full of individuals who decided to tourist a tornado, and got themselves a little too close. Also, if people fail to heed lawful orders or get out of the way of emergency equipment, then get their license plate numbers. When the emergency passes, issue a ticket and make these people come 8 or 10 hours back to appear in court. I guarantee the next time, they will pay attention to the sirens.