We see it all the time. Hundreds of storm chasers converge in the Plains, marveling at enormous twisters. Phones and cameras come out to document the event, and — because it’s 2016 — the selfies are snapped.
Grinning, joyful, proud. Vain. Thumbs up — we did it!
Barb Mayes Boustead, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Nebraska, has had enough.
“Stop taking tornado selfies. Just stop,” Boustead writes. “They are tacky and tasteless. They are perceived as cheesy and thoughtless at best, selfish and arrogant by many, and downright rude and heartless to those whose lives are impacted by the tornado over your shoulder.”
Boustead writes about more than just selfies, though. She thoughtfully expresses the nature of storm chasing — why meteorologists seek out and (ostensibly) glorify devastating, frequently tragic acts of nature.
Many of us celebrate in at least some small way when the forecast combines with our positioning to allow us to witness the birth, maturity, and demise of a (tornadic) thunderstorm. What separates the classy from the cheesy/selfish/rude is how we celebrate and why. I am never celebrating that a tornado strikes homes, cars, fields, lives. As I have said before, a tornado will form or not form regardless of whether I am there and whether I want to see it or not. But I do celebrate my ability to forecast a single thunderstorm within a drivable range of distance. That kind of pinpoint forecasting is difficult, and doing this as a hobby reinforces my ability to forecast storms in my job.
But despite her passion, Boustead is adamantly against the vanity of posing. “Show respect to the storm itself and the harm it can inflict,” she writes.
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