Deserted, that is, except for a couple of storm chasers now being ridiculed as “Darwin Award” nominees.
“We are fighting Hurricane force winds funneling through parking garage with #stormsurge,” storm chaser Mike Theiss wrote from the Golden Nugget Casino as Hurricane Nate made landfall.
Despite the drama in Theiss’s video, actual sustained wind speeds on Saturday night were only 30 to 40 mph in Biloxi, briefly peaking at 53 mph. During that time, wind gusts got up to 70 mph — the same speed a very strong thunderstorm would produce.
Wind in a parking garage would be higher because of the way the air is compressed and funneled through structures. It would also be more erratic and unpredictable. In addition to the wind hazard, the storm surge was waist-deep.
Some meteorologists and Theiss’s followers were unimpressed with his choice to share video of him doing things forecasters urge people to never do:
We try to convince people to take proper protective actions during storms. Stunts like this from storm chasers (and reporters) don’t help. Will never support this. Adds nothing to science and directly opposes the protective action we are trying to convince people to take. I can’t even watch Mr. Theiss get buffeted around. We know what hurricanes do. No one need compromise his safety to show strong winds.
“Help I am stuck with nothing here,” he tweeted from the roadside in Rockport, Tex. “I’m crashed here ! Reed [Timmer] can you please drive up and get me ?”
An hour after Theiss posted his video, Accuweather’s Reed Timmer posted his own version from what appears to be the same Golden Nugget parking garage. AccuWeather featured Timmer’s video during coverage of Hurricane Nate.
“What’s the deal with people waist deep in storm surge with this storm?” tweeted Ryan Hanrahan, a meteorologist for NBC in Connecticut. “Many Darwin Award nominees with #nate!”
Hanrahan wasn’t the only person annoyed by Reed Timmer’s show. Some of his followers chimed in:
Such poor judgement it borders on comical. You have become a parody of yourself with this ridiculous stand up.
“The work that I do here is a public service,” Timmer told The Washington Post via email, “and like first responders who place themselves in harm’s way, we do go into dangerous situations but as top professionals do so in intelligent and cautious ways so that people understand the dangers and when told to evacuate they will do so.”
Theiss takes a similar approach to chasing storms.
“This is no different than a war photographer going to war or an astronaut going to space in the name of science.” Theiss told The Post. The only difference, he says, is that he’s “going to war with nature.”
Theiss describes himself as a guy who likes to get in and cover it from the front lines. He said he’s not an adrenaline junkie but rather wants to “share awareness” about the dangers of hurricanes, and he hopes that when people see his videos, they are dissuaded from doing the same things he does.
And yeah, he says — they make them look worse than they really are sometimes.
“We want them to look bad. We want it to scare people,” Theiss said. “If there’s no one documenting it, how’s anyone going to know what it looks like?”
This story has been updated to include a response from AccuWeather’s Reed Timmer.