What are some common "Storm Chaser" radio setups like?

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kadetklapp

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A look at some storm chasing vehicles presented this question. Some folks have so many radios packed into their tiny car's it's ridiculous. Now as gas prices are soaring, chasers are going to smaller and smaller cars. So what's the usual equipment? I'm talking about legitimate chasers, not folks that just see bad weather and take off after it, but researches/professional photographers/videoographers. I would imagine in a highly stressful weather situation, that fifteen radios blaring about would be even more disorienting. Obviously a ham radio, maybe a scanner for public safety, some weather monitoring equipment etc.
 

brutalpilot514

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I'm not a professional storm chaser (they don't have any of those around here) but I do spot sometimes on a volunteer basis and all I have is my scanner, my 2 meter ham, and my CB (which is hardwired into my camaro) I don't see needing much more than that radiowise but some people must feel like they do
 

Jimmy252

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When spotting, i bring my CB, a GMRS/FRS radio, a scanner to monitor my local skywarn, and another scanner to keep on the All-Hazards channel.
 

redhelmet13

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For me - a dual band mobile and a hand held digital scanner. (PSR 500 and 396T). Only one of the scanners will be on a time. ( I am listening to a VHF and UHF freq on the moble, and scannng the Highway Patrol freqs/interop stuff.

(My dual-band has a detachable head... The radio is in the trunk - the head is up front with me.
 

kadetklapp

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So here is my next question-

When a "chaser" goes on a mission, whether it be for filmography, research etc, do they commonly use POVs, Corporate vehicles, or rentals? Basically, would the equipment ordinarily be hard-wired or have to be thrown together before they hit the road?
 

rdale

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Most use their own vehicle, there really isn't 'corporate' chasing. There is some renting, especially if people live far away and fly in to do their chasing.
 

roadranger

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My turn

I use the vehicle above, in the avitar, when I voulonteered last for our area. I only need an Icom IC-V8 for the local net, a Lakewood antenna high atop my tiny roof, an Alinco DJ-296 1.25m for a better-than 2m link to the National Weather Service. Also a RS Pro-91 to track the Athens-Clarke Police (to stay out of their way), and the Kenwood TS-430S to track the net on 3.975Mhz. Things went well for us, but not so great for the areas just north. Anyway, it wasn't too hard to keep up with about six total radios (including two more scanners.)
 

kg4ojj

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POV is your #1 answer.......most is hard-wired (always there), or pre-wired (assembled in a hurry), etc.

For me, my amateur radio is permanently installed. My scanner(s) is/are readily installed (pre-wired DC plugs or plenty of batteries). My laptop usually rides shotgun or is in the truck, somewhere. I use an AC adaptor for it. GPS on pre-wired DC. Calipers, digital camera, first-aid kit, flashlights, etc. stay in the truck.

There are few chasers that get paid to do so......rdale, correct me if wrong......most are affiliated with university-based research (e.g., DOW).......and some paid chase tour companies (nothing full time). You hear about somebody getting a few bucks and a few minutes of fame by having a camera at the right place at the right time........but he/she isn't doing that full time.

There are the reality-based TV shows who would rent (and outfit) vehicles.

Some news media have dedicated chase vehicles (or helicopters...in OK), but across the country that's likely 1% of all media stations.

I've rented, while in the Norman OK area, and packed my own stuff (after flying in from FL.....like rdale said, above).


Alot of it depends on what you want to do.....observe & report for SKYWARN, photograph beaver tails for your collection, conduct research, record and post videos on websites, welcome a tornado to your neighborhood, etc.........it ain't about getting paid......in fact, it's a rather expensive (and time-consuming and frustrating) hobby if you do it right.

I hope that helps.......keep up the dialog,
 

kadetklapp

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Well, the reason am asking is because a few programs I have seen on the TV and internet of course depict the chaser in his/her vehicle, and it's usually a mess. I'm trying to come up with a "soft case" radio management "system" consisting of a duty gear bag, alluminum frame, and the capability to throw the bag between the seats, run the antennas to the roof, and find a power source. Sort of like a "soft console."

The more I think about it the more I figure it's a dumb idea. For one, it wouldnt allow much heat dissapation, and two it would be heavy. Third, most vehicles have factory consoles these days.
 

kg4ojj

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Crisis management teaches us that you should be extremely familiar with the location and type of your equipment.

For chasing, figuring out which way is north with the GPS on the floorboard is a bad idea when chased by a tornado. Or, what frequency is the nearest amateur radio repeater because my truck is upside down and I need help?? Those, and many other non-extreme situations, can be avoided with planning, installation, and deliberate practice.

I was in Norman OK for the NWS conference, but felt very uncomfortable chasing. Why? Not familiar with escape routes, nature of storms, traffic flows, etc.

Learn your equipment, do dry runs (fair weather), add new equipment, do more training, etc. (repeat cycle).

Don't be a novice at everything and try to chase. You don't have to be an expert at everything, either. I understand RADAR meteorology, but not to rdale's level. I understand ham radio and packet, but rarely use non-voice (data) repeaters. I do, however, understand my local area, in terms of geography and roads. I am an amateur photographer, but not an expert. I understand trunking radios and have my scanners programmed to meet my needs. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Learn what works for you, your budget, your lifestyle. Then learn it......
 

brutalpilot514

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Old saying that several Drill Sgts I know have told me in the past "Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance" applies to this kind of stuff as well as the army.
 

weather4ar

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Mine is a Pro 2096 with WR-SAME for my county and all surrounding. I also monitor AWIN, Skywarn Nets, First Responders, Railroads, and Military. What most people do, and what I recommend, is Google search for your local and State Emergency Operations Plans. Look at how the federal, state and local agency communications system response plans for your area are set up, and program their frequencies in. That way, you're ready for just about anything. Then, take a Skywarn Spotter course, if you haven't already, it's free, fun and very helpful.

As far as reporting, I just use the local NWS Skywarn number in my cellphone.

Good Luck.

Weather4ar
 
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nationwide

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When I deploy for a severe weather event, I have the following in my vehicle:

Icom 2100 2m/50w mobile permanent install
Yaesu FT-60 dual band HT
Magellan Roadmate GPS permanent install
Comm Bag with maps, reporting criteria, repeater directory, HT accessories (headset, whip antenna, speaker mic, etc)

I'm only "official" in my county, however, on my own, can and do head west when it looks good.

I just have the frequencies programmed ahead of time, and report if I see anything. I just ID myself and make my report, but I keep it to emergency traffic when I am outside my county.

I don't have a mobile scanner at the moment, as I just communicate directly with the EOC's.
 

af5rn

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Most Storm Chasers (not to be confused with the completely different Storm Spotters) radio set-ups are not particularly impressive to the radio hobbyist. Weather is their passion, not radios. They'll spend thousands on a laptop with satellite weather downlinks, as well as mobile weather instruments, but function with no more than a fifty-buck CB for communications. Most who get a ham ticket do so only as an aside, not because they really care about amateur radio.

They ones who are serious news journalists and chasers outside of severe weather will usually be more into the commo aspect, and they'll have some scanners for monitoring the authorities response to any incidents. Those aren't the common Storm Chaser though. The common Storm Chaser is not in it for the news aspect and isn't really interested in any comms that aren't directly related to the weather. In fact, a lot of chasers have no more comms than their cellphone and laptop, as they aren't into spotting or communicating with other chasers. Most commonly, I see not much more than a single VHF or dual-bander Ham radio and maybe one scanner or CB in a chaser vehicle.

It's the Storm Spotters that tend to have antenna farms growing on their cars, as most of them are from Amateur radio clubs and more into the comms than the weather. They are very different from Storm Chasers.
 
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flaugher

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Thirty Years of Doing This

I'd say the generic necessities are 2-meter or CB, whichever spotter groups in your area use, plus a SEPARATE dedicated SAME receiver that can operate on 12V, and a cheapo 12V television for watching radar. A scanner is nice to hear what the police/fire/ems are reporting. If things are popping in your area, everyone including the TV stations will be tripping all over themselves and they'll have the radar up a lot.

The separate SAME receiver is nice because you can turn the darned thing off when everything starts going nuts. I never bother with an external antenna for the SAME; just drop it in the seat and plug it into the lighter. Same for the TV set. Get up high so you can get good reception and see a lot of territory.

I also like to keep a cheapo barometer in the car. When it starts a'droppin, start a'lookin. Or, you can just rely on your stomach muscles.


A buddy of mine teaches Skywarn classes. Here's his advice:

East of the Mississippi, plan on neighborhood watch. Find a place on the storm side of your community and sit and report. Again, a barometer is nice. You just can't chase here in Indiana. Storms are hit and run, the bad ones are often moving fast, and no roads are straight. That said, I HAVE seen a rash of tornadoes from a slow, southward moving storm or two. Still, chasing is a pain in this area.

West of the Mississippi, chase all you want but stay on the south/southwest side of most storms. You can see the tornado best from this "dry" quadrant and you don't ... DON'T ... want to get run over by the rain and hail out in front of the rotation. I've had my car bounced and slid twice from being that foolish. Although it may seem a badge of courage, hail dents and busted windshields are nobody's friend.

My advice is find a good group to work with. I travel to Oklahoma City quite a bit and I do NOT chase with the local TV stations (they often leave you stranded out in front of the storm because all they want is YOUR information for THEIR commercial TV show). Call the NWS office in your area and find out what frequencies they work on. Usually there will be four or five frequencies, often the repeaters of local ham clubs they trust. In the Louisville area the NWS is almost never on their "declared" frequency except maybe to monitor ... sometime. They have a steerable hi-gain antenna which they point toward the ham club closest to the storms they're watching, and "come up" on their frequency to find out what's going on.

You CAN be an effective spotter with a car and a cell phone, but usually you have to take the SKYWARN classes to be "officially" given the call-in number. It kinda depends on how the local office is run.
 

KC0QNB

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Thursday the 29th, we had a company meeting in Omaha (about 250 miles away) On the trip home we ran into bad weather, we were east of Kearney when the tornado hit there, about 30 miles away. While were waiting the storm out, at a truck stop with a bunch of other folks,
I talked to a leader of a storm chase tour, he did have an impressive radio setup, a lap top on the console by the dash, and radios from there to the backs of the front seats.
According to his license plate he was a ham, from 4 country as I recall, (hams will know what I mean). Of course since he was "on the clock" with his tour so we didn't get to talk much, I would like to talk to him more but since I didn't write down his callsign I have no way of tracking him down.
The radio gear looked like commercial grade stuff, from what I could tell in the minute or so I was talking to him, all the radios had a soft, light amber backlight on the displays and the console looked like a Gamber Johnson unit, vehicle specific for the suburban.
Sorry gang but this is best I can do.
73 Ryan
 
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