Since she was a little girl, Amanda Hill (Electrical Designer, Roseville office), has been fascinated by weather. She kept a daily weather journal, gave weather reports in science classes, and saw her first tornado as a pre-teen. This fascination has never left Amanda, and she currently spends many weeks during the year chasing storms and capturing the beauty and wonder of storms with her camera.
Amanda and her boyfriend, Nick, have both been trained by the National Weather Service. They've learned to identify different aspects of emerging storms and how to safely chase them. This includes different types of clouds (wall and shelf clouds), storm hazards (hail, flooding, wind), how to maintain a safe distance from a tornado, and knowing who to call and what to report. This knowledge can help the National Weather Service quickly gather information on tornadoes and other storms to notify people who might be in the path of a potentially dangerous weather event.
Amanda and Nick have taken this knowledge out into the field, chasing storms in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. By monitoring storm outlook data, they have a pretty good idea about where storms might flare up days in advance. There's no guarantee they'll see a storm, but part of the fun is the chase and capturing the power of nature with their cameras.
Another fun part of storm chasing is traveling to parts of the Midwest that they might not otherwise see. Amanda loves capturing aspects of these small towns and low-traffic roads with her camera. It's not uncommon for her to take hundreds of photos on every storm chasing trip and she's always looking for interesting and beautiful pictures, whether it's severe weather, a field of sunflowers, a soaring eagle, or a guy feeding hundreds of geese.
One challenge when documenting storms is capturing lightning strikes. To help with this, Amanda has a lightning trigger on her camera. The camera responds to light flashes and takes pictures much faster than she can. The result is she has numerous pictures of brilliant lightning flashes descending from the sky.
The primary goal of storm chasing is gathering information that the National Weather Service can use to help people stay safe. Amanda has driven through towns that were hit by tornadoes, and it's a disturbing thing to encounter. They also need to stay safe themselves. Amanda said they were within 1,000 yards of an EF1 tornado and a couple of miles of an EF4. They've had to wait out hail storms and make sure they're not driving directly into the path of a storm. She's never been scared, but she respects the power of nature and the devastation it can cause.
When not chasing storms, both Amanda and Nick provide training sessions for other aspiring chasers. They've presented in numerous counties throughout Minnesota, including the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs. It's a great way to meet other avid chasers and spread the word about properly monitoring dangerous weather.
Mostly, storm chasing is a fun hobby for Amanda. It's a way to continue her love of weather and she documents all of their trips with photo montages and bound books.
"We never plan on chasing storms. It just happens," Amanda said. "But it's always fun and we help keep people safe."