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Here come the tornado chasers!

By June 10, 2013June 6th, 2023No Comments

Sunday 9th June 2013

They are called “Tornado Chasers”. Men (mostly) who are ready to get too close to – sometimes right inside – dangerous tornadoes for purposes of observation. They may be scientists, photographers, hobbyists or plain private citizens. What they all share is their urgent desire to unravel the secrets of the bowels of this natural phenomenon. They are willing to offer themselves as fodder for the womb of Nature, for inquiry.

You’ve probably heard about a tornado that claimed over 24 in Oklahoma, USA, last week. If you are particularly keen on tornadoes, you’ll even have heard of Tim Samaras. Before his death, Tim was of a rare breed of storm chasers who’d brought a lot of invaluable storm-knowledge to the scientific community. Unfortunately, last week’s twister claimed him and his team: son, Paul Samaras, and their teammate, Carl Young. All victims, may their souls RIP!

You, in these relatively serene highlands of Rwanda, can you imagine what these killer tornadoes or storms like hurricanes look like? Anyway, we know that they all have something to do with wind. So, how do people pick interest in chasing wind, if their nuts are not unhinged?

I’m sure the remotest resemblance to a tornado that you’ve seen is a whirlwind, serwakira. If you ever saw a strong one, it was when it blew debris in your face. What you may not know is that in parts of Rwanda there are whirlwinds that are strong enough to lift a grass-thatched house off its hinges. Which means you’ll never have a chance of seeing them, now that there are no grass-thatched houses in any part of Rwanda, any longer.

There are some that are so strong as to lift iron roofs, yes. But even the chance of seeing those is growing thinner by the day. Rwandans are said to be doing away with iron roofs, too. In what they’ve termed “Operation Eradication Nyakatsi II”, they are said to be going for better and stronger habitation, by adopting cemented floors as well as strong bricks and tiles.

These destructive winds are interesting to study, nonetheless, for the sake of good old curiosity. So, curious Rwandans will have to visit neighbouring countries in order to feed their fascination. Will it smell like arrogance, going to see others suffer? An act of kindness’ll have to be added.

Chasing these winds must be exciting adventure. If men are ready to lose limb and life for the sake of their curiosity, why shouldn’t we? Maybe it explains why their societies are more advanced than ours. Remember a Roman young man who got himself wax wings and plunged to his death in an attempt to fly? Haven’t we taken flying for granted today?

We are where we are because someone dared seek an answer to their curiosity. Man/woman dared face the hazards of answering their curiosity.

And so it should interest everyone to know what men like Tim Samaras go through to answer their curiosity. What does this storm chasing involve?
Imagine youthful you, upper-crust civil servant in a high office. On a daily basis, you are wearing out your seat at a desk, in the drudgery of figuring out how to lift your fellow citizens out of poverty. Then you take that yearly leave that’s among your benefits and decide you’ll chase a tornado, for excitement. What will you require?

First, you’ll assemble together the requisite tools. Among your default equipment: laptop, radio and camera. That’s it? Nope, far from it! You’ll need a “Doppler on Wheels” (DOW). That means a fleet of radar trucks, whoever will fund it! Anyhow, it’ll give you constant, up-to-date weather information. That way, you’ll know when a tornado is going to intensify or abet.

And those are only the basics. In addition, you’ll modify that Toyota Fourtuner of yours into a Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV). It’ll become a reinforced monster of a tornado-hunting machine, able to withstand extremely powerful winds. Still, you are cooked if your TIV won’t be hugging the ground so as to deny the winds a chance of lifting you from underneath and tossing you to the four winds.

That apart, once well-settled in your fortress, you can mount a Web cam and, with broadband connection, you’ll offer us curious but cowardly wretches live streaming. We’ll ogle you as everything is churned around you and do the fretting for you!

Of course, many chasers are actually not sitting ducks, waiting for tornadoes to toss them around like paper trash. Usually, they look for cloud features and when they see that a storm is going to develop into a “tornadic supercell”, the real core, they move out of its path, to its south-east. Sometimes they “core punch” it, penetrate it, but with a minimal chance of survival. Obviously, the whole enterprise is outright reckless.

So, for adventure or for serious scientific study, can your Rwandan spirit face a tornado? Your person and your precious Toyota, would you put them to the test of a “tornadic supercell”?

So, let advanced societies lead us and let us in Africa be everlasting followers!

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