Oklahoma Experts On Photographing Tornadoes: Keep Your Distance

Wednesday, May 11th 2016, 6:58 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

Our Oklahoma weather experts work hard to keep us safe and informed.

Our trained spotters are their eyes on the storms, but sometimes the untrained chase storms, too – taking photos and shooting video and putting themselves in danger.

While up-close videos and pictures of tornadoes can be captivating and exciting to look at, experts say if you don't keep your distance, things could turn deadly.

News On 6 storm tracker Von Castor says a popular video of the Wynnewood tornado this week was probably taken from about a quarter of a mile away. 

“It's a fascination that a lot of people have,” Castor said. “And I understand that fascination because that's why I went into it, but there does come a time when you're gonna endanger other people's lives and your own life."

Meteorologist Steve Piltz with the National Weather Service says with cell phones and the Internet, this is becoming a trend.

“You see more and more video of people getting closer and closer, and obviously they’re surviving that, but some of that is just luck,” Pilz said.

The National Weather Service tells storm spotters to stay about 5 miles away from a tornado.

"If you stay back a number of miles, you can see what the storm's doing, and stay safe," Piltz said. “There's certain days that are conducive to getting a little closer than five miles." Castor

In Castor's 16 years tracking storms with News On 6, he says the closest he's ever been to a tornado was while chasing after dark near Verdigis and Claremore in March.

“We were within 100 yards of being in the middle of the tornado," he said.

Castor says that was too close, and while he understands the fascination, he urges safety above all else.

“I just hope and pray that we don't lose somebody just because of that fact -- they wanted to get video" Castor said.

The National Weather Service says when a tornado is moving 60 miles per hour, that's a mile per minute. So if you find yourself outside with a twister, it can be especially difficult to track exactly how many miles away you might be.