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UMass Storm Chasers Interviewed on Channel 40

Graduate student Krzysztof A. Orzel of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department and the Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory (MIRSL) was interviewed on WGGB-TV 40 about the dangers faced by those who study tornadoes and other severe weather. Orzel was on teams from MIRSL in 2009 and 2010 that tracked tornadoes throughout the Great Plains. “I wouldn’t call it scary,” Orzel told Channel 40, “but you really have to stay on the safe side, and it’s easy to follow the excitement and cross the line.He also said scientists in the field always have to weigh the danger of being close to tornadoes and the chance to gather invaluable information. “Everybody is cognitive of the risk, and we make an extra effort to be safe,” said ECE Professor Stephen Frasier, the director of MIRSL. See TV clip: WGGB-TV 40.

Transcription of interview:

(WGGB/AP) — The death of three storm chasers last week in Oklahoma is a reminder just how dangerous the job can be.

“It can be exciting, but you always have to be careful about what you are doing,” said Krzysztof Orzel.

Orzel is a graduate student at UMass Amherst and part of the Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory. He was part of the team chasing storms in the Great Plains during 2009 and 2010.

“I wouldn’t call it scary, but you really have to stay on the safe side and it’s easy to follow the excitement and cross the line,” said Orzel.

“Everybody is cognitive of the risk and we make an extra effort to be safe,” said UMass professor Stephen Frasier.

On Friday, Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, and Carl Young were all killed in El Reno, OK.

“It was an unfortunate situation. It was a tornado that didn’t quiet follow the characteristic track that they follow,” said Orzel.

The deaths of the three respected researchers have renewed questions over whether the risk is too great — regardless of the adrenaline rush one gets from nature’s worst weather.

Storm chasing has proliferated across Tornado Alley as advanced technology becomes available to untrained weather enthusiasts.

And efforts to provide critical field data that can’t be gleaned from radar are in competition with tornado paparazzi that speed from storm to storm. (June 2013)