Storm chasers don't always have to hunt down a tornado to get great footage. Just look at the ethereal video below of a supercell thunderstorm churning near Booker, Texas, captured in time-lapse last week by weather photographer Mike Olbinski:
"No, there was no tornado," Olbinksi acknowledges on his Vimeo page. "But that's not really what I was after. I'm from Arizona. We don't get structure like this. Clouds that rotate and look like alien spacecraft hanging over the Earth."
The absence of a funnel cloud doesn't mean this was an easy shot to get, either. Olbinski and his colleague Andy Hoeland had to scramble around the North Texas prairie as sinister-looking thunderstorms rolled through on June 3.
"We chased this storm from the wrong side (north) and it took us going through hail and torrential rains to burst through on the south side. And when we did ... this monster cloud was hanging over Texas and rotating like something out of 'Close Encounters.'"
This spring has already shown how dangerous storm chasing can be: Less than two weeks after an EF-5 tornado ravaged Moore, Okla., in May, an EF-3 killed three veteran storm chasers near El Reno. It's a harrowing pastime even without tornadoes, as Olbinksi's experience highlights, but there are also safer ways to track storms — and perform a public service at the same time. The National Weather Service's SkyWarn program has trained nearly 290,000 volunteer storm spotters to "help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather," according to the NWS.
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