20 Apr Storm chasing family offers support, early detection
“Prepare and prevent, don’t repair and repent.”
No one knows who made that remark, but its caution resonates no where more loudly than in the community of storm chasing.
One such warrior in the fight is Parker County’s Bill Ford of Storm Warriors.
Ford said his passion for storm chasing began while attending college in Wichita, Kansas.
“I drove under my first super-cell storm and it fascinated me,” he said. “So I began to follow the weather.”
Ford said as life began to change for him, and after moving to Texas, he experienced a revelation while on a business trip in Chickasha, Okla.
“It was on May 3, 1999 – that I left a meeting in Chickasha and followed a super-cell all the way to the backside of Moore,” Ford said. “I was there no more than 20-30 minutes, after a F5 tornado did a massive amount of damage.”
He said from that day on, he wanted to be smarter, chase differently and be more conscientious about what he was doing.
But what makes this story unique is that every member of his family is part of the storm chasing team. A team whose primary goal is to: warn, assist and restore.
“Every one of our family members has been on different weather events,” Ford said.
Part one of their mission, to warn communities, is made possible by a well-equipped truck which broadcasts to other media outlets, such as the National Weather Service or the Weather Channel, where they are.
“They see what we see,” Ford said. “Also, in our truck we have speakers and a very loud horn to warn communities.”
Which was exactly what they did recently when a severe weather event struck the community of Godley.
Ford said one of the things that comes from chasing are relationships they build through assisting – their second goal.
“We’re all trained in search and rescue; we’ve all had basic medical training and we carry a lot of medical equipment,” Ford said. “We carry axes, shovels…oftentimes, as an event happens, we’re the first on the scene.
“Sometimes, in these rural communities, we’re there long before emergency management shows up, so we’ve got to be able to render first aid.”
Their third goal is to restore. That’s when the Ford’s faith kicks in.
“After a severe weather event, people feel hopeless and maybe they’ve just lost their home, or a loved one, or are injured,” Ford said. “People always ask me, ‘What’s the worst thing I’ve seen?’ When you come out of a disaster area, it’s not the people you pull out off the rubble.
“What’s really disturbing is after a storm, and it’s getting dark, and you see a mother walking with her children asking if you’ve seen her husband, son…or even a pet.”
He said that’s when reality sinks in, and when they pray with victims, trying to bring some comfort back into their lives.
Ford believes that no one should ever die from a tornado. So, he and his team travel to schools and other organizations teaching a, “Know Where To Go” campaign.
“You have to know where to go,” Ford said. “You have to designate a safe place inside your home, outside your home…and you also need a ‘go bag.’”
Ford said, so often, people who have survived a tornado are in need of basic necessities such as a flashlight.
His daughter Cori, who attends Weatherford College, said a flashlight is a “nice start,” but that even more is needed.
“We can provide ‘go bags’ that contain a card listing suggested items to place inside,” Cori said.
Items like bottled water, snacks, weather radio, rechargeable phone battery and a whistle that can be crucial if you’re trapped under debris. They also suggest a small waterproof bag to place pictures of loved ones inside, pets or a little money in it in case it’s needed.
Cori said when she was younger, she was terrified of severe weather, but that after her dad showed her how to read radar and educated her on the subject she became less fearful.
“Now I’m hooked,” she said.
Other members of the chase team are Ford’s wife, Danielle; son Noah; and friends Mike Casey, Mike Prendergast and their latest addition Rayne, the German Shepherd, that is currently being trained in search and rescue.
Ford said thanks to a group of producers and investors, folks anywhere can follow the “extreme family following extreme weather” at: @stormwarriors.tv. Their primary coverage area include seven states: Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.
“When every second counts know where to go,” Ford said. “No one should ever die from a tornado.”