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Is Storm Chasing Illegal?

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 26, 2019 | Last updated on April 29, 2019

"Tornadoes are among Earth's most violent natural acts," according to National Geographic. "About a thousand of them touch down in the United States each year, more than in any other country in the world." The tornado season runs from March to July, and National Geographic followed several storm chasers trying to assess the size, frequency, and ferocity of tornadoes in the central part of the country.

But is storm chasing legal?

On the Hunt

As some of the legal experts on Reddit pointed out, storm chasing is not specifically against the law. But that doesn't mean it can't get you in trouble. You obviously need to follow applicable traffic laws, and be careful about trespassing on someone else's property. Also, disobeying evacuation orders might get you arrested as well. And if you get into a tight spot, a municipality may charge you for your rescue costs.

But don't just take it from us. One police officer said he tickets storm chasers any chance he or she gets. "I ticket them whenever I see a violation and have arrested two for reckless driving," an Ask a Cop forum user said. "Both were convicted as our local judge has seen more than his share of these idiots racing around the county."

Chasing Trouble

Even former storm chasers are OK with banning the practice, according to a petition to "Ban Storm Chasing For Sport and Profit":

"When I went chasing in May 2010 to see tornado alley myself I was surprised at one thing. The storm chasing wasn't that dangerous due to the storms ... it was dangerous because of the amount of people out there on the roads surrounding the storms. I almost got into a wreck 20 times because of the other storm chasers. They were speeding, weaving into lanes, and stopping in the middle of a highway or road. They were a major danger to myself and the team I was with."

(That petition, however, only got 77 supporters.)

So don't get labeled as an "idiot storm chaser." Just get somewhere safe the next time a tornado is coming through.

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