Kelley Williamson has lived a full life. His careers have included farming, professional fishing, and bullfighting. His most recent career path? Storm Chasing. With the premiere of Kelley’s new show on The Weather Channel, Storm Wranglers, coming up, we thought we’d get to know him better. Read below to find out how he got into storm chasing, what other hobbies he has, what a day in the life looks like for him, and more!
Hometown: Cassville, Missouri
Current City: Cassville, Missouri
How I Got Into Storm Chasing:
I started in my local SkyWarn group until there weren’t enough storms to keep me happy. I started going farther and farther and farther, and it started getting pretty expensive. So, I started selling my videos and live stream to help with expenses. I started loving sharing my experiences with my viewers. I was chasing by myself so they became my chase partners. To give my chase partners the best view, I worked on my stream to make it the best I could, which made the media purchase my stream and gave me more money to go farther. This got me to where I am now working for The Weather Channel with my own TV show. But as many things have changed, I still have not forgotten my original chase partners. They still go on every chase with me.
First Storm Chase:
April 2012, Northeast Oklahoma. It was great, but all I saw was a lot of rain. It just made me want even more.
Craziest Storm Chase Story:
That would have been this year 08-03-16 Bisbee Tornados By Devils Lake in North Dakota. As we were chasing this tornado, it was moving to the northeast as most do, and we were to the west of the tornado. I like to be to the southeast if at all possible. So we let the tornado move ahead of us then we cut to the east behind it. As we did, we met another tornado moving west coming down the road straight at us about 100 yards down the road. I think this is where my bullfighting experience came into play. We held our ground and did not panic, and we did not make a move until I saw it was moving a little to our south. Then made our move on down the road to the north of the second and to the south of the first. We put some distance between us and both tornadoes. When they start acting like that, it’s not a good time to be close by. That afternoon it set down 5 tornadoes and 2 of them were twins, and it seemed like one was always trying to sneak up behind us. It would set down one as a decoy then another would sneak up behind us. Never panic, think, then make your move and ALWAYS have 2 outs.
Other Jobs I’ve Had and How They Helped My Storm Chasing Career:
I have had a lot of different jobs and have done a lot of different things in my life. But a few things I believe have helped me a lot that you might not think are related in any way. They are farming, pro fishing and bullfighting. They all require a lot of patience. You can’t rush any of them.
Farming probably taught me a lot about driving muddy dirt roads and the different types of dirt in the roads where to drive and where not to drive.
Fishing is a lot like predicting storms- you can’t see the fish and you can’t see the storms but you put all the ingredients together and you can predict where they should be and when. And reading the GPS and navigating to the spots help me in navigating storms and reading maps.
The bullfighting probably taught me the most- you are very close to things that can harm you in many ways. And you have to keep your head about you, think before you react, and always have an out you can take if things get bad. A scared person never makes good decisions, so know your limitations and don’t put yourself in a bad situation.
Best State for Storm Chasing:
Kansas. I have been on a lot of chases this year, actually 28 so far that all originated in Kansas. But the states adjoining Kansas are good chase areas too. So many of my chases may have started in Colorado or Oklahoma and ended up in Kansas. Last year seemed like Kansas just got skipped. I started down south in Texas moved into Oklahoma and then it went right to Nebraska and Iowa. So the location of the jet stream dictates where the chase will be, but Kansas is in the center of it all.
Favorite Technology To Use While Storm Chasing:
GRLevel3 Radar, that is probably the one thing that I could not do without. I rely heavily on my radar. For instance if I need to punch through a storm to get to the other side I like to know the history the storm has at producing rotation. So I checked the base velocity and If it has a history of producing rotation I will go around instead of through. It’s just the safety factor.
Favorite Type of Severe Weather Besides Tornadoes:
Favorite Hobbies (besides storm chasing):
Metal Detecting for Civil War Artifacts and Training Stock Dogs. In Culpeper, Virginia a few years ago I found a CS Confederate buckle on the battlefield near Brandy Rock, which is the coolest thing I’ve found. As for the training of dogs, I guess you could call me an animal lover. My whole life has been around animals- horses, cattle and dogs. I guess what I like about it the most is you acquire a communication between you and your dog and it creates a bond.
In order to be a storm chaser you must:
Understand the dangers and know your vehicle and your limitations on muddy dirt roads. Understand the safest location to be in for tornadoes, lightning, and flooding. Know your clouds- the storm will tell you what it is getting ready to do.
What makes me different from other storm trackers:
When I go chasing I go with the objective of streaming a tornado to the public or The Weather Channel. If I could not stream I would not go. I go to warn the public and try to let people understand the storm and know what is headed their way through my stream. I want to let people see what is going on in the plains or down the road through my stream.
A day in the life for me:
About every day I wake up around 4am and check out the SPC forecast. If I think I will be chasing that day, I run some models to see where I think a storm will be starting, and how long it will take me to get there. If I have time to sleep more, I will get all I can. If not, I hit the road to try to get to my target. I do not just drive all the way to my target because it usually changes many times before I get there. I keep checking every run to see if it has changed. I check to see what Dr. Forbes is thinking on Facebook. Check the SPC again. I check to see what other chasers are thinking. Then check the cloud cover in the area. Then get a little closer. And start the whole process over again while listening to The Weather Channel to see what they are thinking. When I get within 1 hour from my target, I like to stop and wait to see if something is forming in case I have to adjust again. I do not go to my target until I see it the cells starting to form, then I get there ASAP. Then the chase is on.
And be sure to check out the premiere of Storm Wranglers this Sunday, October 2 at 9/8 c!