George Kourounis is one of the world’s most active storm chasers, a renowned global adventurer, explorer, and television presenter. Kourounis started chasing tornadoes and other storms over 13 years ago and has continued to expand his explorations to include all types of extreme natural phenomena. He was interviewed this week by The Herald Sun on the devastating tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma on Monday:
In the aftermath of the powerful tornado that decimated the town of Moore, Oklahoma, storm chasers pay their respect to the victims and reflect on their extreme hobby.
In what has been described as ‘beyond statistics’, the deadly tornado which was almost 3 kilometres wide struck the town on Monday afternoon (US Central Time) and intercepted the same path as the tornado which hit the region in May 1999 with a wind speed of more than 300km/h.
Despite these risks, the US’s infamous Tornado Alley is frequented by eager storm chasers who make an annual pilgrimage to the turbulent area in the hopes of witnessing some of the most powerful forces of nature.
“This is certainly one of the most destructive tornados that has ever hit the US just from looking at the damage where it hit, knowing approximately its size and comparing it to tornados that happened for example in Greensburg, Kansas or Joplin Missouri or even the 1999 More tornado the F5,” Mr Kourounis said.
“This particular pattern in continuing on, there were tornados in Kansas then Oklahoma for the past two days and now I have actually relocated down to Texas. We are not sure about the forecast for the next few days but there is definitely more weather on tap of the severe variety for parts of Texas tomorrow so it’s their turn to be under the gun unfortunately.”
Mr Kourounis said tragedies like Moore are a devastating occurrence and are mourned by the entire storm chasing community.
“We never want to see these natural phenomenon become natural disasters,” he said.
“We are out there to witness the beauty of nature then document it to show people what these storms look like and what they can do but we never wish then to go into these populated communities. If they do it is unfortunate of course and if we are first on the scene we immediately stop and help. We feel this tragedy as much as anyone else in the state here because we know, we could see it coming, and we knew how bad it was going to be as it was happening. When you see the radar image of this storm going over and you see the signature of it your stomach just drops.”
Mr Kourounis said the 2013 storm season for the Mid-West had showed unusual signs from the start which could have possibly hinted at the season’s current ferocity.
“This has been an odd season, it’s the first time I have ever started the season with snow on the ground and then the pattern got very quiet and then just within the past week it has really swung around,” he said.
“Obviously the past few days have been just devastating with the number of tornados and of the course the places these tornados have been hitting.”