HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) - Storm chasers spend their time driving toward storms instead of away from them, and they say they do it to keep their communities safe.
The Central Arkansas Storm Chasing Organization was created last year. It's s team of certified storm chasers who spend days like Thursday with one eye on the radar and the other on the sky, waiting for tornados to strike.
"That's our main goal is to let the community know what's going on in the area," explained Jimmy Evans, Arkansas State Manager for CASCO.
Thursday, Evans and three members of his team rode out some heavy rain at a McDonalds in Hot Springs. Their plan was to follow the frontal boundary as far as they had to until the threat of tornados disappeared.
"Shoot up 70 towards 30 and try to stay directly behind it because of the way it's trying to bow right here at little bit. That way we can watch where it's going. That way if anything pops out, we'll be behind it actually catch it coming in," said Evans.
"I knew there was a high probability that we would have severe down here," said Marie Schappacher.
She drove all the way from Friendship, New York, which is more than 1,200 miles away to chase Thursday's storm with Jimmy and his team. It's a hobby she's had since the mid 70s--one she said saves lives.
"We have warnings, but they are not nearly good enough. If you have qualified people like Jimmy and Eric, and we have the technology, we can get out there and warn folks," said Schappacher.
With the help of smart phones, emergency radios and radar, the 15-20 CASCO chasers go out every time severe weather strikes. Their hope is to spot tornados before they touch down and notify local authorities of threats in their area.
"The more we chase, the more we learn," said Schappacher.
Evans added that he received his storm spotter certification through SkyWarn, NOWA and the National Weather Service five years ago. A six hour class and continued education helps him and his team spot severe weather whenever it pops up.
If you would like to become a certified storm spotter, the National Weather Service is holding a class next month. It will be two weeks from now, Thursday May 2 in Maumelle at the community center. It starts at 6:30 p.m.
For more information and a link to the NWS website, click here.