I’m excited today to be able to feature some of the female chasers that I’ve gotten to know in the past year or so. Today I’m chatting with the ‘Diva Chasers’. I haven’t had a ton of conversation with them before now, but I’m excited to ask some questions and get to better know a few women who chase storms! Since it’s something that I’d like to do as well. It feels like the storm-chase community is pretty male-dominated, but perhaps that’s just perception instead of reality. Perhaps I just know many more men who chase than I do women. Anyhow, let’s get to those questions.
The Diva’s consist of Chandler Sullivan, Jennifer Stark and Stephanie Michelle.
Thanks ladies, for being willing to chat with me about this awesome hobby of yours!
First of all, tell me how you got together!
Chandler: Me and Jennifer Stark started talking on twitter about storms and storm chasing. Then one day I texted her and told her we should have just a female chase team. You know how cool that would be?? Then next thing you know we put our dreams to work. Then later on down the road we saw the passion Stephanie had for the Divas so we invited her to join us.
Where did the name come from?
Chandler: One day we were thinking of a names that we could call our selves and the next thing you know I was like ‘what about Diva Chasers?’ We are girls so it works out! That’s when Divas was born and we had something going.
How long have you all be chasing together?
Chandler: Less than a year. In June it will be a year for me and Jen but we haven’t had the chance to chase with Stephanie because we didn’t start our group in summer so we haven’t had a spring chase yet. Every time I go to chase, even without the girls, I always represent Divas.
Stephanie: Only for about a year, I haven’t been on a chase with them yet. This will be our first season together.
Do you each have individual roles within the group?
Chandler: I am the CoFounder & I kinda play the role of a CEO you could say because I handle our funds because its just easier for one person to do that. During chasing I am also the driver, because I love to drive.
Stephanie: Chandler is the driver, Jen is the navigator, and I do all the photography and the video shooting and editing. We all work together as a team.
How did you each start out chasing?
Chandler: I started out in my teens chasing in Arkansas because that’s where I grew up. My first chase I was about 15 years old, maybe 14. After that I loved it so when I got older and moved to Oklahoma I started doing it more and more. While living in Texas I tried going out when storms were around but I hated going alone.
Stephanie: I’ve always been fascinated with weather. My dad chased storms so I got the bug from him. When I was younger my cousin and me would always jump on our bikes and try to chase storms. I love to go out when ever I can.
Jennifer: I used to be terrified of storms as a kid, but obsessed at the same time. I did my science fair project in third grade on tornadoes, and from that point on was fascinated but scared of them. Several years ago, I took my first Skywarn class, and started spotting and chasing pretty much then. It is kind of addicting
I can completely understand how it would be addicting. I have yet to actually chase but I got out spotting last year and can’t wait for this long winter to end so I can get out again! Tell me what you love most about chasing.
Chandler: I love the adrenaline rush. I love seeing all the cool clouds. I love seeing a tornado touch down. I love the bonding time and getting to meet other storm chasers. Theres a lot I love about chasing. I also love all the travelling.
Stephanie: I love being out on the open country watching a beautiful storm in the middle go nowhere. There is just something so magical about mother nature. I feel at peace out there.
Jennifer: Being able to be out in the middle of nowhere, looking into a sky stacked with a massive churning wall cloud, or huge supercell… there really aren’t words to describe how beautiful and mesmerizing it all is. It makes me feel alive, and having the opportunity to share that experience with two of my closest friends just makes it that much better.
I love watching storms as well, they are so amazing! Jennifer, would you say that chasing is a pretty male-dominated field?
Jennifer: I think that chasing IS a male-dominated field, but the male chasers I know are not at all exclusive, and welcome any chaser, male or female.
I’ve met quite a few men who chase and they’ve all been so nice. It seems like the storm chase community is pretty friendly, not only to veteran chasers but also to people like me who aspire to chase someday. Chandler, are there disadvantages to being a female chaser?
Bathrooms are a disadvantage. You will never see me go to the bathroom in the middle of no where Kansas or at a place that looks dirty. That’s one
thing I am very picky about is the bathrooms. But that’s all for me.
I could see me having similar issues! Jennifer, what is the Divas goal when you go out chasing?
My goal when chasing is to see amazing structure, hopefully see a tornado (one that poses no danger to anyone!) and get awesome structure shots. Also, if we encounter any fresh damage, to stop and help as much as possible.
Stephanie, will the Divas chase anything and everything or does the setup have to look awesome before you all will venture out? (Setup, for those like me who are new to this, means a combination of ingredients in the atmosphere, including temperature, dew points, dry line, mid level moisture, winds, clear skies etc. A lot of things come into play when people talk about setup.) There’s a ton to learn. I’m just starting out. :)
We will chase every setup. We will stick to more Oklahoma and Kansas this year and possible go further up north. We want to see everything!
Nice! I’d imagine, in that area, that you will be out often this year. You guys have some crazy storm action down there in the summer! Here’s my standard question for all storm chasers. What advice would you give aspiring chasers?
Chandler: Be safe. Take Skywarn classes, never do your first chase alone and if you have a question it’s never stupid to ask an experienced chaser. And, no, you won’t always see Reed Timmer! lol
Stephanie: Take spotter classes and learn has much had possible. Maybe even go on a chase tour.
Jennifer: I say never give up. Take Skywarn classes, learn as much as you can about storms, and the structure and life cycle stages of storms, not only from what you see on a radar, but what you see visually as well. Also, meet other chasers. Twitter is a great place for that!
I agree with Jennifer about Twitter. When I first started getting interested in storms (instead of being terrified of them), Twitter was awesome to connect with storm chasers. You can see what they do, ask questions and get into the community a bit. They won’t always answer questions, especially the very busy ones, but usually there is someone there who can help you. The chaser community have been so welcoming to me. I am always full of questions! I went to a storm tweetup at one point and Greg Johnson (aka. Tornado Hunter) was giving a talk. Near the end, the questions slowed down a bit and the room got quiet. Greg looked at me and said “Sarah, I find it hard to believe that you don’t have any questions”. Of course I did. They’ve all been so helpful to me as I start out on this journey and I encourage anyone who is interested in storms/storm chasing to get on Twitter and chat with them.
Okay, back on track here. How was 2013 for you all?
Chandler: It was very good for me. I chased the Moore tornado, Shawnee tornado, and some other big ones in the fall. I did not chase El Reno which I am glad I did not.
Stephanie: It was pretty good. It was an insane and devastating year.
Jennifer: 2013 was epic!! I saw the hugest wall cloud I have ever seen in Wichita, saw a rain wrapped tornado near Shawnee, and chased an epic duststorm/gustnado that had some of the most beautiful structure I have ever witnessed.
Here’s a video of their dust storm chase! I remember watching this on the live stream and thinking it was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen!
Are there storm chasers who inspire you and that you look up to?
Chandler: The Twister Sisters. Peggy has chatted with us and I never thought I would ever get the chance to talk with her or better yet become friends with her.
Stephanie: Reed Timmer. I have followed him for years. He is so passionate and a great guy. Tim Samaras was a genius, he was one of the smartest and safest chasers. Terry Rosema, he is a great photographer..
Jennifer: I look up to Reed Timmer a lot, because he started out as just a guy who loved storms and filmed them. Now, he gets to spend his life doing what he loves. That is an inspiration to anyone.
What are you looking forward to for the 2014 season?
Chandler: I am looking forward to the team bonding. The tornadoes. And most of all having Divas first storm chase.
Stephanie: Amazing storms in the middle of nowhere.
Jennifer: I am SO ready for the 2014 chase season!!!! I am looking forward to chasing with my team as much as possible.
Some exciting news came as I was working on this chaser chat, the Divas will now be live streaming with TVN!
Jennifer: We are honoured and so excited!
Congratulations to the Divas on this exciting change for their 2014 chases! Thank you, Divas, for sitting down with me and chatting about storm chasing! I love talking about storms with the people who chase them! :)
You can find the Divas here: