By Shannon Lane @Shannonroselane
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Videographer / director: Roger Hill
Producer: Shannon Lane, Nick Johnson
Editor: Joshua Douglas
Roger Hill from Bennett, Colorado and his wife Caryn, own and operate Silver Lining Tours, one of the largest and oldest storm chasing tour companies in the world.
Roger said: “During 2016 I encountered over 35 tornadoes. I hold the Guinness Book of World Records for the most tornadoes witnessed by any person and this year's tally increased the all time total to over 630!
“I chase storms because I love the beauty of nature. A powerful thunderstorm is one of nature's most fierce forces and to witness it first hand, especially when it produces a tornado, is a sight to behold.”
Roger’s passion began as a child growing up in Kansas, a state famed for its ferocious weather.
He said: “A violent EF5 tornado hit the town of Topeka and that helped me develop my interest in tornadoes and thunderstorms.”
Tornados are universally measured by the Enchanced Fujita scale (EF-Scale), which rates a tornado by the damage tornadoes inflict on human-built structures and vegetation.
The scale varies from EF0 - ‘light damage’; some damage to chimneys and branches broken off trees; to EF5 – ‘incredible damage’ causing strong framed houses to be lifted off foundations and steel reinforced concrete structures to be badly damaged.
The storm chasing duo pride themselves in getting their tour guests in a position to witness the most violent weather in the world, while keeping a safe distance and protecting themselves.
Roger said: “We keep first aid kits in the vehicles and usually have a paramedic, police officer or doctor on board.
“We never stop to watch a tornado if we don't have an escape route. Safety for us all is number one priority.”
Despite their precautions, this year they had a very close encounter with a supercell thunderstorm in Olchitree county, Texas on May 22nd.
The 59-year-old said: “As we moved around the supercell thunderstorm, it spawned several tornadoes. The last one, as we were about a half mile to the south of it, developed and turned directly south towards us.
“Getting all our guests and tour guides back in the vans at the last second was a challenge as the tornado approached within a couple hundreds yards of us. High winds, large hail and torrential rain engulfed us as we quickly sped away from the tornado.”
The group’s best tornado for 2016 was in Wynnewood, Oklahoma on May 9th. At a rating of EF4, it was one of the strongest in the US this year, causing extreme destruction and tragically killing a person.
The tour leader said: “I decided to keep our tour very close to the tornado, but had the vans flipped around just in case it decided to take a turn towards us. It crossed less than a half mile away - noisy, loud, nasty and violent. It was something nobody on our tour will ever forget.”
The storm enthusiast has some important advice for anyone interested in chasing extreme weather.
He said: "Storm chasing can be a lot of fun, but also can be extremely dangerous. Get yourself some training before venturing out on your own.
"Go on a tour, find another storm chaser to go with, do what you need to gain experience before putting yourself in a position you might not be familiar with and could result in injury or death. Always be prepared.”