By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans
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Videographer / director: Jason Weingart
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: Joshua Douglas
Encountering lightning storms and erratic tornados are all in a days work for Jason Weingart, who has been chasing massive storm systems across America since 2009.
Danger is unavoidable in the storm chasing business and Jason contends with lightning bolts containing anywhere between 100 million and one billion volts every time he sets off in pursuit of a storm.
Despite the risks, Jason has never thought about settling down for the quiet life.
The Texas-based photographer said: “There’s never really been a time when I’ve considered giving it up.
“It’s what I really love to do, I’m very happy doing it and I’m starting to get really good at. So it’s something that I’ll stick with as long as I’m able to.”
However, storms are not in the habit of turning up on Weingart’s doorstep so a lot of time, nervous energy and research goes into tracking down each storm.
Jason said: “Before the storm, the atmosphere is very tense. You spend a lot of time forecasting, looking at data and different models trying to figure out exactly where these storms are going to happen.
“And you’re not really sure if everything’s going to work the way you think, so it’s really nerve-wracking waiting for all this stuff to occur.
“If the storms didn’t work out the way you thought and nothing occurred, or something occurred elsewhere and you missed it, that can really be a let down.
“On the other hand, if you saw a big tornado and it went through a bunch of open fields, your adrenalin is pumping . You can’t wait to get back to your hotel or your house and edit your photos and footage to show everyone what you saw that day.”
Jason caught the storm-chasing bug when he captured his first lightening strike at university, but bad days are inevitable in such unpredictable circumstances.
Weingart remembers a tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma in May 2013 as one of the worst storms he has ever witnessed.
The tornado dissipated after just forty minutes but cost eight people their lives, including three storm chasers.
He said: “It actually ended up killing several storm chasers that day who got caught in its path.
“We came really close to it and it was a really scary situation. There was a lot of traffic on the road which compounded an already difficult situation.
“That was a tough day, definitely really scary and it’s really the only time I’ve thought that I might actually die while I’m storm chasing.”
The thirty four year old’s career choice comes with many ups and downs, however, Jason knows that sometimes the devastation trumps his desire to capture storm systems on film.
He said: “The worst part about storm chasing is when you come across some damage, or a town being hit or someone’s house being destroyed.
“If something like that happens that’s the end of the chase - it’s over. You go in and try to help the best way you can and be there for these people during a really tough time for them.”
“I haven’t come across anything too devastating yet, but it’s something you have to be prepared for and it’s part of this job.”
Now he has honed his own storm chasing skills, Weingart trains people to forecast and safely pursue tornados and supercells on expeditions with his fiancé, Savannah Williams.
Many would assume storm chasing would have a significant impact on your life expectancy - and your life insurance policy - but Jason disagrees.
He said: “As far as an increased risk of death for storm chasers, it’s no more than anything else.
“I’m sure more people have been killed playing football or mountain climbing, any other the activity that involves some sort of risk.”