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  Field Notes From
Chasing Tornadoes

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From Photographer

Carsten Peter

Chasing Tornadoes On Assignment

View Field Notes
From Author

Priit J. Vesilind

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Carsten Peter (top) and Jodi Cobb


Chasing Tornadoes

Field Notes From Photographer
Carsten Peter

Best Worst Quirkiest
    Being that close to a tornado and witnessing the force of nature was thrilling. We were very close to the one that hit Manchester, South Dakota, probably less than 200 yards (182 meters) away. We were just one minute ahead of the tornado, and stormchaser Tim Samaras was placing probes in its path while I was taking pictures and positioning an armored camera package we called the Tinman.
    I heard this incredible sound of all the breaking trees and snapping power lines. It was like the roar made by a huge waterfall or a jet engine. I saw all the flying debris, and from a distance it looked like dirt or dust in a strange cloud. But when I realized that they were giant objects like roofs and trees I really understood how powerful a tornado is.

    Seeing the suffering of people who lost everything they owned to a tornado was heartbreaking. I met some families, many of them elderly, who were cleaning up the wreckage of their homes. All of a sudden, they had nothing. But these people took it in a very impressive way, and they didn't mind that I was taking pictures. They seemed sort of glad that I was there as an eyewitness and they could have some exposure at least. The strength they showed in dealing with their misfortune was really incredible.

    The Tinman is a strange-looking camera package armored with steel to survive a tornado. It was big and heavy, and it required two people to move it to and from every motel room we stayed in. It looked like a UFO, so you can imagine there were quite a few people who were curious about what this thing was and what we were doing with it. Some people looked at us like we were terrorists or aliens. We were asked a lot of quirky questions like, "Is that an instrument for exterminating insects?"


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