Storm chasing is a male-dominated field, but one group is aiming to change that narrative.
Jennifer Walton, founder of Girls Who Chase, and Melanie Metz, partner and lead forecaster for Girls Who Chase, joined FOX Weather to talk about its mission and how they got their start in storm chasing.
Girls Who Chase seeks more visibility for the efforts of women chasers. Its mission is to inspire, empower and equip girls and women to pursue weather, the sciences and their passions.
Jennifer has always been fascinated by severe weather but didn't make storm chasing a reality until she was in her late 30s. She is a fully self-taught forecaster and chaser, mostly chasing solo, and is committed to bringing her learnings to empower and inspire others to pursue their own joys of the sky.
"I didn't start chasing until my late 30s, so very different from Melanie. Severe weather was always a great passion of mine, and my transition actually happened one day when I realized this was something that I could do, that I was fully capable of it," said Jennifer.
A lot of Jennifer's story of starting as a storm chaser had a lot to do with how Girls Who Chase was founded.
"One day I realized I was fully capable of doing something that initially I had thought that I wasn't. And I think the important question now, of course, is why aren't more women storm chasing? Is it because they're telling themselves the same stories? Is it due to gender inequity issues? Is it some combination of both of those? So I decided to take on both and founded Girls Who Chase," said Jennifer.
And that moment that really flipped the switch for Jennifer was seeing her first tornado in Colorado. She was in such a rush to get out of the house to chase it, she was still wearing her pajamas.
"I live in the front range of Colorado and was working from home one day and knew just enough to be dangerous to start chasing and saw a storm come out of the foothills here and just thought to myself, that thing is going to do it and I'm going after it," said Jennifer. "And I was in such a rush to get out of the house that I was actually still wearing my pajamas, which is kind of one of my favorite stories to tell now."
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For Melanie, she got her start in the game very early.
"I mean, I dreamt about tornadoes when I was a young kid, and in the early 2000s, I just got out there and started learning," stated Melanie. "I not only learned the science of how to forecast and also about severe weather safety, which is very important, but also how to actually be in the field and navigate around the storms."
That afforded Melanie the opportunity to meet other women interested in storm chasing and ultimately become of the "Twister Sisters" with Peggy Wallenberg.
Melanie has now been chasing for over 20 years, and now mostly chases solo, selling video to news networks, operating private tours, and capturing the best photos she can.
But one moment that stands out for her was in 2004 when she and her "Twister Sister" Peggy ended up on a house that had been hit by a tornado and was able to help a family that was stuck in a basement.
"There's so many memorable moments over my 20 years of chasing storms. But you know, one of the most memorable is when Peggy and I were actually chasing in 2004 and ended up on a house that had been hit by a tornado. So we were able to help everyone out of the basement who was stuck down," said Melanie. "In that moment, it was pretty special and luckily no one was injured, and we became really good friends with that family."