Kicking Storms and Hurricanes: Level3 Stormchasers

It was extremely hot on June 23, 2016. In southeastern Brabant and bordering northern Limburg, the mercury fluctuates around 35 degrees in the afternoon. Over the two provinces, a low pressure area from the United Kingdom and a high pressure area from the Baltic States converge. Immense rumbling cumulus clouds arise in record time. They stick together in a monstrous swirling cloud, a sort of tornado On steroids. It’s getting dark, hurricanes are hitting the open windows and rain is flooding the streets.


“It’s the perfect cocktail for a supercell,” says storm chaser Gijs de Reijke (36). The geography teacher – big build, ring beard, hip V-neck shirt – leaves through his self-written handbook on weather photography during a meeting he will present today. “It’s him.”

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A supercell is the most severe type of thunderstorm. It is a rotating shower formed by warm, moist air, while cold air also flows down. When a lot of air rushes around such a supercell, a vertical funnel forms, a giant swirling cloud. Each supercell has a 10 percent chance of developing into a hurricane. When most people run screaming into their homes in bad weather, de Reike goes outside. “Those are the moments a storm chaser lives for,” he quips. De Reyke looks at weather maps, models and forecasts online daily with the same devotion as a bishop reads the Bible. “Along with other strange people, I go out ten times a year. About thirty times in a good year. We drive each other crazy in the utility groups. Who can get free? When are we going? Those are the days when tension runs through my body.

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‘The storms are terrible, so there’s snow, but nothing like a thunderstorm. Hail, wind and lightning, everything is in it

Back to 2016. De Reicke has been watching his trusty weather sites for three days. Along with two friends – storm chasing is preferably done with three people: a driver, navigator and weather map reader – he sends after the disaster in his car. The storm causes extensive damage, mainly due to large hail. Some are 7 to 10 centimeters in diameter – the largest seen in the Netherlands in the past 25 years. “Entrepreneurs, such as greenhouse farmers, suffered a lot of damage. Of course there was a lot of rot, but I fully enjoy such rains.

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Then, after three hours of driving and a crazy ride through highways, villages and country lanes, the trio ends up in a perfect photo location. In one field, they take an impressive photo of a supercell from miles away. “When such a photo is successful, I cry with joy. If my car gets hailed, I see it as a trophy. Cars that look like Poffertjes Pan still drive around the area.

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