Sky diving… *yawn*. Bungee jumping… *zzzz*. Looking for a new adventure to get your heart racing faster than a fisherman bailing water out of a sinking boat? How about tornado chasing? According to the River Front Times, the activity is starting to take off in the tourism industry. The 1996 movie Twister did a lot to bring this adrenaline-rushing pastime to the mainstream, and the television show Storm Chasers — now in its fourth season after premiering in 2007 — helped carry the momentum.
As far as tourism goes, storm chasing tours have been around since the late ’90s with companies like Silver Lining Tours part of the vanguard. But it’s only recently that a survey has lent some credibility to the adventurous activity.
Carla Barbieri and Sonja Wilhelm Stanis — assistant professors in the School of Natural Resources Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (try saying that three times) — have discovered a trend of tourists who want to witness Mother Nature at her most powerful. Although the report from the University of Missouri doesn’t state how many “tornado tourists” were surveyed, it revealed that of them, over half were from North America, while 11% came from Australia and almost 1/3 traveled from Europe.
Tours — which can cost between $3000 and $5000 — are led by experienced meteorologists and trained storm chasers using sophisticated equipment to track the storms. The study also found that most amateur storm chasers were happy with the tour. Of those surveyed, about 1/3 experienced a tornado, half witnessed funnel clouds and more than 95% got a taste of a “significant atmospheric event.”
At the 2010 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium in New York, tornado tourism was classified in the “risk recreation and tourism” category, where activities like sky diving and white water rafting also live.
[Image: billypalooza / Flickr]