Beth Allan used to be afraid of storms.
In 2007, her mom decided she needed to face her fears. She booked Allan on a storm-finding tour and was hooked.
“The first time you see a storm, that adrenaline rush is like skydiving, right? You’re chasing it forever.”
Allan, who lives in Calgary, is the only female member of the Prairie Stormchasers. She noticed that there are many more people interested in chasing the storm this summer than in previous years, especially women who are looking for the same exhilarating experience.
“There are more women realizing, ‘Hey, you know what, I can actually do this.'”
There have been many storms in Alberta. This summer, tornadoes have been confirmed near Bergen, Coronation and Alliance – and windshield shattering hail near Innisfail.
For Allan and others in the small community of hunters, being a storm-chasing woman means personal safety. Chasing can mean standing on the side of a quiet road, sometimes at night.
“When you talk to women who are chasing storms, it’s almost always the first thing that comes to mind, like how do you keep yourself safe? What happens if a stranger appears?
“I think it stops women, especially from maybe going out there and photographing lightning at night, and kind of getting into some of those things when you’re alone in the middle of nowhere with maybe a sketchy cell phone.”
Allan tells his friends where she is before setting off in pursuit.
‘Do what you love’
Teresa and Darlene Tanner, a married couple, were in Edmonton in 1987 when a deadly Black Friday tornado hit the city.
They said the experience traumatized them. Years later, they turned to storm chasing to help deal with those feelings. The couple now lives in Alix, Alta, northeast of Red Deer, and have been chasing storms for 14 years.
Darlene said that every time they drive out, there are more cars full of storm chasers than last time.
“Especially if it’s very serious… people either with a camera or with their cell phone and they were everywhere, even on small, small back roads.”
Teresa said the Alberta storm chasers are here to help each other.
“It’s nice to see young girls, older girls, somewhere in between, go out and do the same… It doesn’t have to be a man thing if you know what you’re doing and do a little research,” Teresa said.
There are social media accounts and resources dedicated to women chasing storms. Among them is America’s Girls Who Chase, which features female storm chasers from across North America, including Alberta.
Fewer women than men are chasing the storm, according to Jennifer Walton, founder of the group, but that doesn’t mean there’s no interest.
Girls Who Chase started out as an Instagram page. But because of the huge interest, Walton started collecting online tools for aspiring storm chasers.
“What I noticed was an influx of women who I think have always wanted to pursue and really believe it’s for them, but they just really didn’t know where to start.”
Walton said despite the fact that one of the most famous storm chasers was a female fictional character, Dr. Jo Harding, played by Helen Hunt in the film. twister There should be more representation.
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“twister came out 26 years ago, and the fact that Helen Hunt … is still considered one of the main role models for women chasing a storm is just tragically sad, ”she said.
“In many ways, this movie pioneered everything we talk about, but it wasn’t enough, and that’s probably because it was fictional. I think it really comes down to creating some realistic role models that people, girls and women, can talk to, learn from.”
The Tanners say that Alberta is the perfect place to chase storms, and anyone interested in doing so should get out of there – taking the necessary precautions.
Darlene said she didn’t let anything stop her from chasing the storm, and neither should the others.
“Everyone can do whatever they want. We did it. We didn’t know anyone and we went for it anyway. stop you.”