September 1, 2006

Storm chasers revel in Mexico hurricane threat

By Noel Randewich

LOS CABOS, Mexico (Reuters) - While Mexican residents and
foreign tourists rushed to take shelter from Hurricane John
roaring toward this beach resort on Friday, two American
extreme weather enthusiasts were loving it.

Reed Timmer and Joel Taylor say they travel tens of
thousands of miles (km) a year risking their lives to stand in
hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards just for fun.

"We definitely get a massive adrenaline rush and sense of
excitement since we know strong winds and devastating rains are
looming," meteorology student Timmer said.

Carrying helmets and goggles to shield them from flying
debris, the pair flew to the Los Cabos resort in Mexico's Baja
California peninsula this week hoping to meet John head on.

Packing winds of 110 mph (175 kph), the storm was due to
swipe the peninsula near Los Cabos on Friday afternoon.

Veterans of tornadoes in their native Oklahoma, the storm
chasers have now gone through five hurricanes, including
Katrina which devastated New Orleans last year.

"The scariest, most intense moment storm chasing was
definitely Hurricane Katrina where we lost our car in the flood
waters," said Timmer 26.

They were trapped for 12 hours east of New Orleans and
running out of food and water before a fishing boat rescued

The pair film and photograph extreme weather close up and
send it to their web site,

In Los Cabos, they rented a room in a five-star hotel right
on the beach to have a better view when the storm slams in.
Hotel management made them sign a waiver saying they refused to
take shelter with other guests.

Their hobby raised a few eyebrows.

"They're crazy. They are danger fanatics. You could lose
your life," said Paul Quinones, a power-line worker sent to Los
Cabos for the storm.

Timmer started following tornadoes in the U.S. Great Plains
in 1998, often driving as far as the Canadian or Mexican
borders, sleeping in a car and living off fast food to catch
the most violent storms.

Despite the buzz of being in the eye of storms, the two are
aware that extreme weather often causes tragedy.

"One crazy thing about storm chasing is that one second we
can be extremely excited about a massive tornado or hurricane,
but this rush turns to sadness when we witness all the damage
and destruction first hand," Timmer said.