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Storm Chasers Help Warn During Severe Weather

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Larry Mowry
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CBS 11 viewer Leigh Taylor took this photo from the Crescent Court in Dallas on September 8, 2010.

CBS 11 viewer Leigh Taylor took this photo from the Crescent Court in Dallas on September 8, 2010.

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – When Clint Perkins isn’t working as an EMT in Hood County, he’s preparing for the next big storm.

Instead of hiding from tornadoes, he seeks them out. Although he’s been a storm chaser for almost 20 years, the tornado he saw on April 3 scared him.

“Watching this large tornado moving up towards south Arlington,” recalls Perkins, “that’s one of the first times in my chasing that I thought, ‘this is really bad.’ I think my whole demeanor changed.”

Perkins started chasing storms back in 1993 and captured his first tornado on camera in West Texas near Crosby County.

“I was so much in shock that I really didn’t realize I was looking at the tornado,” said Perkins.

He’s been hooked ever since. In fact, chasing even played a role in catching the love of his life.

“When I asked my wife to marry me, it was on video flying with the hurricane hunters inside the eye of Hurricane Wilma,” said Perkins, who notes that the popularity of storm chasing reality shows are prompting more inexperienced chasers to go on the road.

“They’re creating more of a hazard than the tornado itself,” said Perkins.

Fellow storm chaser Jason McLaughlin agrees.

He was in Forney during the April 3rd outbreak and witnessed the devastation as it happened. Mclaughlin teaches math at Summit High School in Mansfield and says his knowledge of the timing of storms is critical.

“Tornadoes can touch down and do a lot of damage in a very short time,” said McLaughlin.  “Even being an experienced storm chaser, you run into circumstances that aren’t the right ones to be in.”

For both of these men, storm chasing gives them a chance to see some incredible displays of nature and capture amazing images on camera, but their higher purpose is to help save lives.

“If I have a chance and opportunity to pre-warn some of these smaller towns, I feel like I’m accomplishing something.” Perkins said.

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