LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles has storm chasers.
While they might not be as busy in Kansas or Oklahoma, they are kept busy.
CBS 2 Meteorologist Craig Herrera introduces us to a local storm chaser.
“Alright, I’ve got my funnel cloud,” says Will Wilkens the chaser. And it’s literally for him, a labor of love.
This isn’t the Great Plains — it’s good old Riverside County.
Wilkens chases storms across the southwest and says while it’s the Midwest that is known for twisters (you’ve seen “The Wizard of Oz” yes?) California has its own version of tornado alley.
“The inland areas of Southern California, especially the Inland Empire, it’s the perfect area for severe weather.” Wilkens said.
Weather watchers call the area “The Elsinore Convergence Zone”– it stretches from the Santa Ana mountains, near Lake Elsinore, to Beaumont and the San Jacinto Mountains.
The summer months, when it’s hot, makes it more rife for severe weather. Strong on shore winds rap around the Santa Ana mountains and collide head on with each other producing intense weather. It’s the weather that keeps Wilkens hopping and chasing.
He was there for a rare land spout that ripped through Perris five years ago.
“I got very excited and I was whooping and hollering because it’s one of those once in a lifetime events.” Wilkens said.
He was there for a fierce micro-burst in Lake Elsinore in August 2012.
Get this, Wilkens is not paid to storm chase. He does it because it’s his passion. And he says it’s a big adrenaline kick — not that he had to exactly say that.
He never goes out unprepared. He’s smart because he knows weather can be dangerous.
“No one should ever jump in a car and head into a storm without having some kind of basic knowledge of severe weather,” he explains.
So whether you are chasing a storm, or a storm is chasing you, Wilkens advises to be smart, be careful and never underestimate the weather.
“No one should ever take any small, mini tornado — however big it is — should not take that lightly because you can get hurt no matter what,” he says.