From fear to curiosity: How one storm chaser turned it into his career

6 News got a look into what it takes to become a storm chaser.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 10:23 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - “Thunder and lightning terrified me in the night,” said Brandon Copic.

You wouldn’t expect that from a veteran storm chaser like himself.

“Honestly that turned into an intense curiosity as I got older.”

A curiosity that blossomed at age 12 helped 6 News meteorologists last Friday keep Nebraskans safe during a string of tornadoes.

“We didn’t know that tornado was rain-wrapped unless we were told by a storm chaser,” said Senior Chief Meteorologist Rusty Lord. “And that makes it extra dangerous as well.”

Copic started storm chasing when he was 16 years old and is from Toledo, Ohio. Fourteen years later, he learned to manage his emotions and make storm chasing his full-time job.

“The most important aspect is you almost have to be without emotion,” he said. “Because when you have emotion in that situation, it causes you to second guess yourself. And that can cause a safety issue.”

Copic stays calm when others aren’t. In a chase this March near Keota, Iowa, audio from a video captures another man over the radio yelling at him to stop driving as a tornado and Copic’s car quickly got closer.

“I see it. I see it,” he calmly replied.

Not only does instinct keep Copic safe, but so does training and equipment.

Inside his 2013 Ford Explorer is a fully stocked trauma bag with first responder gear, a laptop for the weather radar, multiple radios, and even a chainsaw for emergencies.

Being armed with radar information and safety gear is key to keeping people who report severe weather safe.

“It makes me nervous when we send our reporters out because they haven’t been in those situations a lot,” Lord said. “Without knowing how to analyze a radar and how these things typically act, that can be dangerous.”

But worth it for chasers who are sometimes the first to respond to a storm-damaged scene.

“At the end of the day, all I want to do is help people.”

That’s why he’s started a nonprofit to help with storm recovery across the nation. His chases are made possible by streaming his chases on YouTube.