When Greg Johnson isn’t chasing tornados or speaking at fundraisers, he’s sharing tips and tricks on taking a perfect picture. The Tornado Hunter was in Moose Jaw last week hosting an in-person camera workshop.
“My background is in photography. I’m a dumb photographer that got into storm chasing. My real passion is photography and teaching, and so yeah, I’m teaching workshops,” noted Johnson who is traveling to Edmonton and Red Deer next week for in-person camera workshops after stops in Moose Jaw and Weyburn over the past weekend.
Between sessions last week in Moose Jaw, Johnson chatted with MIX 103 Morning Show host Calum McAnally about the risk of chasing storms, forecasting tornadoes, and how terrifying chasing storms can be.
“It’s the terror which keeps you alive honestly, because without that fear you would just drive into a tornado, theoretically. I have no death wish. I have a life wish. I do not want to leave this planet prematurely. It’s terrifying watching a tornado rip through a community. It’s terrifying seeing a barn, a house, and vehicles being tossed in the air. Somebody’s life is changing at that very moment, and it’s a terrifying thought,” said Johnson.
Canada’s Tornado Alley includes Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and parts of northern and southern Ontario along with southern Quebec and New Brunswick. It’s estimated that between 60-200 tornados touch down in Canada each year.
When it comes to forecasting tornados, it’s more scientific than checking a weather app.
“I’m not looking at other people’s forecasts. I use weather models, weather information that’s processed through giant brains and giant computers around the world to produce weather models and I interpret those weather models,” says Johnson.
“During tornado season, four times a day those weather models get released. Four times a day we have an update for the information, and that information [which] is collected through weather balloons through airliners that are traveling through different layers of the atmosphere, getting weather and wind information and all that stuff, gets put into a computer. Then my fun task every day, four times a day during Tornado season, is to look at that information and make some determinations as to where to go to be at the place to see the thing,” added Johnson.
Johnson recalled being in the widest tornado ever recorded on Earth back in 2013 in El Reno, Oklahoma.
“I was inside of that tornado, and it was terrifying. [The] truck was bounced around. A lot of damage, not on purpose, by the way. The tornado grew from a couple of 100 yards wide to 2.6 miles, 4.2 kilometers wide, in the span of about two minutes. We were just consumed by the growth of the tornado. An unusual, unprecedented event. One that I hope to never repeat and one that taught me a lot.”
“The barn in front of us exploded. Hit the vehicle, lost glass, and all of our belongings out of the back of the truck. We have bounced around and it was like it was a so to speak coming to Jesus moment.”
“If there’s anything that I learned from that experience to share with your audience is if you hear a Tornado warning, take it seriously. It can happen very quickly, and it’s better to be safe than to be sorry,” stressed Johnson.
Below is the full conversation between MIX 103 Morning Show host Calum McAnally and Greg Johnson.