Tornado Week – Ride shotgun with hail hunters
EDMOND, Okla. – When giant hail falls like missiles from the sky, most people run for cover.
Not these guys, they head toward the storm.
HailTrace owner Derik Kline said, “When Mother Nature decided to do what it’s going to do, you gotta be there for it or get out of the way. We like to be there, as close as we can get.”
They call themselves the “Nerd Herd.”
They have a strange obsession with weather that began at a very early age.
“I’d go outside and pretend to be Mike Morgan or something,” Justin Hughes said. “The wind chill is negative four. They’ve been video taping me since I was a kid.”
They have turned their fascination into a full-time career.
“Hailtrace” is an Edmond company that tracks, documents and maps hail storms all over the country.
Kyle Kramer is one of the hail hunters.
He drove right into the April 26 storm.
“It’s loud,” Kramer said. “When you get bigger than golf-ball sized, you can hear it crack as it hits. Here are some of the spots here.”
It’s more than just an adrenaline rush.
These chasers sell their data to roofing, auto repair and insurance companies.
“Maybe they say, ‘It didn’t hail on your house or car,’” Kline said. “You could contact us and we could tell you the exact time and location it hailed on your car back to the 1990s.”
If the pictures, maps and radar data aren’t proof enough, their hail-ravaged vehicles never lie.
Kramer said, “We’re hail on wheels.”