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Thursday, 08 November 2012 15:35

Tornado Hunter will speak at Great Plains College fundraiser

Written by  Jessi
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When professional photographer Greg Johnson started up his business more than a decade ago, he never imaged one day he’d be earning his living chasing storms across the North American plains.

Now, the Tornado Hunter uses his talents to document some of the most destructive natural forces on the planet.
“During the time that I was working as a photographer, I really fell in love with storms and with the prairies as a photographic subject, especially the lightning,” Johnson explained. “A couple of years ago, I decided to look into the idea of storm chasing full time, and it turned out that no one else was doing it in Canada.”
Johnson will speak at Great Plains College Nov. 14, at noon. Tickets for the luncheon are $30, and proceeds from the event go to support the Wind Turbine Maintenance Technician program at the college.
Tickets are available at Great Plains College, or by phoning 306-778-5460.
Johnson sold his business and now kicks off storm season in Texas in the early spring, travelling through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa  — experiencing all of the plains, not just Canada.
He admitted some of the most impressive storms are right here at home.
“Saskatchewan is great for storm chasing,” he said. “The gridded road network is just awesome, and the lack of trees is fantastic. During June and July, Saskatchewan really does see some of the best storms on the plains.”
Johnson has had the unique opportunity to experience many of them up close, especially this past summer. On July 1st, Saskatchewan set a record with more than 800,000 lightning strikes in one day. Johnson noted some of his favourite shots of the year were taken during that event.
“We also had a really big tornado outbreak this June and July, with 35 tornadoes this year in Saskatchewan,” he added. “I got to see about a dozen of those up close, and that was a pretty amazing experience. They are by far the fastest wind speeds on the planet, and they are such an elusive and rare phenomenon. Few people get to witness it, so to be able to capture it and share it with people is a really cool thing to do.”
However, Johnson has also seen the devastation these impressive storms can leave behind.
He experienced the F5 tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri in May of 2011, and admitted it was a scary one.
“That was a billion-dollar disaster, and it is trulyawe-inspiring how powerful nature can be,” he said. “There is definitely an adrenaline component involved with what I do, and it’s a pretty crazy thing to see barns explode from 300 yards away.”
Combining his passion for storm chasing with his love of public speaking, Johnson enjoys telling people about his experiences. He also talks about legacy, that how we live our lives is what gets passed on to our children. He uses storm chasing as a bit of a metaphor to tie the themes together.
“People find what I do really interesting, but there’s not a lot of people who can really speak about it,” he explained. “They like to hear about tornadoes, and I like to be in front of a crowd, sharing those experiences. It seems to be a pretty popular topic.”

Read 1504 times Last modified on Friday, 09 November 2012 09:20