Spring weather is several weeks away, yet there already are people in Johnson County who are working on a daily basis to keep us safe from the destruction a massive storm can bring.
Michael Clark and Bryan and Amanda Kilgore are Greenwood residents who own and manage BAM, a severe weather chase team that works to provide storm information to residents in Central Indiana.
BAM was founded in 2011, and the trio started out as storm chasers. Their interest in weather and growing knowledge of weather forecasting quickly took them to a much broader role.
Today, the group not only chases storms but also predicts, forecasts and reports from the scene for an Indianapolis television station.
Fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology, the BAM SUV allows the crew to study weather patterns and make predictions based on what they see in the sky and what the radar shows. They then can quickly pass along valuable information, allowing potentially lifesaving decisions to be made.
Initially, the group began offering weather predictions without charge.
“We put a human element back into forecasting,” Clark said. “We’re not just a computer-generated model. Before long, people started catching on to our accuracy.”
From those early forecasts, the BAMChase.net website was established. Launched in November 2012, the website provides an in-depth way for weather enthusiasts to follow the changes in weather patterns and to see what might be on the horizon by subscribing to the service for a fee.
All three said they have had an interest in the weather and how it works for many years.
“The passion for studying the weather has been around for a long, long time,” Clark said. “I first became interested in probably the second grade. I have always loved it.”
Like Clark, Amanda Kilgore also realized she had a keen interest in weather while she was still in school. Bryan Kilgore has been actively studying all aspects of the weather for several years.
Clark gained much of the knowledge he has on weather through an internship program with a television meteorologist in Indiana. In addition, he is working to complete his bachelor’s degree in meteorology at Mississippi State.
The three work together in a variety of capacities while in the field. Bryan Kilgore is a licensed amateur radio operator and a certified skywarn storm spotter. He directly handles the array of equipment that is in the SUV. Amanda also is a certified skywarn storm spotter who is trained in first aid and CPR. Clark navigates the vehicle and works with the others to provide the most accurate forecasts.
BAM’s mission is to provide the best information to the public of possible weather situations in their area.
“People assume a weather prediction is going to be wrong and it is not going to affect them,” Clark said.
One aspect of the severe weather system Clark would like to see changed is the tornado siren system. Currently, the sirens go off even when a tornado has not been spotted in the area if a severe thunderstorm has developed. People become complacent and hear the sirens too many times, he said.
“It is the worst form of warning people there is. People just don’t care,” he said.
It is their vast knowledge of dangerous weather patterns that have kept the trio safe while working in the field. The most vivid memory Clark has of a dangerous situation was when the team was in Henryville.
They were about 30 seconds in front of the massive F4 tornado that leveled the town.
“We have had a lot of training,” Clark said. “Storm chaser courses don’t exist. Instead, we study it every day, seven days a week. We are constantly asking, ‘What is the sky doing?’”
Clark said he doesn’t believe storms are getting more severe. Instead, he said more people are out there, covering the storms and reporting their damage.
BAM is working to gain a better understanding of how storms and tornadoes develop, and ultimately hopes to save lives.
What can the average citizen do to stay safe? Clark suggests people buy a weather radio.
“It is the best form of warning. It will tell you exactly what kind of warning is out there,” he said.
Carol Edwards is retired after a 30-year career teaching elementary school students at at Greenwood schools.