As a child, Spencer Albracht always tried to catch a glimpse of severe weather and tornadoes. Fast forward a few years and you'll see nothing has changed.
Albracht, 21, of Edmond, is a storm chaser and spotter. He travels across the state to observe storms, collect data and photograph weather conditions.
“I always wanted to know what's going on. What's behind them? I'm really big on knowing how something works. That's a thing that has always thrilled me (whether) it be the kitchen stove or severe weather,” Albracht said.
Like many storm chasers, Albracht is prepared for tornado and storm season this month. Last April, Oklahoma had 50 tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service.
Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist in the weather service's Norman office, said Oklahoma had 119 tornadoes in 2011, making it the second highest year in state history. The highest number was 145 twisters in 1999, he said.
“This time last year, we only had a handful,” Smith said. “It only takes one day to rapidly increase those numbers.”
This is Albracht's first season back since surgery last spring and continuing health problems. Albracht said he started noticing a change in his body last year when he lost 60 pounds and he couldn't absorb any nutrients from food.
In May, he had surgery to remove an abnormal growth in his stomach. Then he was diagnosed in February with Crohn's disease, an illness that affects the intestines.
Even though he has to deal with the disease daily, Albracht said he hopes to chase storms this season.
“This will be my first year going forward with it. It's been my goal to be able to have the ability to go out and storm spot,” he said. “I've reinvested money into my equipment to make sure it's accurate.”
Thrill of the chase