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Oklahoma tornadoes: Co-owner of storm-chasing company responds to criticism

BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Published: June 11, 2013

Hon and her husband decided to take a storm-chasing tour for their 10th anniversary.

“I really wanted to face my fear,” Hon said. “It was the best experience of my life up to that point.”

Hon said she's been to Europe and Asia and has never enjoyed a trip like she did the storm-chasing tour. Much of the trip was spent passing time waiting for storms or on long drives to get into position to intercept a possible storm.

She said the tour guides were professional and always kept them at safe distances from storms. Hon saw three tornadoes during her tour. Only the last one was visible for any length of time.

“It was glorious,” Hon said. “It's hard to explain.”

Hon said none of the storms her group chased were near cities, and she wouldn't have been comfortable knowing the tornadoes she was watching could be killing people or destroying homes.

“Every place we went on our tour was in the middle of nowhere. It was pasture land,” she said.

Hon called her fascination with tornadoes a “morbid curiosity.”

‘More good than harm'?

That curiosity is what makes companies like Extreme Tornado Tours possible.

Holder said his company does what it can to help during and after storms. When they are chasing in rural areas, they spot storms for the National Weather Service.

Ultimately, Holder said the idea of his company is to offer a safe way for people to feed their curiosity about tornadoes.

“There are going to be people who want to go chase who are going to put themselves out there,” Holder said.

“You might as well create an industry that creates a fairly safe environment that people can do it in.”

The company is 6 years old, and there are others like it. Holder said he has only recently gotten complaints about the concept.

He lives in Norman, a few miles from where the May 20 tornado hit in Moore, and understands that emotions are high.

“I'm not a coldhearted person who is just trying to turn a profit from tornadoes,” Holder said.

“I'm not going to deny the fact that it is a delicate subject. I really feel like, when it is all boiled down, we are doing more good than harm.”