Interview with Gregg Potter – owner of F5! Tornado Safaris

gregg potter f5 tornado safaris

Who is Gregg Potter?

I was born in Cleveland, OH and moved to Castle Rock, CO when I was 6 years old. With storms blowing up along the front range of the Rockies, I got my love for the weather and storms at a young age. I knew I’d be a Meteorologist by the time I was 12 years old. I had my Mom driving me to storms by 15 and have been chasing them myself since I had a drivers License.

I went to the University of Kansas and graduated with a degree in Atmospheric Science. After graduation, I started a private weather company and have been running it for 25 years. At the same time, I have been running our tours since 1999 during the spring months. I currently live in Palm Desert, CA and am married with three children, ages 16, 13 and 10.

When did you start chasing storms by yourself? What was the reason you first started chasing storms?

I started chasing by myself at the age of 16, back in 1988. I trace my true weather love back to the Blizzard of 1982 in Colorado, but quickly focused on severe storms and tornadoes as my true love.

You run a weather service called AnythingWeather where you help customers with custom weather solutions. What are examples of projects you do for your customers?

My company, AnythingWeather Communications, Inc. offers a wide range of weather services. We focus on hail alerting and mapping for insurance, roofing and dent repair. We also provide lightning alerting services and sirens for parks, schools and golf courses. In addition, we provide forecasting services for growers and other outdoor event-driven businesses.

Right now, in the beginning of the year, there is not much storm activity (with some notable exceptions). Do you still check the weather in the Plains regularly this time of year or is it something you only do once Spring is coming?

Of course, I’m monitoring storms nationwide for our clients and my own interest year-round. Winter storms are not as interesting to me, but I monitor storms and the weather year-round.

How is your SDS (Storm Deprivation Syndrome) this time of year? How do you cure it?

Living in the desert, where the weather does not change much, this time of year certainly gets boring and my SDS spikes. Since I am handling my chasing clients for the upcoming tours, my head is in it all the time, so I keep myself busy with other weather services and conferences while waiting out the months until May.

What was the reason you started F5! Tornado safaris?

I started the tours to make sure I continue to have a guaranteed chasing season no matter where I live or what is going on with my life. I also enjoy teaching my clients how to forecast and pinpoint where we are going day after day to find the big storms and tornadoes.

How many tour guests have you had since the start?

I’d say around 200

How many F5/EF5:s have you seen with tour guests during the years? Which ones?

We have seen many F5s, starting with the Moore, OK tornado in 1999. We were there for Greensburg, KS being on the storms for hours before it got dark. We did not get a view of the tornado after dark as we normally quite chasing after dark.

We were on the Joplin, MO F5 for many hours all long the KS/OK border, but did not see the actual tornado from the south side due to the rain curtain. A few other notable tornadoes were Bennington, KS, Dodge City, KS, El Reno, OK, Canadian, TX, Wakita, OK and McCook, NE last year.

Is there anything specific that you think you are the only one in the tour industry doing?

We keep our tours smaller and more personal with 4 clients per Suburban and three Suburbans total (no passenger vans). We like having smaller groups to allow for the personal experience. It is not about making money for us, rather the experience and making the experience from storms to the non-storm days as exciting and interesting as possible.

Can you tell about any specific tour guest who had an experience you remember specifically?

Not sure there is a specific anecdote, but we have a large number of returning clients, in fact, 75% of our guests year after year are returning clients. We are like a family getting together each season to watch the world’s most severe weather.

Which was your most rememberable chase last decade (2010-2019)?

El Reno, OK

Which is your favorite are to chase in the Plains? Why?

Western Kansas, flat with roads every mile. It made the Dodge City tornado fest a wonderful experience!

You have been chasing for over 20 years now. What are the biggest differences between chasing back when you started and now?

Well, back when I started, you did not have data in the vehicle, so the forecast in the morning before taking off was key. Then, Mobile Threatnet came out and it was wonderful having live radar in the truck while chasing. Now, we have all the data we need from sun-up to sun-down to make decisions on the fly.

Do you miss the “old days”?

I certainly miss the days when there were 2 other cars on the road in the middle of nowhere instead of a traffic jam for sure.

What is your favorite Down Day activity (or place to visit) in the Plains?

Hmmm, well there are a lot of them we have visited over the years, but can you beat the largest ball of twine?

Lastly, is there anything you hope to see specifically this season? Is there any specific “dream tornado” or the likes of it that you would love to see?

I just love seeing storms, massive rotating mesocyclones are just as exciting as the big tornado. But, seeing something like Bennington, KS where we were there 30 minutes to watch the entire development of the storm and then watched an F4 sit and spin for 30 minutes without moving was a wonderful experience. I’ll take one of those every year!

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