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Cochrane storm chaser ready for season

It's not optimal road tripping for everyone to live out of their car for an entire month, but for local storm chaser Braydon Morisseau, he wouldn't have it any other way.
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Braydon Morisseau is ready for storm season.
Braydon Morisseau is ready for storm season.

It's not optimal road tripping for everyone to live out of their car for an entire month, but for local storm chaser Braydon Morisseau, he wouldn't have it any other way.

When Morisseau isn't pouring pints of Farmer's Daughter or concocting cocktails like the Barn Burner - in honour of the character Dusty in the 1996 blockbuster hit Twister - at Half Hitch Brewery his eye is on the sky.

For the 2006 St. Tim's alumni, chasing storms across the region is more than just a hobby - it's a way of life.

Part one of four members of Prairie Storm Chasers, the eight-year veteran has lived in Cochrane his entire life and at age 26, loves every minute of seeking out the perfect storm ever since witnessing his first tornado near Okotoks in 2007.

"It's something I love to do, it's my passion," said Morisseau, who will be taking his PredaTOR Storm Utility Vehicle - his gadget-equipped and heavy armoured jeep clad in Vinex truck bedding to ward off snowball-sized hail into storm central: the Midwestern U.S.A.

The PredaTOR is also equipped with an anemometer to track wind speed and a unique marine-style GPS system - one that ties in and corrects the wind speed so Morisseau can get a proper reading while in motion, courtesy of the Campbell Scientific Canada Corp.

Fellow team member Sean Schofer of Melville, Sask. will be joining Morisseau for the adventure. Other team members, who will not be on this trip, are Nevin DeMilliano of Edmonton and Chris Ratzlaff of Airdrie.

In eight years, he has chased more than a few exciting storms.

"One of the most incredible chases was July 27, 2015 when Sean Schofer, Reed Timmer and I directly intercepted a large tornado near Tilston, Man.," he reflected.

"The most dangerous storm was actually the same year on May 16, 2015 near Elmer, Oklahoma, where we encountered a large tornado, but the real danger was the horizontal softball-sized hail it was throwing at our vehicles."

This will be Morisseau's sixth trip to the U.S. for storm chasing, but the first time not as a guide and in his own vehicle - providing him and his teammate the flexibility and freedom to undertake their own research.

"We're hoping to safely deploy our new tornado probe, Taz 1, into a tornado," he explained. "It measures temperature, humidity, dew point, pressure and wind speed."

The pair will kick off their May-long adventure at the 20th annual School Day at The K - the largest annual educational field trip in Kansas City, hosted by chief meteorologist Mike Thompson and the Fox 4 weather team and 20,000 storm chasers, give or take.

Following the event on Kansas weather, they will take in a Royals vs. Tigers MLB game at Kauffman Stadium.

From there, they will base out of the region and "drift around to where the storms are."

The local storm chaser will return from the Midwest tour with ample time to prep for Alberta storm chasing season.

Storm season for the greater Calgary region is mid-June to late-August, with peak season in July. In the Midwest and Central U.S., tornado season arrives earlier - and Morisseau hopes this May will be a lively one.

"That's what we strive to be - a reliable source of information when harsh weather hits," he explained, adding that he and his team live stream and live tweet on location, using hashtag #abstorm to signal Environment Canada - which looks to reliable, on-the-ground coverage of weather phenomena.

Morisseau said it's a widely-accepted myth that a tornado could never touch down in Cochrane, although flatter landscapes are more conducive. The up sloping winds in Cochrane help with storm development.

To build the momentum, the Prairie Storm Chasers are hosting a movie night on April 19 at the Cochrane Movie House, showcasing none other than storm chaser cult favourite Twister.

The screening runs from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. and tickets are $12 plus tax, available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/twister-movie-night-tickets-44586103235.

Morisseau credits longtime sponsors including Cochrane NAPA Auto Parts and Fenton Automotive and is looking forward to partnering with new sponsor HailCraft Inc.

Follow Prairie Storm Chasers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.




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Lindsay  Seewalt

About the Author: Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing.
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