There's no doubt Reed Timmer lives life on the edge. And he's turned his fear of storms in to a career that would blow anyone away.
Welcome to the high-pressure office of Reed Timmer featured on the Discovery Channel show Storm Chasers. The self-proclaimed extreme meteorologist has put his life on the line for 12 years to cover natures fury, at its worst, all in the name of science.
Thursday he showed students through the science, technology engineering and math, or STEM program at Bakersfield College how he put the fun in funnel, and they can too. Ironically, Timmer hasn't always liked storms. "When I was 3 or 4 I was deathly afraid of storms. lightning would fire up and I'd freak out and get really afraid."
That fear morphed into intense curiosity, he got a science degree, and started storm chasing. At first he had no idea what he was doing. "Easily could have been killed out there."
But with experience and more schooling, this student has become the metrology master, conducting serious research on the most dangerous tornados and storms on the planet. "We're trying to measure the winds inside the mini tornados that spin around inside the main tornado and record the data inside the funnel."
His team gathers data in a so-called tornado tank, which was an SUV modified with high-tech gadgets and bullet-proof armor.
And yes, he's been in the firing line of a feared F-5 tornado, in Nebraska, in 1999. "It was a mile wide. It was a huge tornado. The strongest I've ever seen in 12 years of storm chasing."
At BC, organizers and science students were blown away, so to speak. "This is an opportunity today for these students to be exposed to something they may not have realized can come from a science education," said Rageshwar Goldberg, STEM program manager. "I thought it was really good. It was exciting. The videos were amazing," said Valerie Cormach, BC math student.
You can catch storm chasers on the Discovery Channel. Timmer says anyone can be a storm chaser, but it is very dangerous, and he recommends taking courses with the National Weather Service first.