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Carpentersville Man Becomes Tornado-Chaser When Weather Turns

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Mark Lingl of Carpentersville, Ill., is a tornado chaser. (CBS)

Mark Lingl of Carpentersville, Ill., is a tornado chaser. (CBS)

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CARPENTERSVILLE, Ill. (CBS) — An approaching tornado sends most people running for cover. But there are others who race straight toward those funnel clouds.

CBS 2′s Vince Gerasole introduces us to Chicago area storm chasers who traveled as far as Iowa this weekend to monitor severe storms.

While many in Chicago enjoyed the calm before the storm on Sunday, Mark Lingl was getting set to drive into the thick of things. The father of two from northwest suburban Carpentersville is also a tornado chaser.

For 14 years, he’s raced across the Midwest videotaping his discoveries. Guests from as far away as Australia have come along for the ride. 

“We have to be there before the tornados actually occur — that’s the best way to tornado- chase,” Lingl told CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole. “You end up seeing the entire life cycle of the tornado.”

From a series of cameras to a computer probe that detects lightning up to three miles away, Lingl showed CBS 2 the equipment that converts his sedan into a storm chaser. 

He’s not alone in his enthusiasm. When tornados Saturday slammed into Mapleton, Iowa, Chicagoan Danny Neal, one of Lingl’s chasing buddies, was there. He was preparing to follow any storms that rumbled into Illinois or Wisconsin late Sunday.

“I actually caught three or four different tornadoes last night, and unfortunately they hit some towns and farmsteads,” Neal told Gerasole via Skype.

For a tamer view of a tornado in the making, thousands have been flocking to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and its “Science Storms” exhibit.

Spotting a funnel cloud and warning authorities, says Lingl, makes the risks worth it.

“It’s good when the sirens go off and people have the warning to get safe,” he said.

Every April, he takes a break from his day job selling beef to lead storm-chasing tours across the Midwest.

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