Northwest Illinois Storm Chaser In Eye Of Irma

CHICAGO (CBS) — When everyone is driving away from severe storms, Alec Scholten of Rockton, Illinois is driving or flying toward them.

“I’ve always loved science and weather. I used to watch the weather and documentaries when I was little. I’d draw tornados all the time in Kindergarten,” Scholten said.

It was only natural he pursued professional storm chasing.

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Storm chaser, Alec Scholten (photo provided to WBBM)

“I have a 3 man team. We are all good friends and we do this together,” he said.

Scholten’s been chasing storms for 12 years. He said he bought a one way ticket to Fort Lauderdale on Friday, but soon realized Irma’s path would veer more West.

“We keep looking at our forecasting models and realized it was making a westerly shift and we needed to be there, so we left to head to the other side of Florida and we decided to ride it out in Naples right by the beach,” he said. “We are always very prepared. We have 20 tanks of gas, lots of food and water and we had a bunch of supplies to ensure we’d be safe in case we get stranded. We’re still waiting for the storm surge here.”

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Alec Scholten and his team after being in the eye of Hurricane Irma. (photo provided to WBBM)

At the time of the interview, Scholten had just experienced Irma’s eye in Naples late Sunday afternoon. He said he’s never seen anything like it.

“It was so eerie. It went from 100 to zero. Literally. There were 100 mile per hour winds and then it was just this calm, 5 mile an hour breeze. It was amazing the power,” Scholten said.

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Alec Scholten photographing a tornado – one of hundreds he has chased. (photo provided to WBBM)

He’s also owner of Twisted Sky Tours, which offers storm chasing tours for weather enthusiasts. When he and his 3 man team find themselves in the middle of a tornado or hurricane, they gather wind data and film footage to study, share and educate people about severe weather.

“Extreme weather is our passion and we want to share it with the public,” Scholten said.

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When Alec Scholten and his 3 man team find themselves in the middle of a tornado or hurricane, they gather wind data and film footage to study, share and educate people about severe weather at Twisted Sky Tours. (photo provided to WBBM)

He has chased more than 100 tornadoes and experienced Hurricane Matthew in 2016, but Irma, he said, is historic and something he’ll never forget.

“This is one of the most incredible experiences of my life. To be outside in 145 per hour winds it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. The sheer power of it was remarkable,” he said.

For more information, log onto http://www.twistedskytours.com/index.html

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