North

'It was crazy': Yukon photographer goes storm chasing in the U.S.

Robert Postma of Whitehorse came home from the U.S. midwest with some spectacular storm photos, and some terrifying memories.

Robert Postma came away with some amazing shots — and some recurring nightmares

Whitehorse photographer Robert Postma captured this shot in Nebraska in May. Storm photography is his passion, and he spent 2 weeks last month travelling the U.S. midwest, chasing storms. (Robert Postma)

Robert Postma's first day on a storm-chasing tour last month in the American midwest was remarkable, he says.

"I saw a beautiful, what they call an 'elephant trunk tornado' — just this white, beautiful tornado, in a field five miles away. It was stunning. I'm like, wow, if this is like this every day, I love it," he recalled.

A few days later, the Whitehorse photographer was maybe having some second thoughts as his group — travelling in several vehicles with radio contact — suddenly found itself in the middle of a real Kansas tempest.

"You couldn't see anything ... And over the radio all we heard was, 'Tornado! Tornado! Stop! Stop!'"

That's when his tour group's vehicles lost track of each other, with no radio contact. Eventually, Postma says, his vehicle found the others.

"There was one van that was lying upside down in the ditch.  And another van was about 40 metres in a field, upside down. I'm like, what's going on? I had no clue."

'I had nightmares of tornadoes for six nights after,' Postma said. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Postma — who's a nurse in Yukon — says some people were injured, but there was nothing life-threatening. Everybody has recovered, he says.

"It was crazy. I had nightmares of tornadoes for six nights after, every night I'd wake up running from a tornado."

This was Postma's second time travelling to the midwest to take storm photos. It's been a life-long passion — as a kid growing up in southwestern Ontario, his mother used to wake Postma and his siblings up in the middle of the night to watch spectacular lightning storms roll in across the cornfields.

He doesn't consider himself a storm-chaser, though — he's more interested in photos than thrills, so most of the time he tries to keep some distance from the wrath.

Postma doesn't consider himself a storm chaser looking for thrills. Typically, he keeps some distance so he can get better photos. (Robert Postma)

"That way, you can see the nice structure of the clouds, and the lightning, and you can take photos because you're not being pounded by rain and hail," he said.

His tour this year took him from Oklahoma City to Denver over two weeks in May. He went a bit earlier this year, as it promised to be a "good" storm season.

"Little did I know that there would be, in the 13 days I was down there, over 500 tornadoes that were reported," he said.

"If you're ready, you get some amazing shots. But it can be very hairy-scary at times."

He describes how often the greatest danger is not in the sky, but on the road. May is a big month for storm-chasers, and it's easy to suddenly find yourself swerving around a bunch of rubbernecking drivers.

"It's like a beehive. There's no one around, you're by yourself, and all of a sudden once the storm starts brewing and kicking up and becoming this beast of a storm, people just show up. I don't know where they come from," he said.

"They're watching the storm, but not watching the road."

Despite all the hazards and drama, he managed to get some spectacular photos this year — and he hasn't shaken the storm-watching bug.

"I have no problem doing it again," he said. "I've already booked trips for next year."

'It can be very hairy-scary at times,' Postma said. (Robert Postma)

With files from Elyn Jones

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