Cool job: Storm Hunter


Most people would rather avoid the wrath of a supercell thunderstorm. Martin Lisius, however, is not most people. As the president of Arlington, Texas-based Tempest Tours, Martin knows Tornado Alley like the back of his hand and is happy to show it to the guests who are brave enough to come along.

Though thoughts of following a tornado across the Texas plains might conjure up scenes from Twister, storm chasing is more about safe study than Hollywood drama. Getting close enough to a tornado is truly a job for an expert, and Martin and his crew use their years of knowledge to provide their tour groups with an unforgettable experience.

Martin's lifetime dedication to storm formations and natural beauty has led to activism within the storm community. He is the founder of the Texas Severe Storms Association (TESSA) and works hard creating safety and training videos to help increase awareness in the community. He recently had a chance to answer a few questions about his cool job.

Describe a typical trip out to Tornado Alley.

Each chase day starts with the tour director presenting their forecast briefing to the group. The tour director informs the group the previous night if an early departure is required. Safety is essential and our vehicles are clean, smoke-free and carefully maintained, and we rarely operate more than two per trip.

Once we're on the road, our team talks with guests about storm chasing, including meteorology and logistics of the discipline. When the supercell thunderstorms develop as forecasted, we intercept them and view them from a safe distance. Days might continue after dark and we've seen some spectacular lightning displays. Of course, our guests have gotten some great pictures out of their tours with us.

How far can tours take you?

We're pretty mobile, operating in Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, New Mexico and Colorado. Each chase day comes with a goal to intercept the biggest weather events in the area, and our guests leave with a greater appreciation for weather in the Great Plains.

What has been your favorite trip out in recent memory?

That would be November 7, 2011, in Tillman County, Okahoma. It was a nice, easy, high quality tornado intercept.

How did you get into storm chasing?

I was interested in storms as a kid growing up in Texas. I entered my weather exhibits in science fairs and won.

Have online tools or learning come into play in any way in your career progression?

Today, I can access any weather forecast tool I need online, from my office or car. In the 1990s we had to stop at a weather service office to get a few pages of weather data. Big difference.

What are the perks of the job?

I get to see awesome storms and I am usually safer than the normal citizens around me since I understand storms. The car I own now has intercepted about 40 tornadoes (3 just yesterday) and doesn't have a single hail dent on it while people that live in our neighborhood, who are not chasers, have lots of hail dents.

What is a typical salary range?

There is no salary range since my job is not typical. You have to be an entrepreneur to make money and that means sometimes you get paid, sometimes you don't. If you want to make a lot of money, don't do what I do.

What kind of education or training would you recommend for anyone considering this unique line of work?

First, I would not recommend anyone get into this line of work. It takes years to become good at it, there is a very large amount of competition, and profit margins are small. But yes, certainly, anyone interested in storm chasing would want to study meteorology.

More about Martin Lisius

What did you eat for breakfast? A cappuccino

Which day of the week is your favorite? Monday

Which day of the week is your least favorite? Monday

What was the first job you ever had? I made and sold artwork

What makes you angry? Irresponsible storm chasers

What makes you joyful? Fresh Utah powder

If you could have any job, other than your own, what would it be? Ski resort owner with a season pass

If you had the time and the money to study anything at all, what would you choose? How to become a ski resort owner

What did you want to be when you grew up? I can't remember it's been so long.

Can money bring you happiness? No. It helps relieve some stress, but that's about it. You can use it to help others that really need it.