Good Life

Storm chaser Reed Timmer touches down in State College

Meteorologist Reed Timmer formally joined the AccuWeather staff in November 2016. He spends time in State College, and anywhere else the weather takes him.
Meteorologist Reed Timmer formally joined the AccuWeather staff in November 2016. He spends time in State College, and anywhere else the weather takes him. Photo provided

The first thing that Reed Timmer mentions is the weather.

AccuWeather’s resident storm chaser makes polite chit-chat while walking from the building’s front lobby toward the nerve center of the entire enterprise, a sleekly futuristic-looking hive of activity that calls to mind what the CIA might look like if it suddenly took a real interest in tomorrow’s forecast.

We’re being guided to someplace we can talk about life’s big questions — like how many tornados he’s seen— but until then it’s strictly the kind of boilerplate minutiae you’d discuss with the Uber driver giving you a lift to the airport.

You’re immersed in these conditions, sometimes for days.

Reed Timmer

In our defense, the temperature is unseasonably warm for late September, plus this is sort of Timmer’s racket and has been ever since he was a little boy chasing lake effect snow in Michigan.

“I’ve been obsessed with extreme weather since I was 5 years old,” Timmer said.

He’s in town for AccuWeather’s 55th anniversary celebration, fresh off of a jaunt to the peaks of Colorado, where he caught some early snowfall and captured the changing of the leaves.

Before that, it was floodwaters — first in Houston and then down in the Florida Keys, where he witnessed the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma firsthand.

“You’re immersed in these conditions, sometimes for days,” Timmer said.

Put into those terms, an office party actually doesn’t seem all that bad.

Timmer is probably best known for his tenure on “Storm Chasers,” a Discovery Channel series about a group of scientists who — you guessed it— chase storms.

The perils of that job description aside, Timmer defies the profile of a simple thrill-seeker. He has genuine science-geek credentials — which is to say that the man collected insects until he was 17 years old.

It was his 16th birthday that really opened up the world, though. With a driver’s license, Timmer no longer had to wait for the extreme weather to come to him.

I definitely feel the full spectrum of emotions I think.

Reed Timmer

Those were different times, no smartphones to give enterprising young storm chasers a leg up. Rather it was pay phones and public libraries that were the currency of the land.

At AccuWeather, where Timmer has been officially on staff for about a year, there’s a camera that can record 360-degree footage from the inside of a hurricane. So it’s different.

Perhaps most importantly, Timmer is taking advantage of a significantly faster delivery system.

The information he collects on the ground can be dispersed with the touch of a button, increasing the lead-time for storm warnings and giving the people caught in the path of these things a larger escape window.

“It’s almost impossible now for storms to go unnoticed,” he said.

A decent forewarning can only do so much forearming. Timmer doesn’t own a timeshare in the Florida Keys or a homestead in Houston.

He’s ultimately a visitor in these places, called onto the next chase while the aftermath is still congealing.

“I definitely feel the full spectrum of emotions, I think,” Timmer said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready