My name is Scott Sims, and I live in Southern Illinois along the edges of tornado alley. My current occupation is in Information Technology, specifically developing and maintaining Databases as well as Web and other programming. But my favorite and number one hobby is by far chasing and filming severe weather. My interests in weather began as early as I can remember. In fact, my first few vivid memories are all weather related. At 3 years old in 1979, my hometown was hit by a 22 inch snowfall, and I can remember walking outside my parents house in snow that came up to my chest. The lasting memory later showed me that my curiosity for weather was already there. Just over a year later, my hometown was once again visited by extreme weather with a severe Derecho with winds over 100 MPH, knocking out our power for 5 days. Watching this type of severe weather immediately impressed me even more than the snow, I knew convective spring severe weather was my favorite to watch. As if I hadn't been hooked on watching severe weather yet, on May 29, 1982 at age 6, I saw my first tornado by pure chance from just over a mile away, and in good viewing position just southwest of it. It was a deadly F4 tornado that moved very slowly through my county for nearly an hour and killed 10 people in Marion, IL. Now my awe was matched by respect for the damage and turmoil that can be caused by these storms, giving me a more balanced view of these dangerous storms.
In the mid 90's, after getting my driver's license, I would go on local chases within a few counties, using only an Illinois road map and the warning updates on FM broadcast radio. I continued with these low-tech backyard chases, with only one confirmed tornado catch on June 12, 1998. Then in 2002 Brad Emel, the creator of the MesoDome, was hired by the Web Development company I was working for. Brad was the first person I met that had as much enthusiasm for weather and chasing as I did, which led to our deciding to partner up for some Illinois chases in 2003 and 2004. Brad had begun to study every aspect of chasing and learned to implement the latest technology to aid his chasing, as well as develop the Film and Photography skills to document the chases. His advances inspired and taught me how to build my own higher-tech setup, which I have been using since 2005. Over the last several storm chase seasons we have improved our forecasting and chasing abilities and are seeing more storms and tornadoes with less busted chases. We both have used video cameras on custom built tripod head mounts attached to the dash board of our vehicles. In 2010, I had my best season with 11 tornadoes, many of which are posted on my YouTube page. Five of my 2010 tornadoes were on a mammoth chase day on June 5th with Brad on a chase west of Peoria, IL. The videos we took of this storm were absolutely amazing, because we could position ourselves just right and point the windshield at the tornado.
The lightening, hail and rain can often be so fierce, that it's best to stay in the vehicle, which keeps us from getting out and using a tripod the way we would like. In many of my conversations with Brad over the last couple chase seasons we have lamented how difficult it is to find good places where you can park with your windshield pointed at the tornado unobstructed, but still in a safe position to move and not be in the way of traffic. Those are a lot of factors limiting your filming vantage points. Tornadoes usually don't last long and its very frustrating wasting time having to position yourself to see the tornado. Then the idea of the MesoDome began to take shape as the best way to alleviate these problems. It is no longer a storm chaser's dream of being able to film while parked at any angle, or to be able to film a tornado beside or behind you while you drive. MesoDome can now fulfill that dream, as well as other storm chase filming dreams you might not know you had.