In the 12 years Erik Burns has chased storms, he has seen more than 140 tornadoes and can recite by memory the date for each one.

In the 12 years Erik Burns has chased storms, he has seen more than 140 tornadoes and can recite by memory the date for each one.


"Seeing a tornado is like getting married or having a child — it’s something you never forget," Burns said.


From a passion for storm chasing and calls from family and friends for Burns to take them on one of his chases, the idea grew to start a business doing something he loves. Burns with his wife, Amanda, started Tornadic Expedition Storm Chasing Tours last summer, and during the upcoming severe weather season they are launching new weeklong tours to pursue storms through Tornado Alley.


Erik grew up in North Texas, but his storm interests were instilled while in grade school when he witnessed a waterspout off the coast of Long Island during a family vacation. From there, different storm events kept his interest growing until it led to storm chasing. In the early days, he said, he was definitely an amateur.


"I just got in the car and would drive into storms like an idiot, and I didn’t have any understanding of meteorology," Erik said.


While on one of those early chases he ran into some storm chasing pros and he said he just loved being around them. He talked with the storm chasers, started educating himself and got more involved. The first tornado he saw was in the Anna-Westminister area on May 9, 2006.


Since then, he witnessed more and more tornadoes and supercell storms and started filming the encounters. Many major media outlets like CNN, Fox News, Good Morning America, the Discovery Channel and the Weather Channel have aired his footage. And Erik met his wife through storm chasing.


Erik met Amanda at a Texas storm chasing convention, and the two have now been married for five years. Amanda is a storm chaser as well and her interest in severe weather came from personal experiences with a couple of bad storms when she was young. She said weather interest spiraled into storm chasing.


"You just become fascinated by storms; it kind of grows and grows into a passion as you get older," Amanda said.


After Erik took his father on a storm chase in 2013, his father implanted the idea to start a tour company. So Erik looked into it. He said he was hesitant at first, so he researched the market for about two years. He said it was a niche market but there was a demand for it. He had the experience and know-how so he seized the opportunity, he said. Erik works as an archery technician and a duck hunting guide outside of storm chasing.


The Burns’ business offers day tours and then the new seven-day long vacation style tours. The nine potential longer tours are scheduled for the peak of severe weather season with the first kicking off on April 22.


Koby Harris, 20, of Stringtown, Oklahoma, went on a storm chasing tour with Erik in November 2015. Harris said he was terrified of thunderstorms when he was child.


"I would have anxiety about it. One day I just decided I’m done being scared of them, and I’m going to try conquer my fear," Harris said.


Harris said he started looking into storm chasing and started following storm chasers on social media. Then one day, he with a few friends decided to go on a local chase.


"We didn’t have a clue what we were doing; we were just following a storm," Harris said.


Harris said he met Erik at a gas station and Erik showed him footage of a supercell he recently saw. Harris stayed in contact with Erik and he decided to go on one of Erik’s tours.


"He explained what we’re looking for, everything to look out for during the storm, how the storm is going to build, which way it’s going to move, our path of action — the guest service was amazing," Harris said.


Erik took Harris to Clarendon, Texas where they followed a supercell that developed from the south of Palo Duro Canyon in the panhandle. The storm cleared the canyon then produced a funnel, but it didn’t fully form, Harris said. That supercell storm rolled on and another storm popped up behind it and created a tornado that touched down near Pampa.


"Everyday I replay it in my head again," Harris said. "The tornado I’ve seen — it’s no comparison to anything on TV, it’s absolutely no comparison."


Harris said since that day he’s been hooked. He has invested hours into studying storms, he said, and he would do it again in an heartbeat if he could.


Erik said his clients come from across the globe and all walks of life from average Joes, thrill-seekers, photographers to businessmen and meteorologists.


Erik said the number one question from his clients: How close will they get? Erik said it depends on the weather and how comfortable the tour-goers are with the storms. He said the tours always keep a safe distance and he takes precautions to ensure safety. He said he studies the routes and weather patterns and he always has an escape route in mind if they need to make a quick getaway.


"When I’m analyzing everything and I don’t see an escape route, we don’t move forward," Erik said. "There’s always an escape route. No matter where we stop there’s always a way out."


During the safety lecture, Erik said he goes over the procedures on how he keeps his clients safe. He goes over everything from his commands and what they mean to how to get in and out of the van in a timely manner. He said his tours aren’t going to drive into a tornado or baseball-sized hail, and he respects his guests’ boundaries. He said the biggest hazard to storm chasing is the driving and the only problem he had in all his years of storm chasing was when he hit a deer.


"Really it comes down to my experience, the nature of the storm and how comfortable the guest feel," Erik said. "If we see a slow moving supercell producing a really nice tornado, a slow moving tornado, we can get up close and be safe."


Amanda said she hopes people leave the tours with a better understanding of weather and maybe learn how to be better prepared for severe weather.


"A lot of people have a bad fear of weather. Maybe if we can get some of those people out there, help them in understanding more about storms and how they work, then they won’t be as scared when it happens in their area," Amanda said.


Erik said seeing a tornado is always an unique experience.


"It’s incredible to see something so powerful, and it’s so mesmerizing," Erik said. "It makes you feel almost insignificant. It’s just hard to explain. It’s almost something in your soul."