By Chris Eversole
A storm chaser from Mustang was in the right place at the right time Monday.
Sammy Brence and the two other members of Twisting Fury team captured photos and videos from the Mangum tornado in Southwest Oklahoma.
The team sold its video to The Weather Channel and Good Morning America, and team member Chance Coldiron appeared on Good Morning America.
The Weather Channel edited the video to make it dramatic, Brence said.
“It was huge hearing the sound of the wind howling past the truck,” he said. “This is the second time we’ve sold video to The Weather Channel. It’s awesome and exciting.”
Brence, 41, always had an interest in storms, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he learned that a storm chaser was looking for someone who was tech savvy to help him.
That would be Brence.
“I said, ‘Finally, I can do this,’” he commented. “Most storm chasers start when they’re teenagers.”
He’s so much of a techie that he teaches students on equipment repair at the FAA Academy at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, located next to the Will Rogers World Airport.
Brence has made arrangements so that he doesn’t teach any classes in May, enabling him to take as much time off as he needs to chase storms.
Twisting Fury isn’t motivated by money, although some of the team members occasionally earn a few dollars freelancing for the media – but not enough to cover the $300 in gas they average per trip.
Brence teamed up with Brandon Pennel in 2015.
The team, which includes Pennel and Coldiron, travels together, generally in a pickup that Coldiron uses for his job with Pennel’s trim carpentry company.
“The truck has lots of dents from hail,” Brence said.
Brence points out that he’s altruistic, not just an adrenaline junkie.
He’s motivated by a desire to inform people, primarily through Twisting Fury’s page on Facebook, which has 17,000 “likes.”
“I have a sense of accomplishment when we capture images showing Mother Nature doing something totally different,” he said. “We provide real-time information that helps keep people safe.”
The crew is cautious in its travels, not driving into the heart of storms.
Brence has taken FEMA courses.
“I’m trained on how to help pool resources after destruction by a storm, and I’m ready if I’m ever needed,” he said.
He noticed an uptick in storm tourism, where people pay about $1,000 a week to travel in small buses with tour guides.
The increasing activity of storm chasers and storm tourists sometimes clogs country roads, creating dangers.
Brence points to a weather map with dozens of dots representing storm chaser around bad weather in the Clarendon, Texas, area on May 7. Brence and his teammates were several miles away from the congestion.
“What everyone else was doing is not cool,” he said. “There was a really bad chaser jam.”
Brence is a member of the Mustang Board of Adjustment. “I enjoy serving the community in this way,” he said.
His wife, Jana, is the 911 coordinator for the Mustang Police Department – and she has no interest in joining her husband in storm chasing.
The couple are hosting their fourth foreign exchange student.
Brence enjoys the camaraderie among storm chasers.
“It’s close-knit community,” he said.