Passion For Weather Propels Storm Chaser

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
John Moon III and his wife Emma have pictures of storms all over their Warsaw house, documenting their experiences as storm chasers. An array of 5 X 7 photos in their bathroom is even in the shape of a tornado.  John began his career in this field on March 12, 2006, just after completing spotter weather training. He lived in Clinton at the time and set out to see what type of severe weather was moving into west central Missouri. That is when he saw his first tornado. Emma was always interested in storm chasing, but didn’t participate in it until her first date with John in 2016 when he took her on a storm chase in Oklahoma. She was in love, and told herself that this was her opportunity to be involved, so they got married.
“I do the driving when we chase storms,” said Emma. “I am tuned in on keeping him safe. He was devastated when his friend, Tim Samaras, an engineer and storm chaser, was killed, along with his son and other storm chasers, in El Reno, Oklahoma in 2013 by a tornado that was 2.6 miles wide. It was the widest tornado on record. So that has made him more aware of the dangers in what he does.”
John has had some close calls in his business including the time a tornado pulled him out of a vehicle in 2007. He was with a group of storm chasers in two cars watching a storm, and at the time didn’t realize that when a super cell thunder storm turns right, it is strengthening. The group saw a tornado but thought it was a long way off and then lost sight of it when the rain wrapped the circulation and covered up the view. They had decided it was time to leave the scene, so the driver of John’s vehicle buckled in and as John opened the door on the passenger side, the wind broke the factory weld on the door. He grabbed the hand hold on top of the door opening and the driver grabbed his other hand. Storm chasers in the second vehicle related later that both of John’s feet went off the ground, up behind him, in a wind speed that was greater than 110 mph. John was on crutches for while until he could walk again.
He was also present in Joplin during the May 22, 2011, EF5-rated tornado strike. He said that he witnessed a state trooper getting pulled out of his vehicle by the winds, and his body was found two weeks later in a pond. This experience made John decide to get a college degree in emergency management.
Recently, John and Emma watched a storm in Benton County from a safe distance that eventually produced a tornado that hit Jefferson City. He said that he has now seen 59 tornados in his lifetime.
John started out as a volunteer storm chaser before getting his first paid gig with 41 Action News in Kansas City from meteorologist Gary Lezak. He began getting reimbursed for his storm photos from the news station, and in 2016 joined Storm View Live, a live streaming service where storm chasers sell to stations through a broker. Lezak introduced John to another storm chaser, Jacob Honeycutt, and they started their own business in 2018. Don Hatten, a car dealership in Wichita, Kansas, is their sponsor and provides vehicle wraps for them. The wraps identify them as storm chasers and also advertise the car dealership as they drive to storm locations. 
“If there are storms in the area, I try to get local photos,” said John. “I also work with the University of Missouri doing storm research, and spent two years doing the weather for KOMU8 in Columbia.”
John and Emma also have “day jobs.” John is an EMT and Licensed Practical Nurse. He has worked part time as an EMT for the Warsaw Lincoln Ambulance District and Cole Camp Ambulance for eight years. He works full time for Phoenix Home Care and Hospice, taking care of pediatric patients. He also owns his own photography business in Warsaw.
Emma has an associate degree in medical billing and coding, and works at home in legal transcription. She also helps out at Warsaw Fitness and takes care of her six-year old daughter.
The couple enjoys teaching weather lessons to kids, and travel once a year to Blue Springs, Missouri, to teach elementary students safety and hazards of weather. They want them to stay safe and be weather savvy.
“Weather has always been a passion and I found a wife who also has that passion,” said John. “Storm chasing is a community. We can relate. Helping people to be safe while we are in some danger makes it worthwhile. It saves lives.”