Elburn stormchaser revisits Moore tornado site

By on July 19, 2013

ELBURN—Elburn resident and professional storm chaser Brad Hruza headed down to Moore, Okla., on Wednesday to visit the area that was struck by a deadly tornado on the afternoon of May 20.

Hruza, 37, had previously visited the site last month with his storm chasing team, Midwest Storm Hunters. His tour of Moore included a first-hand look at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which sustained severe damage during the tornado, resulting in the deaths of seven students. Twenty-three people in total were killed by the Moore tornado.

The reason for Hruza’s initial visit to Oklahoma was to help deliver disaster relief donations.

“We started a (donation drive) with two young girls from Blackberry Creek—Payton Micka and Kailey Davison—who started a donation drive that started with just a poster (advertisement),” Hruza said. “After word (about the donation drive) got out on air from ABC 7 Chicago, who ran the story, the donations exploded. We ended up with two car loads, and that didn’t fit even half of it.”

Hruza said he met with the families of the deceased Plaza Tower students during his trip last month, and will do so again on Friday when he hosts a storm seminar for Moore residents.

“The sights were so sad (during my last trip). I was at a loss of words for hours. I stood right where those seven children died,” Hruza said. “I will (again) be meeting with these wonderful families who have accepted me into their hearts and lives. Friday, I am planning a seminar with the children of Moore to help ease fears. These children need to be comforted, and what (an) honor it is for me to go 800 miles and help them.”
Hruza said the seminar will be the most important thing he’s done during his 18 years of storm chasing.

“For them to accept me with this delicate situation, I am honored and privaliged to do this,” he said. “They have so much love for me. It is going to be hard when we meet, but I can’t wait to just hold these parents and listen and help what I can.”

Hruza, originally from Iowa, moved to Illinois in 1985. He’s been an Elburn resident since 2005. He said his fascination with storms and clouds led him to become a storm chaser. He got his start with just a disposable camera, and has loved it ever since. He said he does (storm chasing) more to save lives than the excitement of chasing storms.

“I have always loved what I do. I put on children and adult seminars for safety every year. Being a storm chaser is an unreal feeling of joy to help save lives—just knowing I am out there on the frontlines to protect people. That gives me the best satisfaction. It also has its scary moments, but safety is No. 1.”

In addition to storm chasing, Hruza is a National Weather Service-trained spotter. He said it’s important to not tread lightly when storm watches and warnings are issued.
“As far as safety goes, I want everyone to know, especially here, that (tornados) happen, and it’s about a 100 percent guarantee (that they) will happen here at some point,” Hruza said. “I have said to my friends who are complacent, ‘Go down to Moore and stand where I did, then see how you feel.’ (The Moore tornado) is an eye opener of what could happen. We are way overdue for a large tornado here; pay attention to the NWS and TV stations when severe weather threatens.”

Hruza said it makes him sad to see and feel what Moore residents have gone through the past two months.

“It’s so hard to take in. It breaks my heart what these parents tell me about their children. They need love, support and prayers, and that’s why I am going (down there again),” he said. “The devastation is so bad, a whole community is gone. I gave an example of Blackberry Creek subdivision with all the homes plus a school. Imagine being able to see every direction for miles with nothing left.”