Tornado chase: A look at storm chaser Bob Ulchak

Dan McCready

Bob Ulchak may seem like an ordinary man, but he has extraordinary love - for weather.

A Quincy, Mass., resident, Ulchak is heading to "Tornado Alley" on Sunday on a tornado-chasing trip. He'll be reporting on his exploits in Gatehouse Media newspapers around the country.

Additional reports will appear on his blog at

The 65-year-old Ulchak's fascination took hold when he was a young boy and saw the devastation that Hurricanes Carol and Edna caused in his former neighborhood in Boston's South End.

"From that moment it was just the awe of that Mother Nature that I got a keen interest in weather," Ulchak said.

He followed his passion, enrolling in Florida State University, hoping to become a meteorologist.

"I enjoyed my two years at Florida State, but the calculus and physics was a little too much for me," he said.

Ulchak enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War and became an aerographers mate and weather observer aboard the U.S.S. Oriskany, then joined the Navy's famed VW-4 squadron out of Jacksonville, Fla., which was known as the "Hurricane Hunters."

Going directly into the path of severe weather most people avoid, Ulchak gained membership to the "Not So Ancient Order of Hurriphooners" after flying through a storm of 100 knots or more.

Ulchak's scariest moment occurred when his unit encountered a Nor'easter while taking temperature readings along the Northeast coast. "We lost an engine and a second engine caught on fire," he said.

He survived this and other meteorological battles and earned an honorable discharge from the Navy, and he continued to study weather with various storm-hunting groups.

On Sunday, Ulchak heads to Oklahoma where he hopes to intercept tornadoes.

Readers around the country will be coming along for the journey.

"I think you're going to find the chase to be interesting," said Ulchak.

Dan McCready may be reached at