Thrill of the Chase

Streaming Inc.’s Brian Spencer spins a passion for storm chasing into
a seasonal side hustle

Photo: Brian Spencer

BRIAN SPENCER IS living the entrepreneurial dream. As the founder of Streaming Inc., he’s been capturing and streaming corporate events, keynote presentations and live concerts to desktops and mobile devices across Canada since 2003. It’s a business he loves, and one that gives him plenty of time to pursue his other passion—chasing extreme weather in America’s Tornado Alley.

Spencer’s interest in storms was sparked in 2007, when he came across the television program Angry Planet.

“On this episode, host George Kourounis was in the Florida Keys chasing water spouts,” he recalls. “I had no idea what a water spout was, but by the end I thought they were the most beautiful things I had seen in my entire life.”

When the Discovery Channel began broadcasting the program Storm Chasers later that year, Spencer was hooked. In 2011, he took the next step and signed up for a spot with Cloud 9 Tours, the oldest storm chase tour company in America.

His first two-week tour did not disappoint. “As we were getting together on the first evening for the meet-and-greet, we noticed this huge supercell erupting just east of us,” he recalls. “It was a dream come true.”

The storm developed into the EF5-rated tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri. “We were about two minutes behind the tornado,” says Spencer, who captured video of trucks being blown off the interstate. “It was quite a sobering moment.”

“Storm chasing marries everything I love: technology, travelling and meeting fantastic individuals from all over the world” —Brian Spencer

After returning to London, Spencer emailed Cloud 9 Tours owner Charles Edwards and offered his services as a driver. He repeated the request for four consecutive seasons. Spencer’s persistence was rewarded in 2016 when he finally got the call that they needed him behind the wheel.

This year, Spencer marks his third season with the tour company. He will be chasing extreme weather for six consecutive weeks, returning to London—and his regular life—in mid-June.

“Storm chasing marries everything I love: technology, travelling and meeting fantastic individuals from all over the world,” he notes.

Tornado Alley’s annual storm season is caused by warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico clashing with cool, dry air coming off the Rocky Mountains, Spencer explains. Storm chasers follow the weather as it moves through Texas and New Mexico to Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

And while these extreme weather patterns cause real destruction, their predictability combined with online weather models and mobile radar apps help storm chasers like Spencer remain relatively safe. The key, he says, is to stay at least two miles southeast of any rotation.

As a driver for Cloud 9 Tours, Spencer enjoys the thrill of the chase, meeting fellow storm enthusiasts and the challenge of capturing the perfect storm on camera. To date he has captured 26 twisters, with his videos appearing on the Weather Network and CTV London, among others.

And while Spencer says nothing beats experiencing the power of Mother Nature first hand, witnessing the aftermath of extreme weather is a humbling experience. “You go from the incredible adrenaline rush of chasing the tornado to going through a town where people lost their lives. It’s a complete swing of emotions.”

Back in London, Spencer enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for storms by speaking to local high school classes and through his live-streaming site, www.canadianchaser.com.

He is the first to acknowledge that it’s a passion made possible by the success of Streaming Inc.

“When I started my company 15 years ago I had no interest in tornadoes,” he notes. “But I’ve always been interested in doing my own thing, and running your own business offers a lot of freedom to do what you want.”  Nicole Laidler