Red Lion storm chasers escape from flooding in N.C.

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Brad Sweitzer Sr. planned to be back in the northeast by the evening of Sunday, Sept. 16, but as of 8:30 p.m. Sunday, he was still driving through Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Sweitzer is a member of the SS Storm Chase and Forecast Team LLC, based in Red Lion. The team had been in Wilmington, North Carolina, since the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 12, to cover Hurricane Florence.

On their way out of town Sunday afternoon, they were stranded in a flash flood. Sweitzer said via text message around 5:30 p.m. that the water had risen 5 feet in a matter of minutes.

"Two Coast Guard choppers keep coming in and out but just looking," Sweitzer wrote. 

The SS team managed to make it out of the flood waters in their truck, which they call Chase17, and by 8:15 p.m. they were traveling north on I-95.

Sweitzer said the highway was eerily empty and that there were no other vehicles around, but the road was passable by car.

The team is scheduled to appear on "The Intelligence Report with Trish Regan" on the Fox Business Network the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 17.

The program airs at 2 p.m.

The SS Storm Chase team arrived in Wilmington late the night of Wednesday, Sept. 12, and stayed up all night monitoring the progression of the storm. They got a few winks of sleep Thursday afternoon, but by 4:30 p.m. they were getting ready to go back into the storm. 

"It’s really started to ramp up here in the last couple hours," Damien Reisch of SS said around 5 p.m. Thursday.

More:Florence could bring 'significant rain' to York County on Tuesday

More:Hurricane Florence’s winds and rain begin lashing Carolinas

The SS team had planned to stream live video on their Facebook page as often as they could throughout the storm, as long as they have a signal, Reisch had said last week. 

Sweitzer said then that the team had tentative plans to stay until Saturday or Sunday, depending on road conditions, but just in case, they packed a two-week food supply, rechargeable batteries, propane ovens and other precautionary equipment.

The two men will have a film crew out in the field with them, but there's an entire support team in Pennsylvania tracking the crew's movements and staying in constant communication with them. They also have meteorologist Joe Cioffi, based out of Long Island, advising them.

Sweitzer said the team put in hours of preparation in order to make the trip as safe and successful as possible.

"If it wasn’t for all the help and stuff in the background, there’s no way we could be out here doing this because there’s a high risk of injury and death," he said. "We’re out here doing this at our own risk, and we know that going into this."

The SS team covered Hurricane Irma when it hit Florida in 2017 and Hurricane Matthew when it hit the Carolinas in 2016.

When they were on the North Carolina coast covering Matthew, the storm knocked out power at the team's hotel. They ended up having to drive inland, all the way to Charlotte, North Carolina, in order to pick up a cellphone signal.


Reisch said Florence was about five times the size of Matthew, which also hit the coast as a Category 1 storm.

Sweitzer said it can be frustrating when people pooh-pooh the team's work and question why anyone would want to go into the middle of a dangerous storm. He said the team often ends up helping with rescue operations when they cover a major event, and one of their goals is to be there as a resource for folks who are stranded. 

"Our passion is to try to help the community and save lives," Sweitzer said.

The public can follow the SS team's coverage on their Facebook page, where they post photos, videos and drone footage.