Team W700 is comprised of volunteers who give their time in the hopes of saving lives, protecting property, and bettering the community through outreach, data collection, documenting, and disaster relief efforts.
Currently, the team is comprised of 3 people, a team of spotters, and the chase vehicle is based out of Lexington, KY. The vehicle is the only one in the state that is equipped with the technology to detect tornado formation before it happens within 40 miles of the vehicle in all conditions.
The vehicle is a slightly armored 2013 Mazda2. It has a low profile that allows it to be wind resistant while mobile in all directions up to about 85 mph safely. If stationary, and anchored, we can withstand the winds of an EF1-2 tornado. Anything above that is too much for the vehicle to withstand safely. We typically carry rescue gear, emergency medical supplies, and food and water to help out affected communities. Most recently we assisted members of the National Guard in Mayfield, KY rendering aid to affected citizens and clearing structures of persons with our training in structural collapse and rescue
You should NOT attempt water rescues. This is the job of the Fire Department. Flooding can kill you. Lightning can kill you. Tornados and hail can kill you. Overall, storm chasing is NOT a safe profession and we do our best to discourage spotters from “chasing.” We do this for the science and to get warnings to the public faster, we do not “chase” storms!
Debris and hail are our 2 biggest limiting factors. The vehicle is equipped with chainsaws and other safety equipment to move downed trees so that we can continue unobstructed. Hail limits us at the moment to about 0.50″-0.70″. We have hail shields that can be deployed for the 2023 tornado season, that increase our capability to withstand up to 2-3″ hail. Safety is our main priority! With Lexan-reinforced doors that can stop bullets, we feel confident that any wind blown debris that strikes the doors would safely be prevented from entering the vehicle, this has not been tested, and we’d rather not test this.
Currently, the vehicle is undergoing critical mechanical overhauling and maintenance to be ready for the 2023 season. This includes rebuilding the steering and suspension systems, reinforcing parts of the vehicle additionally, and upgrading some components. We have plans in the works to redo the appearance of the vehicle; it’s time. With nearly 200,000 service miles on the vehicle, we’re hoping to completely sand the vehicle down to metal, and repaint with a dark charcoal gray bed liner material. Our logos will be overlayed using orange bed liner and dusted with airport grade reflective beads for added visibility. We’re also upgrading our observation floodlights and revamping some of the technology we use in-vehicle.
You can reach the vehicle during operations on 148.400 and 448.400 Mhz, No PL, directed at the callsign KY7OOW. We operate at 100 Watts on UHF, and 10 Watts VHF. The vehicle is equipped with VLF Infrasound sensors which allow us to pickup the rotation signatures of tornados before they form. Oftentimes this allows to detect potential tornados several minutes before they connect with the ground, and this information can provide lifesaving warning ahead of time for the Kentucky region.
Aaron Harris is the team leader and founded Team W700 in 2013. Since then, he has worked on many projects, and experienced all types of weather events across the nation. His passion is flood events, and specializes in public safety and disaster relief. Aaron holds several FEMA certifications, has 8 years past Rescue/EMS experience, and is a HAM Radio Operator in Kentucky.
Timothy Bruno is from North Carolina, but lives in Stanton, KY. Tim is the leader of the Eastern Kentucky VOST Team for the NWS Jackson, and served in the military as a Meteorological Member. Tim also is passionate about life-saving technology by way of advanced flood warning. He currently works with the NWS and collects field data using measurement balloons.