Storm trooper likes his head in the clouds
THE first thing Jeff Higgins does when he wakes up is look at the weather forecast.
The Montville-based storm chaser looks at levels, observations, searching for signs of where and when a severe storm might form.
"Where we think a severe storm is going to be is where we will travel to," he said.
Mr Higgins has been known to travel 2500km in two days to track a storm and photograph it in its fury and splendour.
He was preparing to hit the road yesterday afternoon to be on the scene when the predicted storms developed in south-east Queensland.
"We like to be anywhere within 100km of where a storm is going to develop," he said.
"Then it only takes an extra hour to drive to the core of a thunderstorm."
Mr Higgins' most sought-after storms are supercells.
"It's quite apocalyptic when a supercell is bearing down on you," he said.
When he is not chasing storms, Mr Higgins is busy running a Facebook page and website, http://higginsstormchasing.comhigginsstormchasing.com, which publishes storm warnings and photos taken by him and 14 sponsored photographers.
A team of 10 administrators ensure the Facebook page, which has attracted nearly 500,000 likes, is monitored 24/7.
Mr Higgins, 40, has been making a study of storms since his home town of Milmerran was hit by a bad one when he was eight.
"It was fear, and then I had to conquer that fear and as a young child, I was always very inquisitive."
The former civil works contractor decided to turn his interest in storms into a business last year and has taken on his first paid employee to help deal with the social media.
When he issued a warning about severe storms and possible supercells earlier this week, the Bureau of Meteorology's phones rang hot with people wanting to know if it was true.
He stands by his predictions, which he says are 95% accurate.
If he and the Bureau of Meteorology are right about forecasts of severe thunderstorms in south-east Queensland over the weekend, he could be in for a busy time but he has been known to go without sleep for days during a severe weather event.
"We get a weather hangover. We sleep for days," he said.