Viral: Yolanda storm chaser releases final cut of his video

By Coconuts ManilaNovember 25, 2013 / 13:41 PHT

A few weeks ago we wrote about a Western-looking man shown helping an elderly lady escape a flooded building as Yolanda made landfall in Tacloban.

His name is Josh Morgerman, 43 years old, an American born in New York City but living in West Hollywood, California. He is the founder and storm chaser of iCyclone.  

Together with his fellow storm chasers Mark Thomas and James Reynolds, they were in Tacloban to document the 'super typhoon' and ended up rescuing hotel guests.

Morgerman has now released the final cut of his 12-minutes-plus video of that horrendous morning, "produced with love and sympathy for the Filipino people and victims of this storm."

Coconuts Manila talks to Morgerman:

You're a storm chaser and you were in Tacloban to document Yolanda. Did you have any idea that it was going to be that ferocious?
We absolutely expected it to be a strong typhoon — but we had no idea it was going to be a storm of such historic severity. You can’t anticipate an event as extreme as Yolanda.



You were in Tacloban before the storm — did it look like people were prepared for it?
We arrived the afternoon before the storm struck. My basic impression: people seemed fairly nonchalant. They were aware the storm was coming, but maybe didn’t completely realize how powerful it was.

I talked to people in a waterfront neighborhood the night before the typhoon; I told them they shouldn’t stay there for the storm, that they should move somewhere safer. This is the neighborhood you see at the beginning of my video. After the storm passed, that neighborhood had disappeared completely — it was just a field of rubble. You can see this neighborhood near the end of my video.

I really hope and pray the people I talked with moved somewhere else before the storm.

Do you think the community — and the government — could have been better prepared? 
I don’t believe Tacloban City was totally prepared for a storm of that severity. However, I can’t comment on why not. I know that PAGASA was issuing warnings.

I think when an extremely powerful storm is coming, it’s sometimes hard for people to believe the warnings, because what’s being described is so far beyond what they’ve experienced previously.

We’ve had this same problem in the USA — people don’t always heed the warnings, like in Hurricane Katrina.

What kind of preparations do you make when shooting storms? 
I’ve chased many hurricanes and typhoons, and there are two things I always do before the storm comes: (1) stock up on enough food and water to last for days after the storm and (2) survey the impact zone beforehand so I know the best place to be..

As a storm chaser, I always want to get in the cyclone’s eye.

We knew Yolanda’s eye was going to cross the coast south of Tacloban City — however, we chose to stay in the city because the storm was so extremely powerful, and the towns to the south seemed too vulnerable.

Although Tacloban City did not get the calm eye, it did experience the cyclone’s intense inner core, which passed right over the city. 

What kick do you get from chasing after storms? 
A powerful typhoon is one of nature’s most stunning creations. It is literally awe-inspiring. Given this, I want to document that — so I can share the experience with others.

This aside, I collect meteorological data, like air pressure and storm-surge height. After Yolanda, I wrote a quick technical paper summarizing my findings, and I submitted this to the scientific community.

Since there was very little data from the impact zone, tropical meteorologists were very appreciative for my data, and I believe this information will help them analyze how strong Yolanda really was.

And what do you do to relax after? 
I sleep and eat a lot after a chase. That’s because I sleep and eat very little during the days leading up to a chase — I’m too wound up and have too much adrenaline.

Re: Yolanda specifically, it was hard to “relax” afterward. I was profoundly affected by the suffering I saw — the deaths and the destruction.

I was full of grief. Many of the storms I chase hit remote places without many people.

Yolanda struck a population center — a city of 220,000 people — and that’s what made it so tragic. It was deeply disturbing. 

Does your mother know what you're doing? What does she say? 
I’ve been storm chasing since college. At first my parents got very upset about it — but over time they learned to live with it.

After a chase, I make sure to call my mother right away to tell her I’m OK. If I don’t, I get in a lot of trouble. 

Is there anything that will make you stop what you're doing? 
No, I will always chase storms. It’s in my blood. Yolanda was an epic, historic event — something Tacloban residents, Filipinos, and people all over the world will be talking about for hundreds of years.

As scary and upsetting as it was, I am proud to have been able to document an event of such importance.

What's the most dangerous thing you've done before? 
Yolanda was by far the most dangerous storm I’ve ever chased. It was a monster.

Was the old lady in the first video we did a post on okay? Do you know anything about her status now?
We rescued several people — not just the elderly woman, but also a disabled girl, a mother, a man in a wheelchair, and more. I am happy to say that everyone in the Hotel Alejandro survived, with only minor injuries.

I did not see the elderly woman afterward, but like I said, I believe everyone was fine.

We stayed in the hotel another 36 hours after the typhoon and we would have heard about it if someone didn’t survive.

Also, the people in my video who were struggling to cross the flooded street all made it across — and they were OK as well! My heart goes out to the Filipinos — the storm was so tragic. 

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