First-time storm chaser has tornado come to him at Denver's airport

Photo: Grayson Schaffer, Outside Magazine

A first-time storm chaser got the equivalent of hitting a home run in your first major league at bat Tuesday afternoon when a tornado came to him instead.

Grayson Schaffer, a senior editor at Outside Magazine, had just flown into Denver International Airport from Santa Fe, New Mexico and was awaiting the arrival of noted tornado chaser Reed Timmer and his crew when a tornado formed right over the end of the runways.

"I had never seen a tornado in my life," Schaffer said. "But when we got to Denver and I was sitting there waiting for (Timmer) for a couple of hours... all of a sudden TSA comes through telling everyone to take shelter immediately because there is a tornado bearing down on the airport at that very moment."

Schaffer, who is working on a story for Outside about tornado chasers, instead went outside to get a closer look at the storm.

"This thing was forming right above us," he said. "It was, I'm told, a pretty unique perspective to see a vortex like this forming."

The tornado managed to drift right over the weather sensors at the airport, which registered a gust of 97 mph before failing.

Did Schaffer ever think he was in danger?

"It seemed like it was moving off in another direction... and it wasn't a particular large tornado," Schaffer said. "Mostly it was a sense of amazement at how nature can produce such a thing as a tornado."

Schaffer was going to try to make it 2-for-2 as he was heading out with Timmer on an all-night drive out into the plains to get in position for a fresh round of expected severe weather Wednesday. He says he hopes to have his story published in Outside in the fall.