Eyes on the ground
Beth Allan ’01 balances a teaching career that she loves with a passion for chasing and capturing storms in photographs.
Beth Allan ’01 credits Pickering College with giving her the confidence to try new things, without fear of failure. She says Pickering College provided her with “that foundation of ‘you’re safe and you can experiment and explore without feeling like you’re going to screw things up beyond all reckoning.’”
It’s a philosophy she has carried over to her full-time teaching career as a school counsellor at a high school just east of the city of Calgary. There, she counsels students in Grades 10 to 12 who are contemplating their own futures as she helps them to discover what they are passionate about. “It’s about seeing them go from a scared Grade 10 [student] to seeing them years later doing something exciting and living a really good life—it’s just nice to be a part of that growing up experience.”
But teaching isn’t Beth’s only passion— she likes to live life on the edge with a hobby that few people have the stomach to pursue. During her summers off, you’ll find Beth criss-crossing the prairies in pursuit of the next storm supercell.
Her fascination with storms did not come naturally—in fact, as a child she found them completely terrifying, often hiding in the basement at the first sound of thunder. To help her to overcome her fear, her parents gave her books about storms. As her curiosity grew, they gave her a storm-chasing tour in the US Midwest as a university graduation gift. The experience was life changing.
It’s kind of like skydiving,” she explains. “The adrenaline you get from seeing a really incredible storm is just addictive—you can’t really give it up!”
Mentored by some expert storm chasers, Beth, who professes she was never strong in science, taught herself about meteorology, weather and clouds, and began venturing out on her own. She now does her own forecasting and has become an established Canadian storm chaser whose time-lapse photography has been featured in documentaries and garnered millions of views on YouTube. She has also forged a good relationship with Environment Canada and they know they can rely on her to be their eyes and ears on the ground.
“This year, we were chasing a bunch of storms in Saskatchewan and I called in a tornado—they (Environment Canada) hadn’t even realized that the storm was starting to put one down,” she says. “My first priority is reporting what I see and making sure that can be used to generate warnings for the general public more quickly than someone watching from two provinces away. I’m not saving lives but I’m certainly helping people to get their cars in the garage before the hail gets there,” she laughs.
Beth is grateful for having the flexibility to pursue a career she loves and balance that with her passion for storm chasing. “It’s the best of both worlds and I don’t think I would ever give one up for the other—it’s a really good life!”
To view more of Beth’s amazing photgraphs, visit www.bethallan.photoshelter.com or follow her on Instagram #adolwyn and Twitter @adolwyn