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Typhoon Storm Chaser in Philippines: 'It Just Went Nuclear'

American Josh Morgerman tells SKYE about surviving Haiyan in Tacloban City
Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013

Downed power lines and debris block the road in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan on November 10, 2013 in Tacloban, Philippines. (Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

On Thursday night, Nov. 8, 2013, storm chaser Josh Morgerman found himself in a hotel in what would become ground zero for one of the biggest storms in history: Tacloban City in the Philippines. That night, he said, it was quiet -- "eerily quiet."

But when Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the city with winds gusting to 170 mph, he said, "It just went nuclear."

Left: Josh Morgerman

"Ours was an older hotel, which we'd chosen for its sturdy construction, and when the typhoon hit, windows exploded out of their frames, doors were completely blown out, our ears were popping. The ground floor of our hotel was flooded so quickly that guests couldn't open their doors, and people were screaming for help."

SKYE reached Morgerman by phone Sunday morning in Manila as he was about to board a flight to return to the United States. He's the founder of iCyclone, a loose collective of storm chasers so passionate about extreme weather that they risk their lives tracking it.

On Thursday, he and three fellow American storm chasers met up in the Philippines to chase Typhoon Haiyan.

"We had no idea what we were in for," he said. "We thought, at most, it would be a Category 4 storm."

They went straight to the coastal city of Tacloban, "not knowing," he said, "that it'd be where the storm would make landfall. For a storm chaser, this was the holy grail."

Photos: Typhoon Haiyan Slams into Philippines
Residents (R) stand along a sea wall as high waves pounded them amidst strong winds as Typhoon Haiyan hit the city of Legaspi, Albay province, south of Manila on November 8, 2013.  One of the most intense typhoons on record whipped the Philippines on November 8, killing three people and terrifying millions as monster winds tore roofs off buildings and giant waves washed away flimsy homes.AFP PHOTO/CHARISM SAYAT        (Photo credit should read Charism SAYAT/AFP/Getty Images)Morgerman was in the hotel when the typhoon hit. Officials estimate that it roared through the city of 200,000 with sustained winds of 147 mph and gusts to 170 mph.

Morgerman would soon hear people in the hotel screaming for help.

"We helped break windows and got everyone out, thankfully," he said. "Everyone in our hotel survived."

When Morgerman emerged from the hotel to look around Tacloban, he found a city devastated by the storm.

"It was absolutely horrifying," he said. "We saw a dead pregnant woman lying in the road. That stuff doesn't leave you."

Morgerman later wrote on Facebook that communication was cut off, hospitals were overflowing with critically injured patients, and that he spent "a bleak night in a hot, pitch-black trashed hotel."

Morgerman has endured dozens of storms, including Hurricane Irene and, more recently, Typhoon Fitow. He's never seen anything like Haiyan.

"Of the more than 20 storms I've chased, this one was by far the most destructive, not just because of the wind, but because of the storm surge," he said. "The water just swept in and reduced the city to rubble."

RELATED ON SKYE: Typhoon Death Toll Climbs Into Thousands

Why does he think this typhoon caused so much death and destruction?

"Generally, in cases like this, people aren't adequately prepared; and that's either because they weren't well-informed or didn't heed the warnings," he said. "Also, it was just so strong -- the eyewall wasn't very big, but it was potent -- and it came ashore directly on a populous city, and caused a lot more destruction than if it had hit a rural area first. Finally, you also have to understand that typhoons are very common in this part of the world and people have become accustomed to them."

After the storm, Morgerman and other foreigners were evacuated by the Philippine military.

"The Tacloban airport was utterly destroyed, so they got us out in helicopters and C-150s, which are massive cargo planes, no seats, nothing," he said. "The guys who flew us out were amazing and efficient."

So how was he feeling about returning home? When he lands back home in Los Angeles, he said, he'll want to kiss the ground.

To see iCyclone's Haiyan video, check out this YouTube link. For more images, videos and stories from Josh Morgerman and his team, check out Facebook.com/icyclone and YouTube.com/cycloneJosh.

Morgerman was with the storm chaser who shot this video:

PHOTOS ON SKYE: Typhoon Haiyan Slams Into Philippines


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Keith David Huffman

I find it laughable that real effort went to degrade Josh. The presentation of Josh could not be further from the truth about his passion and just strong passion for Cyclones/Hurricanes is understated. Pretty sad that an act of valor is smashed when it's been stated one of the guys on the chase team has to get surgery from injuries sustained while saving people in that "three feet" of water. Further, these guys have chased together earlier in the year.

I can accept a "we don't agree with putting yourself in harms way"-- but attacking his character is just BS.

November 12 2013 at 10:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Prayers are sent out for all those affected...

November 11 2013 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

An additional point to my earlier post: this iCyclone thing is not a loose conglomeration of anything. It is just this guy Josh. The two other much more experienced chasers that were with him are residents of SE Asia; and he met them there. They allowed him to tag along and go with them to intercept the typhoon. iCyclone is a marketing moniker to acquire attention for Josh, period. I guess I can applaud his marketing ability.
My prayers go out to the residents of the Philippines; and maybe a little prayer for josh to be able to look at himself in the mirror, and maybe one time in the future actually see a reflection.

November 11 2013 at 12:19 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

In my opinion storm-chasers are ok; just another sport. In this circumstance, like most in life, there is a time and a place for everything. In the second place as a supposed hurricane-knowledged individual this JJ Morgantown guy is a fool for chasing a storm of category #5 strength. Cat. #3 or #4 one can make a reasonable argument that with knowledge of each hurricane's potential effects, finding a perch above the potential surge in a reinforced concrete building, and a little luck, the chaser will survive. But every textbook or flyer about hurricanes makes it clear that a storm of 155+ mph, much less 190 mph, produces CATOSTROPHIC effects. No building code in the world allows for gusts near 200 mph. This and the few other storm chasers that did not just pass this "opportunity" up are simply blithering fools. This is similar to a tornado chaser purposely driving their black Trans-am directly into an F3-F4 tornado (200+ mph.). Just plain stupid.

Next, with all the misery and death that occurred with this typhoon, participating in media interviews, as soon as the chaser could find the media interested, exhibits total lack of respect in just so many ways. Later on, a few weeks later, taking on this attention (short lived "fame") to explain the meteorological fascination might be considered within the boundaries of decency. But, there is a time and place for everything. Accepting requests for interviews, or SEEKING THEM OUT, as thousands of people are lying dead in their wake, and maybe millions are suffering is disgusting. One can easily just so, "No thanks" if approached to do an interview at this sensitive time."
Why would this guy do this? If you check out his website or the weather forum he participates in, they draw a clear picture: he is desperately, constantly seeking "attention." He exhibits a pretentious arrogance towards anyone that does not want to feed his exhibitionist nature.
Meteorologically, his actual understanding of the science of tropical meteorology is quite limited; although he often tries to claim he is an "expert."
It was humane of him to help move those older people through 3 feet of water, so they wouldn't have to spend hours floating in their rooms on their mattresses. A CNN reporter also helped. I doubt he saved any lives and is not a "hero". But, as I noted he acted in that period of time with normal humanity. It didn't look dangerous, as the area was completely blocked from wind, and the water was about 3 feet deep, and didn't get higher.
You could tell in his TV interview that he was overwhelmed with joy at being "on TV" and noting that he had reached the peak of his storm-chasing "career." I guess the later is true; but only because this was the first time in his short copy-cat "career" that he has experienced major hurricane force winds (110+mph.). The death and destruction around him, from his point of view, was simply an "inconvenience" to his hobby.

November 11 2013 at 12:03 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sharwdale's comment

sharwdale: wow. Josh and his partners had the passion, drive, and clearly also the knowledge and skill required to be there chasing this storm responsibly while at the same time helping those around them who needed help. You, on the other hand, only appear to be sniping from the safe environs of your living room. So, the only "pretentious" person I detect on this page is you. Don't take pot shots at Josh, Mark or James just because they did what you are either unqualified or afraid to do. It just makes you look silly and sad.

November 12 2013 at 2:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Many of the above messages are unfortunate, to say the least. The chasers went to observe Haiyan and, when the need arose, contributed to saving lives. People lived on account of the chasers' actions. It requires no courage at all to snipe at others and try to tear them down from the safety of one's keyboard or phone. However, bold deeds are not achieved by the timid. What the chasers did in rescuing people required a great deal of courage and it exposed them to significant risk. I have little doubt that the families of the survivors are grateful that the chasers were at the hotel and that they did what had to be done to save lives. In doing so, the chasers made a positive contribution in the midst of an enormous tragedy. Long after the unfair hostile rants from this forum deservedly fade into the past to be forgotten, the families of those who the chasers helped save will retain their gratitude. They will understand what the critics don't: People rose to the occasion to save lives, even putting their own lives on the line to do it. That they came to chase a typhoon will be irrelevant. That lives were saved is the only thing that will be relevant.

November 10 2013 at 8:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The people over there in the Philippines are in my thoughts and prayers.

November 10 2013 at 6:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeremy Gilchrist

What none of you understand is the aircraft that got him out flew there to deliver relief supplies. Regardless of whether he was on board or not, the plane was flying back. It didn't make a difference in terms of resources. The fact is he did help save lives when he was there, and it is probably better he did leave as to not use up whatever resources were on the ground for the people that live there.

November 10 2013 at 6:41 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jeremy Gilchrist's comment

The MILITARY flew him out, according to the article. I watched film of the airport this evening. They are flying out CITIZENS whose homes were destroyed. Crowds of people waiting at the airport. One less seat for them, thanks to this opportunist.

November 10 2013 at 7:02 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to nebrostx's comment

What? Because he does media he's an "opportunist"?

I don't get you, and I think I'm glad.

November 10 2013 at 7:15 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down
Jeremy Gilchrist

Yes the military flew in supplies and were willing to take people aboard after dropping those off and flying back. So he took a seat. So what? I actually saw a pic from when he was on the plane of his friend who was injured (as I am a meteorologist on a weather forum). It did not look like there was a shortage of room aboard for more people. There were some local residents on the plane but it appeared that there was room for more. In other words he took a flight early on before the demand skyrocketed. He did what he could for people while he was there, but without supplies he can't save people after the fact. He would only consume resources. His friend got seriously injured pulling people out of the surge. That is probably more than you've ever done for anyone so get off your high horse (along with everyone else here).

November 10 2013 at 7:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

God Bless those who perished and may God look over all his children who were affected by this horrible storm that turned their lives upside down. When I say God it's all the Gods of this world to look down on all the peoples of the world, especially the one's who at loss at this moment in the Philippines after this Typhoon ran over this part of the World. I ask the World to prey how ever they prey for people!

November 10 2013 at 5:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


The PHILIPPINE military evacuated him and the other foreigners.

November 10 2013 at 5:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Marie's comment

Thanks for reading my post. But if you thought I thought the US military flew him out, you are mistaken. I was just drawing a parallel to what would happen where I live. The Philippine military has its own hands full trying to get it's own citizens out. This guy took up a seat that could have gone to someone in need.

November 10 2013 at 7:06 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

We helped break windows and got everyone out, thankfully," he said. "Everyone in our hotel survived." What part of what he said do people not understand. They helped people escape not the other way around. He is a Storm Chaser not an Armchair expert like some of these comments reflect.

November 10 2013 at 4:46 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to arenadood's comment

They would have survived because of the hotel whether he was there or not.

November 10 2013 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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