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  • Last modified 140 days ago (March 28, 2018)

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From the outback to the breadbasket

Storm chasers grow roots in Marion County

Staff writer

“I guess you’re probably wondering what two Australians are doing running around Kansas?” storm chaser Clyve Herbert said as he welcomed 12 people attending a presentation Friday at the Peabody Senior Center.

Herbert and Jane O’Neill have been quenching their thirst for thrills chasing storms together since 1997.

Through their love of adventure, the couple has visited countless countries not only chasing storms, but sightseeing while enjoying each other’s company as well.

After discovering their love of Marion County and that housing costs were relatively cheap, in 2012 they purchased a Hillsboro home. With the help of Herbert’s Australian-native son, who also happens to be a carpenter, they fixed it up.

“We travel all over,” Herbert said. “We come to Kansas because believe it or not, you have some of the worst storms in the world.”

Herbert said they looked at homes in both Marion and Peabody, but Hillsboro won their hearts. They spend six months out of the year in the “breadbasket” before heading back to a land where their accents don’t appear to be so out of place.

According to Herbert, they looked first at a house in Peabody, but even after being a train driver for 40 years thought the train whistles would be a bit much, even for him.

While explaining this to his eager listeners Friday, his presentation was interrupted by a train traveling westbound on the tracks just south of the Senior Center, sending the room into a fit of laughter.

“I don’t know if I could put up with that all the time,” he said amid the laughs.

The presentation began with a video about seven minutes long with pictures and video clips from various storms the couple has chased throughout the years.

Herbert followed with several pictures taken in Australia before he transitioned to pictures of various cloud structures and tornadoes, explaining the science behind each one.

“We’ve given talks to senior centers, schools, and conferences all over Kansas,” Herbert said. “I’ve found here it wasn’t only the storms people wanted to see pictures of, but of Australia as well.”

Herbert and O’Neill, who are certified through the National Weather Service, follow their instincts when it comes to knowing when to back off. But that doesn’t leave the hobby void of risk. Herbert experienced this up close and personal when he was struck by lightning once while out in the field.

“Afterwards I just kind of walked around in circles,” he said. “I lost about 10 pounds in the next four days, my kidneys were all out of whack, and I was in a lot of pain.”

While the dangers of following their love of storms is plenty, it doesn’t stop the couple from following their infatuation.

We’re all born with an interest,” said Herbert. “Why are we born with something so diverse in our interests? This is our pleasure, believe it or not.”

Herbert and O’Neill say that regardless of miles, they consider both Australia and Marion County home.

“When we go back to Australia in June, we miss Hillsboro, and since we got here in January, we look forward to going back to Australia,” Herbert said.

His wife agreed.

“We have two loves. Kansas and Australia,” said O’Neill. “The locals (in Hillsboro) say ‘when the robins and the storm chasers come, we know it’s Spring.’”

Last modified March 28, 2018

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