A photographer spent 7 years chasing storms through Tornado Alley. Here are 15 of his most breathtaking photos.

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“Tornado at Sunset in Capitol, Montana.”
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

Eric Meola has been a respected photographer for 50 years, working with artists like Bruce Springsteen, and brands like Timberland and Porsche.

But photographing the Great Plains has always been something of a passion project for him. This November, Meola released “Fierce Beauty,” a book dedicated to the awe-inspiring severe weather events that occur in the Midwestern, western, and southern United States.

Meola spent years traveling through Tornado Alley, capturing storms, rainbows, and everything in between.

Here are 15 of the most breathtaking photos from “Fierce Beauty.”


Eric Meola has been a photographer for 50 years. He’s particularly well known for his work with Bruce Springsteen.

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“Nocturnal Tornado on State Road 20 in Buffalo, South Dakota,” on June 28, 2018.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

Meola photographed the cover of Springsteen’s iconic 1975 album, “Born to Run.”


During a 1977 road trip together, Springsteen wrote his song, “The Promised Land,” after their encounter with a storm.

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“Tornado at Sunset in Capitol, Montana,” on June 9, 2016.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

“In 1977, Eric and I took a trip to the American Southwest to take some photos for my album, ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town.’ As usual, Eric caught some great pictures, but what he really captured was something in the sky and in the lay of the land that deeply revealed the grandeur and character of the country,” Springsteen said of their trip.


That’s when Meola discovered his love of storm chasing. For the past seven years, Meola has been traveling around Tornado Alley photographing storms.

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“Rainbow and Falling Hail in Keota, Colorado,” on June 21, 2018.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

The first use of “Tornado Alley” can be traced back to 1952, as the title of a research project carried out by two meteorologists, Major Ernest J. Fawbush and Captain Robert C. Miller.


Tornado Alley is an area of the western and southern United States where tornadoes are most common.

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“Tornado in Viola, Kansas,” on May 19, 2013.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

The US has around 1,200 tornadoes each year – roughly four times as much as the rest of the world combined.


Meola’s photos aren’t limited to tornadoes, though.

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“Lightning Strikes Stamford in Stamford, Nebraska,” on June 21, 2017.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

The book includes foreboding skies, lightning strikes, thunderstorms, rain, and even a few rainbows.


He has captured photos of all kinds of storms.

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“Supercell at Sunset in Haviland, Kansas,” on June 17, 2017.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

He shares his most breathtaking images in a new book, “Fierce Beauty: Storms of the Great Plains.”

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“Sheared Updraft at Sunset in Sandhills, Nebraska,” on May 17, 2013.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

“Fierce Beauty” was released on November 11, and it is Meola’s seventh book.


In the book, Meola writes that he photographed storms and “made friends, lost sleep, and watched the four winds blow.”

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“Updraft Base of a Severe Storm at Sunset in Aurora, Nebraska,” on June 13, 2017.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

He drove through Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Texas, and Oklahoma.

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“Supercell with Sculpted Updraft in Sides Circle, Montana,” on June 9, 2016.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

However, Tornado Alley has no real defined boundaries. Some definitions include Missouri, Louisiana, and Iowa, and leave out other states that Meola traveled to.


Meola traveled 932 miles in a single day during his first season storm chasing.

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“Mammatus Clouds Crossing the Rio Grande in Ruidosa, Texas,” on May 18, 2016.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

According to Meola, in a single day he traveled from Denver to the “high plains of Montana,” to the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

A typical day for storm chasers can “start in Oklahoma City, then move into Kansas and Nebraska before going further north to end the night in South Dakota.”


Meola drove with famed storm chaser Bill Reid of Tempest Tours.

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“Harvest Field with Hail-Filled Supercell in Kanorado, Kansas,” on May 31, 2015.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

Reid has been chasing storms since 1991 and holds a master’s degree in geography.


Storm chasing isn’t the most low key of hobbies. It can sometimes turn fatal.

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“Cumulonimbus Cloud at Sunset in Oglala, South Dakota,” on June 17, 2015.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

In 2017, three storm chasers were killed in a car accident while they were tracking a tornado.


Although storm chasing can be dangerous, the number of chasers grows every year.

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“Tornado in Woonsocket, South Dakota,” on June 18, 2014.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

The Washington Post wrote in May that the “mobs are ruining storm chasing.”

The story was written by meteorologist Matthew Cappucci, who cited “traffic jams 200 cars deep,” “chasers barreling down a one-lane road at 90 mph,” and “chasers driving on the wrong side of the road” as just a few of the major problems he saw during a May 2019 storm.


But for Meola, the journey has been “hauntingly beautiful.”

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“Rear-Flank Downdraft Region of a Supercell in Wheatland, Wyoming,” on June 21, 2013.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

The Great Plains are “often maligned as flat, lifeless, and empty,” Meola writes. “It is also a record of a feral world where merciless storms convene each spring on the prairies and on the plains,” he continues.


“Chasing storms is in my blood, and I feel empty when I’m not there,” said Meola.

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“Chaotic Sky in Barnhart, Texas,” on May 14, 2013.
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Courtesy of Eric Meola

“Fierce Beauty” is available now, with dozens more dazzling photos to see.