“It was awful,” Rory remembers, “like nothing I had ever seen before.”
For SWIFT Weather founder Rory Groves, June 18, 2001, started just like any other day.
“I had come home from work that day, booted up the software I was developing, and saw that severe thunderstorms had developed just north of Minneapolis/St. Paul, where I lived,” Rory said. “It looked to me like they had potential to turn tornadic.”
Back in 2001, Rory was a storm chaser who had combined his talents in computer programming with his passion for weather to develop the first-ever navigation software for storm chasers.
“The idea was to combine radar and satellite imagery with road maps and GPS to help the user locate and ideally see a tornado as it touched down,” he said.
On that Monday in June, Rory saw an opportunity to field test his evolving software, so he set out from his home in Minneapolis and began driving toward the storm.
“I tracked the storms north and east of the Twin Cities and ended up arriving just minutes after an F3 tornado touched down in Siren,” he said.
Siren, Wisconsin is a tiny community of only 900 residents in northwestern Wisconsin, and following that tragic tornado, three elderly people were killed, a dozen more injured, and hundreds of structures were damaged by the devastating twister that hit that evening.
“The damage was so intense you could see it on satellite photos the next day,” Rory said.
Rory’s shock at witnessing such devastation first hand was compounded when he learned that the tornado sirens had failed to sound. He discovered that the sirens had been knocked out by a storm a few weeks before and had not yet been repaired.
“Here I had travelled over 100 miles in over two and a half hours,” Rory explained, “and arrived in Siren literally within minutes of the deadly tornado because the software I was working on allowed me to track the exact path. So I knew about the potential of this storm more than two hours before it hit, and some of the residents of Siren may have had no warning at all.”
“If it wasn’t for the brave actions of Siren’s police and first responders who traveled door-to-door in some cases to warn citizens, I have no doubt the death-toll would have been much higher,” Rory recalls.
June 18, 2001 was the day Rory’s hobby became a mission.
“That was the day when I realized that my software wasn’t just for storm chasers,” Rory said. “I saw that if this software could be used to accurately predict where tornadoes would strike, it could be used by ordinary folks to protect themselves and their families.”
Eight months later, Rory released SWIFT Weather, the original version of what would eventually become Weather Defender. And since that day, Rory’s company has been dedicated to serving residential customers in the disaster-prone areas known as Tornado Alley.
Rory also began to actively promote weather safety in his community, teaching public awareness classes and helping organizations plan for weather emergencies.
“Our mission is to save lives, plain and simple,” Rory said. “That’s why we exist.”
Rory’s dedication is clear.
“It’s not enough to assume that someone else is looking out for you. When it comes to your own family, you need to know for yourself. You need to prepare for yourself. And I sincerely believe that Weather Defender can help protect you and your family from severe weather,” Rory said. “That’s why we made it.”