2019 Chase Season Epilogue: How was yours?

Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
One thing particularly frustrating about this year, which I forgot to mention, was that the tornado activity was hyped up even in the mainstream media, so everybody back home in Philadelphia is like “wow, you must have seen a lot of tornados this year,” or “how could you not have seen anything, I was hearing about tornados on the news every night?!?” That can happen with a single event any year - for example, even in 2018 there was a Dodge City tornado that made the news, on a day so many of us were in NW Oklahoma. But this year it was worse to hear people think there are tornados dropping all over the place, not understanding the nuances of chasing. As @Brett Roberts said, “an active pattern with numerous tornado days is a critical and necessary, but not always sufficient, ingredient for producing a top-tier chase season.” I had to keep explaining to people, “Well, two of the events you may have heard of happened before I even got out there (5/17 and 5/20), then there was Jefferson City MO which was at night (and on the night I was flying out), then there was El Reno OK also at night, then there was Dayton OH which was out of range, then Lawrence KS which I stayed away from because it was a metro area.”

Ironically, the only tornados I really missed were NOT mainstream newsworthy: TX panhandle on 5/23 and Tipton/Waldo on the same day as Lawrence, 5/28.

I try to explain to people that it’s not like going to a movie, you don’t know the exact time and place you should show up,
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Not to get OT but there are a few references to 2010 being an example of a great season. I got Campo that year but don’t remember much else noteworthy. I was out for two weeks and Campo (5/31) was right in the middle, what were the other noteworthy events that year? Can’t remember if I missed anything big while out there, or if it was just poor timing of my chase trip.
 
Jan 7, 2006
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www.skyinmotion.com
Not to get OT but there are a few references to 2010 being an example of a great season. I got Campo that year but don’t remember much else noteworthy. I was out for two weeks and Campo (5/31) was right in the middle, what were the other noteworthy events that year? Can’t remember if I missed anything big while out there, or if it was just poor timing of my chase trip.
I knew I remembered a thread on this subject at the time, and was able to dig that up by searching through my old posts: Is 2010 the most photogenic tornado year to-date?

Looks like there was some degree of disagreement in real time as to whether it belonged up with the likes of 2004, but quite a few people thought it did.

Just off the top of my head, the list of quality days that year is pretty staggering: 3/8 (Hammon), 4/22 (TX PH outbreak), 5/10 (I-35 outbreak), 5/18 (Dumas), 5/19 (Leedey/Hennessey/Wynnewood), 5/22 (Bowdle), 5/23 (Texline/Clayton), 5/24 (Faith), 5/31 (Campo), 6/5 (IL), 6/10 (Last Chance), 6/16 (Dupree), 6/17 (MN/IA outbreak). And I'm pretty sure there are at minimum 3-5 other really good days I'm forgetting that might be mentioned in that thread, especially if you include the Midwest. Overall quality is very subjective, but one thing that's hard to debate is that 2010 was a more "well rounded" season across the spring, even ignoring that (to my memory) many setups were also less messy and more straightforward to forecast.

It also wouldn't surprise me that 2019 ranks relatively higher on many non-resident chasecationers' lists than locals like myself, as opposed to 2010, which stretched from early March to late June. I have to admit, petty as this sounds, it's a bit frustrating when living here all year doesn't really pay off with a few good events outside the core mid-late May period when everyone else shows up -- and that's been an alarmingly consistent occurrence in recent years, like Jeff Duda pointed out earlier in the thread.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Thanks @Brett Roberts I will check out that 2010 thread. Based on the dates you listed, the only ones I would have been out for and missed were 5/23 and 5/24 (and 6/5 but I don’t go all the way to IL if I am on the Plains). I will have to go back to my journals to figure out what I was doing.

Understand your point about clustering of events, residents vs chase vacationers etc., but that cuts both ways, easy to miss the one or two big weeks and potentially choose a down week even in the month of May... It’s happened to me multiple times.
 
Mar 2, 2004
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Wichita, KS
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I'd be very curious to hear whether any veterans would put this year's subjective quality on the same level as a legendary season like 2004 or 2010. I only chased the latter, but from what I understand of both they were a whole lot less messy with easier forecasts, more targetable big days, and more photogenic activity spread more widely in space and time. All that despite 2019's raw numbers suggesting it was similar or superior to 2004/2010 in terms of tornadoes and even tornado days, especially in May. Perhaps it's best summarized this way: an active pattern with numerous tornado days is a critical and necessary, but not always sufficient, ingredient for producing a top-tier chase season.
No... simple answer... just cause the numbers are there doesn't mean the quality was. And again, my experience differs as I didn't get on the most photogenic storms, most photogenic tornadoes. But in those seasons, there was abundant opportunities for those types of events, and likely on highly obvious forecasts. This year featured a lot of grungy days and situations that were hard to take in, unlike those big days in 2004. My "veteran" thoughts.

Just one great day can make a season, and this year had several (17th, 20th, 23rd). I think it’s just important for a season to be evaluated separately from personal success or lack thereof.
The question posed was "How was yours?"... which means I think it's perfectly acceptable for a season to be evaluated based on personal success or lack thereof. :D
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
The question posed was "How was yours?"... which means I think it's perfectly acceptable for a season to be evaluated based on personal success or lack thereof. :D
Oh I agree, my comment was just in reaction to other posts that were talking about the season in general terms as not being that great for chasing, so my point was just to not mix the two; one’s own experience should not lead to conclusions about the quality of the season overall. I think it’s too easy to pick at the negatives and forget that probably most seasons are more like 2019 and will always disappoint relative to the standout seasons. Also, I guess my post was driven by the same interest @Brett Roberts has, he said it best: “The gap in quality between seasons, both from an objective and person-to-person standpoint, is a topic I've been fascinated by for awhile.”
 
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Nate M.

Enthusiast
May 16, 2019
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Neosho Mo
I would call it a successful season for myself considering the relatively narrow window of opportunity I had to chase with other commitments, storms out of range, etc. My first storm of the season that produced was the one near Crescent Oklahoma with a couple of tornadoes on the ground. I was able to head out there after lunch, see what I needed to see and be home by bedtime. A couple days later came the bonus chase right in my own area code with the gorgeous supercell and wedge near Commerce. Chased it north of Joplin and all the way to west of Golden City until roads were blocked by debris. Unfortunately there were fatalities at that location and I was completely worn out so I called off the chase. So I end up with 4 tornadoes and really not many miles on my truck or hotel expenses. I call that a win C4B36782-7A34-44F1-9EBA-5B5A09417749.jpeg3EEF023A-8A26-45DA-B324-5230F8C36F16.jpegC821C219-C87D-403F-A8F4-2959DC21F315.jpeg616885E7-D0E8-49D8-9D0F-5A385BBC7194.jpeg341BF31A-173B-4D2E-8AFB-554DFA4158D0.jpegBA05228F-6791-4E43-92E8-6E6C115E1073.jpeg09C0A6D0-EDAF-4F50-B285-5162B97686AE.jpeg8B2723BB-B2BC-4EF0-882F-EE7E86B1EBC3.jpeg
 
I'm way late on this thread, at least partially due to how frustrating this year was for me. I finally had to become a chasecationer this year and did May 22nd through Memorial Day on the Plains. Needless to say, things did not go well.

2019 Chase Stats
Miles Driven: ~2,425
Tornadoes: 0
Largest Hail: Golf Ball
Highest Wind: 70 mph
States Chased: TX, OK, KS, CO

We stayed on the High Plains for the entirety of the trip with most of it being in the Panhandle which was a nice change from previous years, but other than that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I'd almost equate it with a pitcher losing his nerve, because after our first big flub on May 23rd (we bailed south towards the southern end of the Llano when stuff east of Pampa looked linear), everything went to hell.

We got caught chasing the Panhandle the 23rd and 24th, both busts, with the 24th being a flooding grunge fest going into Blanco Canyon east of Crosbyton. The 25th was a bust in southeast CO, chasing a high based cell from Campo/Springfield to Johnson City, KS.

The 26th hurt the most, started in Garden City, headed to Lamar, bit early on fast moving storms, missed the brief tornado north of Lamar and got in vieiwing position too late for the tornadic storm to the south in the Arkansas River Valley to see its brief tornado. Ended it and drove back to Norman that night out of frustration after the supercells dropped the temps into the mid-50s and began looking increasingly more stable.

I don't have any photos from the trip that are worth posting, but a couple of observations I had:

- I've never seen so many chaser wrecks in a season before. Even on the western fringe of the High Plains it was shockingly bad with the worst being an accident in Chivington on May 26th.

- There's still some great places I haven't explored on the Plains, I'm making a point to hit Bent's Old Fort in CO next.

- This is my first goose egg since 2014, and while not nearly as awful as that season was for me, it's a bit disconcerting having a year like this when my opportunities are much more limited than they used to be.

I likely won't be able to chase much if at all next year (wedding) but hope to maybe see a late season push to maybe let 2019 end on a good note for me.
 
Feb 21, 2012
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Lawrence, KS
This year was probably the definition of quantity not quality overall, but was kind of the opposite for me. I sat out a lot of good days but scored on a few great ones. Overall, only three real great chase days. Mangum (one tornado intercepted from about a quarter mile), Imperial (saw 3-5 very unremarkable tornadoes and infinite gustnadoes, then best structure I've ever seen), Waldo - Tipton (7 tornadoes, multiple from a distance after two close intercepts near Waldo, almost had friends and family hit by Lawrence-Linnwood EF-4)

Chased multiple Texas/LA April days and don't remember the dates. Had one maybenado near College Station but made a navigation error and missed a very weak tornado by about a mile. Tulia day was pretty uneventful as we stayed north too long to see the brief multivortex near Tulia. Stayed on the supercell forever though and that is one of the more "angry" supercells I think I've ever chased. I never felt comfortable getting in the bear's cage of that thing after it went HP dominant, and some video I saw of chasers almost getting hit by multiple tornadoes buried in the rain kind of makes me glad I didn't.

May 17 - sat out this day due to cap bust concerns and distance (could've only made Kansas target), was technically the first day of my vacation from work, but stayed in The Woodlands and decided between two job offers, ultimately accepting the one I currently work at in Wichita. This helps make it a bit less sour as making that decision distracted while chasing could've meant I took the wrong job.

Canadian, TX wedge, whatever day that was - Targeted Canadian, stayed on the right storm for awhile, then ended up too far north only to miss the wedge to the south as we were heading that way. Very weird chase day where we were aggressively approached by farmers.

Northeast OK tornado fest - started the day with a couple friends and met Rich Thompson in OKC, then went southwest only to have storms fizzle all day. Have never driven back and forth so many times. The classic troll day as tornadoes ravaged my morning target.

East CO Lamar 15 hatched day - saw the end of one weak tornado near Limon, then had to turn around as I came up on a private road and got pounded by tennis balls and busted my windshield.

Chased panhandle multiple days in a row then missed two panhandle tornadoes in a row after leaving.


 
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Jay Murdock

Enthusiast
Jan 25, 2017
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11
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Oxford, Ohio
Living in Ohio and not going out west this year, and being a very amateur chaser, I had pretty low expectations. We don't really get structure here much, so I'm mainly looking for lightning and hoping to catch a tornado if one happens. On that front, I did get some decent lightning from a couple of storms, and I was on the May 27 Brookville-Dayton storm before it dropped the first tornado in the dark (I may have caught an image or two of it from long range, but I'll never be certain). Next year, I'm hoping to go west again and see what I get.

On the plus side, Ohio tends to get another "season" in November, so we'll see :)
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And what may be the start of the Brookville tornado (about an inch right of the red light)
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Jun 24, 2010
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Norman, OK
While this year was better for me than the previous two years, it was still somewhat disappointing considering how many chases I went on.

The Good: I saw the best supercell structure in my life in the Eastern Texas Panhandle on April 3rd. I saw my first Nebraska tornadoes on May 17th. And I saw my first June tornado as well as my first 2% tornado south of Putnam, OK on June 15th.

The Bad: I missed the Seymour, TX tornadoes on May 1st despite targeting Wichita Falls that day. My chase partner had media obligations and had to stay in the OKC market. We did see a brief tornado near Marietta, OK. I missed the Canadian wedge despite only being a few miles away from it. The road network and the HP nature of that supercell made it unsafe for us to pursue it.

The Ugly: Screw up the Mangum day by getting impatient and going after the supercell south of the Red River. River crossings were limited. Got suckered into going after the northern storm that was tornado warned on the Tulia day and missed seeing the Tulia tornadoes.

While I was disappointed I didn't see more tornadoes this year I was happy to have had a decent year after 2017 and 2018 were piss poor years for me.
 
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First of all... who would have thought that we would have Target Area Reports on August 11, 13, 14, and 15? This is the season that just won't end.

For me this was a great season for a couple of reasons.
  1. I got to take my first chasecation ever. And even though I didn't take my chasecation in the last week of May, I did capture the McCook, NE tornado, which was quite possibly the most photogenic tornado of the season. I'm also very happy that I didn't miss any tornados that I could have otherwise seen had I done something different. And on the days where there were no tornados, I captured the best structure around.
  2. A more sonder reason. I was happy that the May 20 SPC High Risk day was a bust. I can't count the number of storm chasers I spoke with who were all wishing that day would be a bust. I remember Daniel Shaw gathering 8 or 9 storm chasers together - all with rescue equipment, medical equipment, and medical training - to chase together in full anticipation of a major catastrophe. I thank God for answering my prayers that the day was a bust.
  3. One of my 5 year olds (I have twins) got to see his first tornado on August 11! Now... he actually saw 2 tornados (I only saw one). I'll be sharing that story in The Chase: 2019 Storm Chasing Documentary.
That said, this was quite possibly the most difficult and challenging chase season I've ever experienced. On some days, there was only a single clear target and chaser convergence was extreme. On other days, there was no clear target and I found myself sitting in gas station parking lots studying the tools at pivotalweather.com when normally I would be chasing based upon the radar. It all worked out though, as my on-the-go forecasting landed me a number of tornados that many other storm chasers missed.

My biggest struggle this year was dealing with the high precipitation, hazy, and low contrast conditions that plagued this season. My first chase day this year was May 7th. The drive down to Texas was nothing but overcast skies and a huge area of non-severe rain. My first tornado this year was the Tulia, TX rain wrapped tornado. And with the exception of McCook, it didn't get much better. In fact, the contrast on the May 20 Paducah, TX tornado was so bad, that it didn't even show up on my video.

So in summary, it was difficult and challenging, but also wonderful and exciting at the same time.

I look forward to next season. I already have some new equipment installed and other equipment purchased and ready to go.

As some of you may know, I chase all weather - not just tornadoes. I captured some insane footage of the Bomb Cyclone that hit Colorado Springs this year, and I hope to capture more awesome footage this fall and winter. So maybe I'll see you out sooner rather than later!
 
Jun 16, 2015
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quincyvagell.com
Time to follow-up since what I consider to be my summer chasing season is over.

Although I did not chase much in July, between the end of the month and a few chases in August, I finally had some classic, slow-moving supercells to chase across the High Plains, when few if any other chasers were out on the roads.

In fact, I had several chase days (at one point, three in a row) that featured one or more supercells in eastern Colorado. I managed to catch two tornadoes in that area on August 13th, ending a long string of tornado-less chases, that dated back to late May. After rewiewing stats, I was a bit surprised to find out that August has been a lot more friendly for me in terms of tornadoes than July. With that said, I've certainly seen my fair share of intense storms in July, even if they did not produce tornadoes.

Either way, most of my mid to late summer chases this year were filled with one or more intense, photogenic supercells. That continues the theme of this chase year, in which I have stepped up my photography game. With that said, August 13th was another chase with tornadoes, but no single tornado photo that was remarkable. I watched tornadoes for several minutes during that chase, but didn't want to stop in the pouring rain with powerlines blocking view to try to get a tornado photo. I think I made the right decision, but it was very 2019-esque to chase more tornadoes, but come out of the chase without any solid photographs of the tornadoes.

This year, in my own subjective chase experiences, stopping to take storm photos was almost always more enjoyable/rewarding than rushing to get into range for a brief and/or grungy tornado.

What I need to do in the future is take more risks when chasing. This doesn't mean going rogue and bailing out on a supercell, but avoiding situations in which I know I'll be dealing with crowds, high-precipitation junk or poor terrain. This year, I did not chase as much "garbage" as I had earlier in my career. For a variety of reasons, I did not chase much east of I-35 and I'm not complaining at all. Sure, there are a few cases in which you can get a really good setup in the Midwest/Mississippi Valley, but I'll almost always find a storm chase over the High Plains more enjoyable, even if it's just a marginal setup.

It's hard to ignore storms in April and especially May, but in a perfect world, I think I will try to take more time off in July and August next year. It's a little bit of a gamble, but if one is willing to travel for storms, summer has chase opportunities as well. Some of my most memorable storm chases have happened in the summer in the Northern Plains and I still need to cross off a Canadian tornado for my bucket list. June will always be a favorite month and it's hard to pass up on late May as well, but I have to say, chasing with largely empty roads with slow-moving supercells over the past 4-6 weeks has been a breath of fresh air compared to the convergence and traffic from May of this year.

Before I go too much off on a tangent, I finally had a Wyoming chase last week and returned to South Dakota a few days ago. I almost chased in North Dakota, but opted to visit some friends and explore ghost towns instead, since the storm threat was not all that impressive. The only Plains state that I did not get to this year was Montana. I really miss the Northern Plains, even if it gets a bad rap for tornadoes, assuming there isn't a cap bust, there really are at least a few prolific storms up there most summers.