Advice and tips?

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J Wesley

Enthusiast
Jun 11, 2019
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Kentucky
I'm planning a "chase-cation" for next year so I have plenty of time to get my ducks in a row. I'd like to target Kansas or Oklahoma, not opposed to Nebraska or Texas. Just depends on where the activity is forecast.

I do have some limited severe weather knowledge, I've attended NWS spotter classes in person and both online. I plan to do more online training and such the rest of this year to stay current.

Basically, I don't want to get insanely close to anything like many others do. I'm the guy with a 20' camera lens who just wants to take some pictures from a mile away, out of the rain, out of the hail. So pretty much, I just want to get in the vicinity of a storm - safely position myself and vehicle - grab a few shots - and tail it. I really feel like most of the fun *is* the chase itself.

My question is, how do you "gameplan" for a chase? What do you do to find out where to go? SPC online products? Other sources of data? What do you look for? Why is what you're looking for important? Or again, do you just let the NWS SPC do the heavy lifting and drive towards the risk areas?

I have several radar programs at my disposal. GRL3 on my laptop, RadarScope on my laptop and smartphone. I also have a GPS receiver for my laptop so that I can plot my position relative to storms. It works with Google Earth too, but I'll rely more on common sense, an actual Nav GPS and paper maps for driving.

I also plan to bring along a police scanner to listen in to public safety and will have a ham radio in my car to listen in and communicate as needed.

More than anything though, I want to be covert and not draw attention to myself. I'm hesitant about putting a magnetic radio antenna on the car, even. So no fancy amber strobes, skywarn magnets, or driving like a tool. I understand chasers/spotters have attained a pretty bad rep as of lately due to incidents and I don't want to contribute to that. I want to be a responsible and respectful enthusiast who just wants some pictures of the weather.

So please, understand I'm a little new to actual chasing, but I'd really like your useful tips and advice.
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Supporter
Oct 7, 2008
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Broomfield, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
I'll let others answer other questions as people fill in. I'll start with this one:

I'm planning a "chase-cation" for next year so I have plenty of time to get my ducks in a row. I'd like to target Kansas or Oklahoma, not opposed to Nebraska or Texas. Just depends on where the activity is forecast.
Get ready to add Texas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota (and more) to your list of possible chase destinations. You won't have much fun if you limit yourself even two of the most active states for severe weather. Times have changed, and it just doesn't work that way anymore. Look at 2020 for example: there are significant portions of both Kansas and Oklahoma that were never in a tornado watch. So, first lesson: be flexible with your targeting, because you will need to drive long distances to cover good events that happen outside the core of the tornado alley.
 

Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
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Mos Isley Space Port
www.stormchaser.com
Best advice is to chase with someone who knows a fair amount about chasing and severe weather. Split the costs, etc., even if you don't need to. There are some more experienced chasers looking for chase partners. There is simply too much to learn about meteorology, interception and safety. You could easily end up in baseball hail or worse. Chasing is NOT always what you see on the Internet. There is a mind-numbing amount of driving and off days, especially now days. The sooner you learn the basics, the more comfortable and enjoyable it will be.
 
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Todd Lemery

Staff member
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Jun 2, 2014
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Menominee, MI
Warren hits the nail on the head. Your learning curve will be a hell of a lot shorter if you partner up with someone with more experience and experience is your best friend. Also, although there are a lot of solo chasers, it’s much easier and I say enjoyable when you have someone else picking out what roads to take and keeping an eye on the sky.
Jeff pointed out something everyone starting out should know. Even on an easy chase day you’ll probably put on hundreds of miles. 90% of chasing is getting into position to chase.
There is a lot of info on this site easily accessed by searching for code words with the search function in the upper right hand top of the page. Dive in!