At which point is one "qualified" to chase?

Pedro A

Enthusiast
Mar 18, 2021
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1
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Brazil
I've recently become very interested in severe weather and storm chasing, and I've researched a little bit about forecasting and whatnot. I really want to start hitting the road and start chasing soon, but I don't know if I'm ready yet.

So when is one "qualified" to chase? What is the recommended amount of knowledge and/or experience with severe weather to be able to chase safely and with significant results?

This is my first thread, so please excuse me if I'm posting this in the wrong place or am doing something wrong in general haha
 
Oct 31, 2013
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Eastern TX Panhandle
If you're not ready yet, find out why, and work on it. Whether it's identifying storm structure, safety issues, or whatever, fix the issue before you go out. Not sure where you are located, but chase/spot close to home for a year or two, then venture out further until you feel more comfortable. Also, being qualified is on a basis of each individual, and not a set rule or time. Another tip: get on youtube and look for advanced spotter class or just spotter class and get very familiar with structure, safety, and how to read radar very well.
 

Shawn Gossman

Supporter
Feb 9, 2007
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Metropolis, Illinois
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Try to find someone else who also gets into chasing. I'm big into hiking and a lot of new hiking beginners tend to ask me for tips on how to start, I really try to put a lot of emphasis on not hiking alone. I feel like the same strategy is appropriate for storm chasing, especially if you're new. Don't do it alone if you can help it. And always put safety first, always have an exit strategy. Remember - severe weather is a leading cause of death from natural crises. I agree with the above on becoming a storm spotter. Since COVID happened, virtual training should also be pretty available and recommended.
 
Apr 13, 2009
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All good advice. A chase partner can also help with expenses and pass the time. And if you can't find someone into storms, find a friend who likes to drive. Then you can focus on the weather and navigating, and they can focus on the road.
 
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Randy Jennings

Supporter
May 18, 2013
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If you wait to chase until you are "qualified", you will never chase. You could get a degree in meteorology and still not be a good/safe chaser. Being a good/safe chaser takes experience. Things rarely look as perfect as they do in Skywarn training, etc. Chasing with an experienced chaser can help for sure, but if you can't do that there are things you can do. First learn as much as you can. I highly recommend @Skip Talbot YouTube channel (Skip Talbot's Storm Chasing Chronicles - YouTube) because it contains a lot of practical tips for identifying features in the field visually and he covers safety very well. My faves are the ones in the "Storm and Tornado Educational" section. Second, armchair chase a storm or two - look at radar and decide what you would do and watch how it evolves. Third, you need to get out and try - just not on big days. Start out slow - pick a marginal or slight day. Finally, keep your distance - as you get more experience you will naturally get closer - but give the storm extra room when you start.
 
Apr 13, 2009
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I want to second Randy's comments. It's much better to start on a day where the worst that can happen is you take a shower in 3/4" hail or your vehicle shakes in a strong wind gust than on a day with baseball size hail, tornadoes, and crazy HP monsters.

Remember too there are many cool things to see other than tornadoes. Enjoy the structure, the lightning, and the scenery. If you consider any day without tornadoes a disappointment you'll be disappointed a lot.
 
I would also get into radar reading & interpretation. It's fun go out and chase down a twister but it's also important to know what you're looking at on radar and be able to interpret what the radar is telling you so you can figure out where you should head, what you're about to get into, etc. WSR-88D's can give you a lot of information to look at but if you don't know what you're looking at it can be just as unsafe as being in the middle of the Bears Cage! Misreading a velocity radar image can be life-threatening if you keep driving toward something that you probably shouldn't drive into because you didn't know how to read it... When I chase I always keep a laptop or tablet with me that shows RadarScope, GR2-Analyst, GR-Level 3, and all my Ham & GMRS radio stuff. I am a huge proponent of radar & proper radar reading/knowing what you're looking at. If done properly, it can give you some good advanced notice of what's to come. Just my .02¢ worth of info from 16 years of experience.
 

Noah Anderson

Enthusiast
Aug 22, 2018
4
14
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Minnesota
When I first started chasing, by far my biggest mental hangup was the actual physical maneuvering that you must perform in and around the storm. There are endless resources (many of which are mentioned above) that can make you at least an adequate forecaster, but I found that there are far fewer resources explaining how to determine what road to take and when. That kind of maneuvering instinct takes a long time to develop (and I personally still have a lot to learn), but if you want to fast-track it, I'd highly recommend performing "mock-chases" locally on non-supercell storms if they are available. Simply choose a part of the storm to pretend that it's the updraft base, and proceed from there.

Now, of course this method has some issues, as supercells in particular are the most capable of deviating from their predicted path, but doing this will at least get you more comfortable with the storm chasing "workflow" of looking at radar, corroborating radar with visuals (extremely important), and instinctual maneuvering, *without* the high stakes of a tornadic or hail-filled supercell.

Hope this helps!
 
Last edited:
Jun 23, 2018
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Golden, Co
I want to second Randy's comments. It's much better to start on a day where the worst that can happen is you take a shower in 3/4" hail or your vehicle shakes in a strong wind gust than on a day with baseball size hail, tornadoes, and crazy HP monsters.

Remember too there are many cool things to see other than tornadoes. Enjoy the structure, the lightning, and the scenery. If you consider any day without tornadoes a disappointment you'll be disappointed a lot.
No truer words in this world. We are really just road trippers with some severe wx thrown in.
 
Jun 23, 2018
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5
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Golden, Co
The first thing i did was get spotter training with nws. Then chased local severe storms from a distance...i didnt know any better to not drive on dirt roads in the beginning until i got stuck with out anything to self arrest..things you learn doing it...i dont remember as much info and training online when i first started ...even youtube videos werent as common but there were some...but now there is ample online courses..pecos hank has a great intro to chasing...just do it...If you are ever in the Denver area during storm season hit me up. Ill go with you! Im always looking for a map and radar co-pilot. My strength is i love driving the chase. And...unlike last year when gas was super cheap and it was the quietest tornado year in 70 years of course...its gotten much more expensive now. On the flip side ...its crowded out there nowadays. If your doing it for passion its a wide world with lots of cool people. If you wanna make a living or even get it to pay for itself its a very competitive field with lots of really really good videographers and photographers to compete with and could be a very disappointing time. I have personally pursued the chance to help in the first responder aspect by getting training in Certs getting my HAM my drones license nims ics ares races etc. Id rather be able to help if i come across a bad situation. Just my two cents. Good luck KF0ETZ
 

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
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This thread is getting off topic, but I will add a bit to a couple of posts above. I can’t count how many times I choose to take a “shortcut” on a dirt or otherwise unimproved road. It more times than not doesn’t save me any time and increases the stress levels trying to keep up on crappy roads. Sometimes paved roads are too far spaced apart and you just have to bite the bullet on crappy roads. Most times though, going the extra couple of miles to the paved road is going to end up being a great choice.
I wish I was “qualified” enough to remember that while chasing
 

Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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"Qualified" also means carrying the right equipment and having a vehicle that won't let you down. There are previous discussions concerning "what to carry" so no need to post a list here. Knowing how to time fuel stops (for example) and other logistical tricks / knowledge can only be learned over time, or better yet, chasing with someone who has the experience.
 
"Qualified" also means carrying the right equipment and having a vehicle that won't let you down. There are previous discussions concerning "what to carry" so no need to post a list here. Knowing how to time fuel stops (for example) and other logistical tricks / knowledge can only be learned over time, or better yet, chasing with someone who has the experience.
Yes, PLEASE don’t go chase if you only have a 1/4 tank of gas; or even a 1/2 tank for that matter! If you know you’re gonna chase since there’s usually a few days warning of impending severe weather I would recommend staying topped-off...

Second, if it’s an area you’re not familiar with (i.e. you plan to chase cross-state, etc) Download or bookmark maps ahead of time and make sure to check out the Satellite/Topo layer because sometimes roads on the default layer end up being dirt roads and you won’t know til you run up on it... AK4FD