Beginner Chaser Tips?

Discussion in 'Introductory weather & chasing' started by Michael Onesty, May 20, 2018.

  1. Michael Onesty

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    I have never chased before. I plan on driving out to Oklahoma for 3 weeks in May 2019 and am wondering what are the best pieces of advice that can be given to someone like myself?
    Should I make connections with existing chasers?
    Most useful tricks when living on the road?
    What kinds of obstacles to expect when chasing?
     
  2. Todd Lemery

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    Good luck in your future chases Michael. I don’t have any fresh thoughts here, but those topics and many similar ones have been covered here. You can accesss them by searching through past threads using key words.
     
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  3. James Wilson

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    Like Todd said there are plenty of topics you can search for on almost any subject storm chasing on this forum.

    With that said I should spend the year you have until you begin chasing READING everything you can on the subject. The number one thing you need to know if what you really NEED to know ... how to actually chase and do so safely.

    There are many books (I like Tim's forecasting books in link below) and DVD's that will help you.

    Good luck and read up!

    http://www.weathergraphics.com/
     
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  4. ericjkelly

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    Michael,

    Hey do you know anyone you can go with? Anyone with experience you can join? Heading out solo your first time can be a bit crazy.

    I agree that reading all you can will help. The storm chasers handbook is great!

    Maybe start to get connected with people here in hopes of meeting up?
     
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  5. Jeff House

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    Glad you plan on 2019 because we see how 2018 is going, lol. Seriously, here are a few quickies. Some other thread goes into detail as well.

    1. Do not chase alone, no matter what. Even if your partner is not an enthusiast, at least they can drive and watch the road. Then you can forecast, navigate, and watch the sky. Solo chasing simply is not safe. Also the probability of success plummets.

    2. Chasers love to communicate online, but I have struggled to find a chase partner online. Fortunately I still have friends in Kansas and know a couple people in-person here in Tenn. Again, a non-enthusiast is better than nobody. Just make sure they are not afraid. Indifferent is OK.

    3. Read all SPC forecasts, even the crap days. It helps differentiate targets and meteorological parameters. Of course read Storm Track.

    4. Check out some of the tutorials and videos on Storm Track and public NWS pages. I think some COMET modules are online.

    5. Do not chase at night. May has enough daylight hours.

    Good luck and happy chasing!
     
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  6. Kimberley Fredenburg

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    I recently took a trip with my university to the plains. I think it's really beneficial to try to communicate with chasers that may be staying in similar hotels as you. We were able to meet up with a few different universities and discuss the dynamics of the storms as well as do a joint weather briefing for the day's activities. Some of the schools we met up with also had radars they were deploying, so inquiring about those might also be a good learning experience. I know that our professor shared his data from his deployment of his instruments. Though I have not formally chased outside of this class, I think that communicating in person with other chasers you run into on the road will help develop the knowledge, skills, and opportunities in chasing.
     
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  7. Michael Wilkinson

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    I’m still in the beginner stage. I’d like to share a couple of things that I think have helped me.

    As I started learning the basics, I chased non-severe rain showers that were close to home. The benefit I got from that was experiencing things such as the difficulty of chasing something that isn’t confined to using the roads the way you are. Until you're in that situation, you don't realize how bad you are at quickly choosing a path, with safe escape routes, that still keeps you close enough to the storm. It's something that you'll learn pretty easily, but your first chase or two will involve some major routing mistakes. Things like missing turns because you were distracted cost valuable time. It's frustrating when you can't call timeout and make the storm stop and wait on you.

    I also got to practice the limitations of not being able to stare at radar while driving. I learned that I was ill-prepared for a loss of cell phone signal (I'm glad that my panic moment happened when I was in no danger. Now, I'm always preparing and modifying my plan of what to do when I lose signal. This includes knowing Highway numbers, the directions they go, and knowing the names of towns that are in the direction of escape.)

    Some things you learn by trial and error. I learned that planning and adjusting routes by looking at GPS is difficult when you have so many other things going on.

    -Because of this experience, I bought a paper map to use in conjunction with GPS.

    -Because I bought a paper map, I learned how impossible it is to glance at the map while driving and read anything that's on it.

    -Because the map was too cluttered to be useful, I bought a Rand McNally map that's part of their series called "Easy to Read".

    -Because I bought the Easy to Read map, I learned how damn big an Easy to Read map is.

    -Because I need to look out my windshield when driving, I learned how to unfold the Easy to Read map before the chase starts, and fold and crease and fold and crease it to where my target area is in an easy to hold square.

    -Because, the chase usually continues to another part of the map, I learned that during the fold and crease and fold and crease process before the chase, it's possible to fold the map in a way that the next square you will need will be on the flip side. It's not a Rubik's Cube. It's paper. You can force it to fold any way you want.

    I'm a father of two with a decent education and a long history of successful employment. It took me four chases to figure the out the map thing. Don't think you're smart enough to get everything right on the first try. Experience will point out your flaws and you will resolve them. These "practice" chases will help you.

    As a beginner, you'll be distracted by many things on your mind while you're chasing. Try to find ways to make things easier on you mentally. I can calculate Z-Time in my head, just like everybody else can. But, because I'm a beginner, nothing about chasing or meteorology is second nature to me yet. Therefore, when I'm wanting to know where the HRRR is forecasting 150+ 0-1km Storm Relative Helicity for an hour from now; by the time I calculate in my head when that will be in Z-Time, I can't remember who Felicity is or how she's Related to the Storm. But, if I take $7.98 to WalMart, I can purchase a 24-hour digital watch, leave it on it's plastic packaging so that it sits nicely on my dashboard, and now I'm living in Z-Time! Not having to do unnecessary calculations helps me to focus on what 0-1km Storm Relative Helicity is and why it's important. I might even be thinking clearly enough to go ahead and find out where the 0-3km Storm Relative Helicity is going to be greater than 350.

    IMG_4599.jpg

    Being a beginner is fun, because you're always getting better and always learning something that's new to you. I've found that there's many good podcasts, Chasercon lectures, and educational classes online. I like listening to a lesson or a course, and then finding another one that's covering the same thing. Hearing different people explaining the same thing helps to verify to myself that I understand a concept. It also makes it easier for me to identify the things that I misunderstood the first time.

    I hope these ideas can help you a little.
     
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  8. Andy Wehrle

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    Sorry, but I have to.

    "Look, all I'm saying is, don't fold the maps."

    "- I didn't fold the maps."

    "Yeah, well Kansas is a mess. There's a big crease right through Wichita. ROLL the maps."
     
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  9. Michael Wilkinson

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    It’s been so long since I’ve seen Twister that I forgot about that.

    I’m now questioning whether there’s other aspects of that documentary that aren’t realistic. :)
     
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  10. Kimberley Fredenburg

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    What are some examples of podcasts that you listen to? Also, where do you go for Chasercon lectures and educational classes. Those are great ideas! Thanks for your insight!
     
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  11. Michael Wilkinson

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    Kimberley,

    On YouTube there's a somewhat advanced course that you would like. It's taught by Rich Thompson from the Storm Prediction Center on tornado forecasting. The course is posted under the username OU SCAMS.

    For the very new beginner, I don't suggest starting with the Rich Thompson course. It's a very helpful course (and beginners should eventually do it), but without a more basic course first, a newbie would get frustrated.

    A good starting point for me was a course taught by Stefan Becker. Search for him on YouTube. Go to his posted videos. They're not posted in order, but they have chapter numbers, so you'll be able to figure out where to start and where to go next. It's a very basic meteorology course.

    After gaining a little basic knowledge, visit TornadoTitans.com . Chris Sanner's Titan's U is extremely helpful in teaching you how to plan a chase. At his website, click on the "Titan U" dropdown menu, and select "See Our Courses". Scroll down until you see "Chasers Start Here". It doesn't get more direct than that.

    Two more great videos on YouTube are Skip Talbot's "Storm Spotting Secrets" and "Field Tactics for Practical Storm Spotting". While you're at his channel, watch his other videos.

    For podcasts, go to tvnweather.com/podcasts to listen to Reed Timmer's podcast. It doesn't matter that it's a few years old. There's lots of treasure in those older shows. Also, stormfrontfreaks.com has a lot of good shows. You'll need to pick through them to find the ones that relate specifically to storm chasing, but it's worth it. Chris Sanner also has a short segment in each StormFrontFreaks show that's always valuable.

    Another thing that a new chaser wouldn't know to search for is Chasercon lectures. Just type "Chasercon" into YouTube and listen to everything that pops up. You'll be gaining knowledge about all aspects of chasing.

    There's enough free education out there to keep you busy until next season.
     
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    #11 Michael Wilkinson, Jun 20, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
  12. Michael Norris

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    I've watched Skip Talbot's and Rich Thompson's stuff. All great stuff and extremely informative. I also would recommend getting some more knowledge before Rich Thompson's videos though. I took a few meteorology classes while still in college, but there were still more than a few times I had trouble keeping up with Rich Thompson's stuff. I did quite a bit of pausing and googling on the fly.

    I know this was mostly directed towards Kimberley, but I'll definitely be checking out the other stuff mentioned as well. I hadn't heard of any of it besides the Chasercon lectures, which for some odd reason I never thought to try to look up o_O
     
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  13. Kimberley Fredenburg

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    Thanks for the tips! I started diving into the content today and have found it very helpful.
     
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  14. Michael Onesty

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    Well said Andy
     
  15. Warren Faidley

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    The most difficult thing to learn is something that is very hard to explain and can only be learned by actual chasing. It's also a very dangerous part of chasing.

    It's navigation around storms. it sounds simple, but its actually quite complicated, especially if you chase alone. Most successful chasers have a natural ability to multitask when chasing, being able to place themselves in a 3D mindset considering roads and storm movement. Multiple storms, storm speed, storm transformations and potential storm hazards have to be continuously factored. Some of this comes from knowing how to read radar, but visual observations are just as important, if not more. Knowing which roads will take you to the right place at the right time must be calculated correctly. You should also have alternative "escape routes."

    You must do all this while paying 100 percent attention to the road so you don't kill someone.

    I suggest you use a radar app with roads overlay and practice on storms at home to test your results before heading out.
     
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  16. Dave C

    Dave C EF1

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    Some great advice given already.

    Beyond all the other specifics I could mention, I suggest having the right general mindset near and around storms is the most important thing you can learn.

    Enjoy the whole process from forecast to driving to busts. Don't get upset at the busts and have fun no matter what. Gradually and deliberately increase your skills by taking off little pieces in a safe and controlled manner. For example, don't park in front of a tornado producing super cell on a high risk day like I did on my second chase. Don't chase spotter icons or do things because a group does.

    Above all, close to storms- always have situational awareness of these key factors properly prioritized:
    1.) Road safety and courtesy: safe and courteous driving and parking above all else, period, no matter what is happening with the storm. Don't become a yahoo chaser being rude aggressive or otherwise dumb. Those types get people annoyed, hurt, or killed.
    2.) Storm proximity and dynamic awareness: is a supercell bearing down on you with huge hail and a tornado? How long do you have before you are hit by the storm? Where in the storm visually are hazards, and what are the hazards? Where are your safe outs at each moment? This should not require technology- this should be constantly assessed and loaded into your brain based upon reading visuals and perhaps input from technology but never reliant on technology working to be safe.
    3) Technology: is radar current, forecast, nowcast, surface obs, etc.

    If you do chase alone, remember to be extra cautious, to the point of missing storms for safety. Only do one thing at a time the proper way- drive, stop and then look at radar or computer, etc. Even a quick glance can lead to catastrophe. Over time if you have the right mindset and always remember you or others could be killed by distractions, you can learn how to lightly multitask, but really as has been said, solo chasing is tough and not nearly as safe as a team approach. When I chase alone, I just dial way down my capability set and have a firm set of rules on how to be safe doing all the tasks. I generally stay back a bit further too to give myself time to deal with navigating, forecasting, radar, etc.

    Chasing with people will help you in many ways from sharing the workload and long haul drives, learn what things look like much faster- hail cores, downbursts, wall clouds, meso rotation, collar clouds, inflow tails, gustnadoes, outlfow, RFD. All this takes a while to learn to spot visually. You also may have more fun, depending. I do about half solo and half team chasing these days.
     
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  17. Todd Lemery

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    I’ll just agree to what many people have said many times. DON’T chase alone. I’ll do it on local chases where I already know the roads and don’t have to put any thought into it. Slow moving cells are fine too as they aren’t much of a challenge because you have plenty of time to stop and check everything out before continuing on.
    Anything else I have a problem with. No matter how awesome you are, trying to keep track of what roads to take, what the storm is doing and the hundred other things begging for your attention just aren’t compatible with a moderate to fast moving storm. All the time your eyes and mind go elsewhere, you increase the odds of something bad happening. And although you are probably a really nice person, I say this because I want to be able to get back home to MY family. I don’t want to see you mangled on the side of the road either, but I’m more concerned with me being a victim of distraction.
     
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  18. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    If you haven't already, join the StormTrack Discord. Lots of good info and bantz on there.
     
  19. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    I'll pitch in something from the equipment side of things -

    Get a scanner. I would recommend at least a Uniden BCD996T series, or a Whistler WS1065/Radio Shack PRO-197/PRO-652/GRE PSR600. That last one is a bunch of different models, but it's all the same radio. These will enable you to hear most public safety radio systems in Oklahoma, which have yet to upgrade to a P25 Phase II architecture.

    It's possible that listening to public safety systems and using that info to hone in on specific incidents may be above the level of an absolute beginner, but I will recommend a scanner with a good WX alert feature. Don't get a handheld NOAA mini-pocket-radio, those are terrible at distance reception. The Uniden BCT15, BCT15X, BCD996T, BCD996XT, and BCD996P2 all have an automatic scanning NOAA alert feature. The Radio Shack PRO-2096, PRO-197, PRO-652, the Whistler WS1065, and the GRE PSR-600 all have this feature as well. It will scan any frequency you put in it, while silently monitoring the NOAA channels in the background for an alert tone.

    Storm chasers use a common set of simplex channels that can be monitored as well. Most popular are 146.550, 146.460, 223.520, 446.100, 446.075, and 1294.550. On the Plains, you will hear storm chaser traffic on some of these frequencies, especially 146.550.

    Pair this with an effective, properly-mounted external scanner antenna.
     
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  20. Mark Blue

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    We had a member Andrew Clope here a few years ago and he asked a series of questions I thought were very good. It doesn’t cover every conceivable idea or thought for new chasers but it was a good learning experience for him and everyone else for that matter.

    Edit: To find these old posts perform an advanced search per the attached image. Select the tab for “Posts and Threads” then input “Andrew Clope” in the member field. It should result in 2 pages of results. Enjoy reading them!

    9EC8EFE4-52CD-43E3-9A48-F0C84F04BBD0.jpeg
     
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    #20 Mark Blue, Jul 5, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
  21. Jeff House

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    Some recent posts about data remind me...

    Radar is always about 5 minutes old, even the most current update. Therefore, one has to plan for storm motion.

    Reason it's never current is because it takes a few minutes to complete a volume scan. With fast moving storms or poor terrain (Dixie) one has to be especially mindful of the volume scan delay.
     
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  22. tmesias

    tmesias Lurker

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    During actual chases, if you can arrange it, find a non-chaser driver to do the driving and sit in the passenger seat. Let them focus on the road while you focus on learning. I would suggest resisting the temptation of going with other chasers doing the driving simply out of personal safety... you don’t want them distracted... if you do go with experienced chasers, still try to take a non-chaser driver to do the driving so that you can interact more freely with your mentor.
     
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  23. MikeD

    MikeD EF1

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    1. If you lose sight of your surroundings, take your escape route.

    2. Don’t core punch or else you will encounter hail that will smash open your windshield.

    BTW what maps do you pros use?
     
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  24. Jay Moody

    Jay Moody Lurker

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    1. Reliable wheels with copilot. Get it serviced by a professional and make sure you have a spare.
    2. Know where you’re chasing. You can download maps for offline use on google maps.
    3. Make sure any electronics have chargers and carry extra fuses for the vehicle.
    4. Reliable radar source is a must, to get started RadarScope is pretty handy.
    5. Don’t crowd other chasers. Some people are more comfortable with being super close, others aren’t. So just give people the room needed to come and go safely.
    6. I wouldn’t worry about getting too close until you’re comfortable with your driver, equipment, knowledge and experience.
    7. Chase anything you can even if it likely won’t produce.

    Last but not least have fun take pictures and notes. Storms are like fingerprints, they’re all a little different.
     
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  25. Jeff House

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    I like to have paper maps just in case. Google is fine most of the time; and, yes downloading for off-line is smart. Remember good radar apps generally have highway overlays too. Still those paper maps are nice back-up. Delorme is still the king for great detail.
     
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