Chase Range - How Far Are You Willing to Travel Based on Risk?

Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Just to give an 'out-of-towner's' perspective (!), I chase over a ~2.5 week period per year, travelling over from the UK. However, like a few who've commented above, just because I'm on vacation, I don't chase everything which might present itself. Long-hauls are fine, and are undertaken at times, but there has to be a pretty compelling reason. Several trips have been taken over the years to SD and most didn't end up with much!

Also, I can't be bothered with going off east too far - MO has been chased a couple of times, but we've never been to AR, for example. I'm not over to view storms behind trees - I'm over to see sculpted storms on the vast Plains. If they're not on the menu, then we'll find something else to do, which doesn't involve heading to the jungles just because there are storms there.
Well-said Paul! I always felt people would think I was crazy for not chasing anything, anytime, anywhere while on a limited-time chase vacation. Glad to see I am not the only one! We are definitely of the same mind in that regard, but you said it better than me.
 
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Just to give an 'out-of-towner's' perspective (!), I chase over a ~2.5 week period per year, travelling over from the UK. However, like a few who've commented above, just because I'm on vacation, I don't chase everything which might present itself. Long-hauls are fine, and are undertaken at times, but there has to be a pretty compelling reason. Several trips have been taken over the years to SD and most didn't end up with much!

Also, I can't be bothered with going off east too far - MO has been chased a couple of times, but we've never been to AR, for example. I'm not over to view storms behind trees - I'm over to see sculpted storms on the vast Plains. If they're not on the menu, then we'll find something else to do, which doesn't involve heading to the jungles just because there are storms there.
I'm also an 'out-of-town' chaser, from the Netherlands. But we chase everything when we're in the States. We've seen some very pretty storms with marginal setups. Apart from that, the roadtrip and getting to know the different States and scenery is just as much fun to me. Back in the Netherlands, I stick to 2 hour drives (one way) at most, so that pretty much covers the most of the Netherlands and a bit of Belgium and Germany. Yes we live in a tiny country ;-)
 
Mar 8, 2009
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Meadville PA
I had assumed that now that I'm retired, I'd be chasing every moderate risk day and above...but the crowded highways and wide spots full of yahoos have me staying close to home. My limit now is about 500 miles for most chase days...mostly Ohio, Indiana & Illinois. Few crowds, better food options and fewer nights in a motel. But it still takes at least a moderate to get me out there.
 
Mar 6, 2006
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Amarillo, TX
owlsp.com
250 miles... generally. I will make exceptions to it every once in a while, but it is my general rule. From Amarillo, that lets me cover Midland to Garden City and Santa Rosa to I-35 (OKC/Wichita). I try to keep it at 4 hours just so I don't spend too much time away from my family. Going much more than that can easily turn into a multi day trip. Before having a family, there was no limit if I had the time to go.

There are a few other factors that can come into play on certain days, but I have used this limitation (guideline) for over 5 years and it has worked for me.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
1,002
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
250 miles... generally. I will make exceptions to it every once in a while, but it is my general rule. From Amarillo, that lets me cover Midland to Garden City and Santa Rosa to I-35 (OKC/Wichita). I try to keep it at 4 hours just so I don't spend too much time away from my family. Going much more than that can easily turn into a multi day trip. Before having a family, there was no limit if I had the time to go.

There are a few other factors that can come into play on certain days, but I have used this limitation (guideline) for over 5 years and it has worked for me.
You live in one of the best spots Wesley; a 250 mile radius from Amarillo covers ideal chase territory. Far better than spots like OKC or Wichita, where you are already on the eastern fringes of quality chase terrain. Nebraska is out of your stated range, but western Nebraska isn't great chase terrain anyway. But I love eastern Colorado, that's probably out of your desired range.
 
Now that I am retired, I have more flexibility about when to chase, though not unlimited (See other threads on chasing vs. life). Generally for me there are two categories - relatively local, one-day chases and longer, multi-day chases. For the one-day chases, I will usually have a limit of a 3 or 4 hour drive to the target, and a lower threshold for how good a setup needs to be - though to go the upper limits of that range, it needs to be a relatively better setup. Aside from that, I usually try to do two or three multi-day trips to the high plains each season, usually when I see what looks like a few consecutive decent chase days coming up. On these I will generally travel from our southern CO/northern NM home base to anywhere in eastern NM or CO, western KS, or the Panhandles, IF there is a decent multi-day setup where I can get more than one chase day. I like to pre-position the night before somewhere reasonably close to the next day's target, since from where we live it is a few hours drive just to really even get into the plains of eastern CO or NM. So I would say for multi-day trips, I will go for a target up to about 8 hours away for the first day, and maybe farther from home on subsequent days. I generally avoid the OKC area and prefer to stay west of I-35, both because of chase terrain and distance to return home. One area I have not had much luck yet is the Palmer Divide. Often the setups there are just for one-day, and that is about a 6-hour haul for me, a bit much for one day. So I have failed to pull the trigger on a few of the really good days, and when I have chased there I have tended to mess up. I have had better luck around the Raton Mesa, which also has the advantage for me of being closer.

Back when I lived in IL, I chased a lot there and some in MO, IA, AR, and IN, with occasional trips to the plains. Much of MO is less than ideal chase terrain, but they do get powerful storms there and there are some places with decent terrain, and there are parts of IL, IN, IA, and AR that are really pretty good chase terrain. Specifically regarding AR, much of the east-central part is pretty flat with not too many trees, although western and northern parts of AR are very hard to chase. Comparing the Midwest to the High Plains where I mostly chase now, I would say the biggest difference is that haze and low cloud bases often make storms in places like IL harder to see, even if the terrain is good. But they do get some good storms in that part of the country. I just find the chasing a little easier now that I usually chase in places like KS, NM, and CO. Although if the storms are in or near the mountains in CO and NM - and they sometimes are - that adds its own element of challenge.
 
Apr 2, 2018
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Missouri
I'll chase pretty much any marginal on the weekend out to the borders of MO and into IA, KS, and IA. But it has to be a daytime risk. Miss me with nocturnal events.
 
Mar 30, 2008
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Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
I don't really have chase 'boundaries' but I have some definite places I refuse to ever chase again. Here they are in no particular order

  • Southern Indiana. Screw the hoosier national forest and the roads around here. Atrocious
  • Southwest Wisconsin. Screw the roads, mountains, trees, etc. Its terrible.
  • Edmunds County, SD. Screw the sheriff
  • colorado on a day literally anything else is a target
  • Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River reservations. Scary places, especially with 10k worth of camera equipment
  • Northern arkansas/Southern Missouri - Terrain and roads are tough
  • Anything east of the Appalachians unless I am already there for some other reason
Otherwise, anything from the gulf to the praries of Alberta are in play with the right setup
 

James K

EF3
Mar 26, 2019
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Colorado
One area I have not had much luck yet is the Palmer Divide. Often the setups there are just for one-day, and that is about a 6-hour haul for me, a bit much for one day. So I have failed to pull the trigger on a few of the really good days, and when I have chased there I have tended to mess up. I have had better luck around the Raton Mesa, which also has the advantage for me of being closer.
I frequently see Palmer Divide mentioned in forecasts, its one of the places that I was considering it as an area where maybe I could go (I think it'd be around a 2-hour drive...what I am setting as my limit) ... but reading this, I'm guessing its actually not really a good spot? :lol:
Maybe somewhere a bit farther north - if the storms fire off Palmer, then head north-east..
 
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Jul 5, 2009
1,002
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
I frequently see Palmer Divide mentioned in forecasts, its one of the places that I was considering it as an area where maybe I could go (I think it'd be around a 2-hour drive...what I am setting as my limit) ... but reading this, I'm guessing its actually not really a good spot? :lol:
Maybe somewhere a bit farther north - if the storms fire off Palmer, then head north-east..
It's a great spot, I have had some great chases there. Not to put words in John's mouth, but I think he was just saying he has had bad luck there for whatever reason; every chaser has experiences like that, some place that for whatever reason just seems to never work out right for them and seems jinxed. And he also points out they tend to be one-day setups and not worth the long drive for that reason. I definitely wouldn't write off the Palmer Divide! And remember you always want to get on storms early, I have experienced many storms in Colorado that have great LP-ish structure early but turn HP or go into congeal into lines/clusters as they move northeast.
 
Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
Palmer has stellar storms, its just a tough place to actively chase with so few roads, particularly east west. Its very easy to get trapped down there as well. I tend to observe palmer on active days and let the storms come to me. Typically posted up somewhere within a couple miles of I70/36 between Watkins and Limon.

That being said, most of Eastern CO is similar, with typical paved options having 25 miles or more between them and not as many EW pavers as NS. Difference between E CO and Palmer is on Palmer you'll almost always have a hill blocking your view unless you know the good spots.
 
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Jun 28, 2007
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Machesney Park, IL
It's a great spot, I have had some great chases there. Not to put words in John's mouth, but I think he was just saying he has had bad luck there for whatever reason; every chaser has experiences like that, some place that for whatever reason just seems to never work out right for them and seems jinxed.
Iowa, absolutely Iowa. The storm either doesn’t tornado, does but I miss it, is the wrong storm or it doesn’t storm at all. Oh, it will when I blow off the set-up and sometimes magnificently but I don’t get frustrated because I tell myself I probably would have blown the chase for one reason or another. I came so close to chasing that event last week on the 19th but a last minute obligation kept me home so I watched it all on GR3 knowing I’d been there and done that so many times without a single tornado to show for it…and what do you know the same would have happened again, BUSTOLA! But this time I was relieved because I felt sure SN would go bonkers with mile-wide wedge reports…but alas, for all those chasers out there, right where I’ve been so many times, right where I would be if my plans hadn’t changed, sorry, no dice…it’s Iowa.

To keep this post on thread I’ll add that any Iowa set-up, however monumental, is not worth the trip…but I’ll probably go anyway.