Chase Season 2021 In Review

Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Flew back from the Plains yesterday, ending my chase vacation 4 or 5 days early due to the shutdown of severe activity. This seems to happen most years. I don’t mind sticking out a few down days between systems, but when there is nothing on the horizon during my remaining vacation, it’s time to just go home.

This is only going to reinforce the notion that, to a chase vacationer, the perception of a “season” is based solely on the success (or lack thereof) of a non-representative sample of the particular week or two spent on the Plains, but I have quite a favorable impression of 2021. In fact, I came home content and without a profound sense of frustration and disappointment for the first time in many years. This is more due to the number of terrible seasons, and my own mistakes, in recent years, as opposed to 2021 being so great. In 2013 there were plenty of opportunities in the last half of May, but I blew them all. 2014 and 2015 I recall being pretty bad, and in 2015 I came home kicking myself for missing Canadian even though my instinct told me I should have stayed there while passing through on my way up to southwest KS. 2016 was great with Dodge City but I still came home pissed off with myself for missing Chapman. 2017 we all know was awful. So was 2018, but I could have seen tornados on three straight days (Wyoming; Colorado landspout fest; Dodge City, on a day everyone was in northwest OK). 2019 featured more squandered opportunities. No chasing in 2020.

Which brings me to 2021. Out for 9 days, of which 7 were chase days (could have been 8 if I hadn’t chosen to sit out 5/29 rather than drive from Odessa to SE CO). So it was a proportionately active trip compared to many. Caught the Selden KS tornado on 5/24, which for me was a Top 3 tornado day and my closest intercept. There were a couple of bust days, including SW KS on 5/26. In many years, my chase vacation includes the one “alleged big day” that busts. 5/26 did verify in other locations though. In years when the *only* opportunity busts, it‘s extremely frustrating, but having gotten Selden lessened the importance of 5/26. Aside from Selden, I had 3 other days with supercells (CO 5/23, SW TX 5/28, Roswell 5/30) and I guess what may have technically been an embedded supercell on 5/31 in SW TX, no structure but a bad ass storm nonetheless.

Bottom line is, I came home content for the first time in years. As others have said, whether a chase vacationer or Plains resident, one day can make a season, and for me that was Selden. But I am also happy there were consistent bonafide chase opportunities throughout my trip. I had no major screw-ups to come home regretting or ruminating about - those are tough when you have to live with them a whole year (or longer) before you can redeem yourself. Not that I didn’t make any mistakes - my biggest one this year was not going for the northern target on 5/26. But I can live with that one, because it’s not like there was anything stupid about targeting SW KS. If that had been the only opportunity of the trip I’d be kicking myself - in many previous years, that had indeed been the case. But not this year. So 2021 I will always remember as a season that I finally found some contentment. And it was also the first year I had to chase entirely alone, which adds some greater satisfaction (although it was not as enjoyable, and influenced my decision to avoid certain drives, like on 5/29).
 

Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
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Figured I'd start a separate thread in reference to the 2021 chase season. Not over yet for many, but the Southern Plains season is winding down, if not over.

I'd give my season a 5 out of 10. Was on the "Son of Campo" event, although the main show was rain-wrapped. Chased almost every day, which was not bad, but little to show for it. Not a lot of "classic" image opportunities -- mostly low contrast, short-duration, squatty tornadoes. I believe the lack of slightly stronger 500mb winds, along with few/no substantial dryline pushes made for sloppy set-ups. There was also a lot of regurgitated cold pools lurking around which killed instability. I don't remember a year with so many cold inflow days. Anvil coverage from orthographically-lifted convection over NM and CO was also a limiting factor. It will be really interesting to see what happens next year, e.g., if this is a transition to a more active western region like the old days.

Regardless, it was fantastic to hang out with old friends after a year break and meet some new chasers along the way.

Now it's on to the duststorm / lightning season in the SW and the hurricane season.
 
Aug 9, 2012
491
1,058
21
Macomb, IL
stormoptics.smugmug.com
My chase season is far from over, but I've logged.6 tornado days this season and a plethora and supercell structure and great photography ops (including earlier this winter). This is my best storm chase season since 2018 (Pella, Dec 1st, Tescott, Few local days, etc). However it is also my worst local season that I can remember with almost no activity close to home (aside from 5/3 which was over an hour from home so I don't count it). In fact this year so far is the lowest number of SVR warnings that DVN has issued since 1986! Hopefully the summer can add a few more noteworthy events to the roster. I'm sure I will be revisiting this post in a few months! :)
 
Mar 30, 2008
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Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
I've had a couple stellar days (April 23 and May 24) and my share of hurdles this season. Hard to believe I've been doing this for 15 season now and we're in June. Still far from over for me as I head to Longmont next week for a week of work. Looks like I'll have some opportunities there as well.

I feel my forecasts were typically on point. I wasn't able to be where I wanted to be when I wanted to be there fully this year, the big day being May 26th.

I've been keeping my website up to date with my chases, photos, videos
 
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Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
I had some decent days each month:
March 12/13th = Texas Tornadoes by Lubbock then Happy
April 27th = Colorado Land spout fest by Kit Carson
May 29th = Kim Colorado and area tornadoes

And a few busts each month:
March 17th - MO/OK Bust
April 26th = Texas BUST
May 26th = Western Kansas when I should have gone to NE. Got the Colby LP structure at least.

I could not chase on a couple of the big days like 4/23 which really sucked. Overall the tornado count is WAY too low for as many miles I have driven (9500 miles in the last 35 days). I do look forward to chasing more in the northern plains this year and hopefully get the count closer to my goal of at least 30.
 

John Farley

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Apr 1, 2004
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Since I mostly chase on the southern Plains, I suspect my season is mostly over, although perhaps there will be some chances in Colorado yet in June and July. I would rate my season thus far as a little above average. I chased 8 days in May, of which 6 were planned chase days and the other two were encounters with storms on the return trip. I got clear-cut supercells on 6 of those days and borderline ones on the 7th, and on the other day an unusual higher-altitude storm that produced rain, snow, graupel, and hail, sometimes all at once, with lots of lightning and thunder. I got 3 tornadoes, one on May 15 in CO and two on May 26 in the far northern TX Panhandle. Have to agree with what Warren said about brief, low-contrast tornadoes, though. Two of my three were largely hidden by surrounding clouds for the majority of their short lives, to the point that I did not know either was a tornado at the time. But they both clearly were, one confirmed by video of ground circulation (from someone closer than I was) and the other by a damage path. In both cases, after careful review of video, I could pick out what I am pretty sure were the tornadoes, but they were not obvious. The other one, though, north of Waka, TX, was a gorgeous, high-contrast rope - only problem was it just lasted for a minute or two. Wish I had gotten to that storm sooner, as it had produced two earlier tornadoes before the two I saw, one of which apparently was quite photogenic, although all four were small and brief. Pretty much all of my active chasing was in CO, NM, and the TX Panhandle, though I did also get into KS and the OK Panhandle on the 26th before doubling back to TX for the storm in the far northern Panhandle.
 

Matt Hunt

EF3
Aug 2, 2009
249
101
11
Twin Falls, ID
It was an overall disappointing chasecation for me, with my biggest screw-up being leaving the Selden storm about 45 minutes before that tornado. I thought it had crossed the boundary and was done. But because of that, I stayed on the Kim, CO storm for HOURS as it did a whole lot of nothing, then finally produced. So at least I didn't come home empty handed, but that was the only tornado I saw (and it wasn't that great). For me, that's my worst chasecation ever. I last chased in 2019, when I had only 4 days available, and amazingly was able to chase all 4 days, scoring some spin-ups in Colorado, one from pretty close range in Fort Morgan, and then kinda sorta saw the Linwood, KS tornado that was heavily rain-wrapped. Still kicked myself that day for not staying further west, where a very photogenic tornado happened, just north of Hays, I believe.

What I learned from this year is how much patience I lack, and that I need to be more patient. It was a lack of patience that caused me to leave the Selden storm. Too quick to give up on that storm when it actually had a whole lot left in it. Also, like many others, wish I would've targeted SW Nebraska on 5/26. Part of my reasoning to not go up there was to be in better position for the following day, which turned out to be quite a dud, and I actually decided to sit that day out. So there's another lesson... pick the best target for TODAY, don't worry about tomorrow yet. Often the "day before the day" actually ends up being "the day."

2016 remains my best year by far, with Dodge City day being a huge part of that. I still missed plenty of tornadoes that year on days I sat out, too. But I'd say after this year, I'm motivated to up my knowledge, as I really haven't even attempted to learn more for the past several years. Definitely felt like I was severely lacking in knowledge out there this year.

I'm hopeful to have another opportunity or two up north, as I have a couple extended weekends off in June. Unfortunately looks like there won't be much this coming weekend. I was hoping for something in WY/MT, but it's looking like things won't really line up.
 

Dean Baron

Supporter
Sep 25, 2006
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Minneapolis, MN
It often makes me laugh when southern and central plains chasers start to say the chase season is over before our season in the northern plains even really begins. It's all relative to where you live. It has been very slow up here so far, except for the one random day in March. Hell, it snowed in central WI last week. Long range looks like there could be some opportunity but nothing jumps out at me in the near term. The benefit for us in the northern plains is we usually get some chase days all the way through August so while our season may not be overly active, at some point over the summer we will get a couple of decent setups even if typical chase season is a bust (i.e., 2020).
 
Jun 4, 2018
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Altus, OK
This year was my first year living on the plains. However, I might as well live elsewhere. Due to me being military, even local setups aren't possible for me to chase unless they conveniently fall on a weekend that also doesn't conflict with my kids' t-ball games or other family obligations. So this year I made the decision to take 2 weeks off to free up some more time. I was off from May 17th until Memorial Day. During that time, while still working around t-ball (which I promised to never miss a game), I only had 2 opportunities (sort of). The first was on 17 May. I have a brief write up in the Reports thread from that day, but to sum up, I borked it. I was indecisive in the heat of the moment, ended up on the northern, ugly side of a couple of supercells in NW TX, and missed the show out near Lubbock (which to be fair, my plan for the day was to stay east of Lubbock and let the storms come to me). The other opportunity was May 27th. The issue on this day was that both kids had t-ball games, that I was 99% sure would be cancelled, but the confirmation of that cancellation didn't come until almost 4pm. At that point it was too late for me to get from Altus to where any action was.

In hindsight, I think next year I may take off 3 weeks instead of 2 to try and off set days lost to family obligations. My last 2 chases (this year and back in 2019), my forecasts and plans have put me in positions to see these storms, but I 2nd guess and make changes and miss the action. I just need to learn to trust my gut and follow my own plan, rather than 2nd guessing and making changes on the fly in the heat of the chase. On the 17th had I stuck to my plan, and followed my gut instinct to get on the little cell I saw going up, I would have been in position to see some decent structure. While not my first tornado, it would have made me happy enough. Good luck to all the northern plains chasers, and here's hoping that maybe one or 2 weekend nuggets will get thrown my way.
 
Oct 10, 2004
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Madison, WI
MKX has yet to issue a severe thunderstorm OR tornado warning in 2021...nearby DVN is at record lows in those categories as well as @Ethan Schisler stated. Another abysmal year regionally. Had a decent stretch going from 2014 (that June was fairly active, although WI's relatively substantial tornado outbreak was at night, same day as Pilger) to '16 but those years I was trying to chase without a smartphone and thus without quick access to data and radar on the road, which contributed to my busts on the Pilger and Rochelle days.

The northern Plains and upper Midwest have essentially gone dead since except for some bizarre out-of-season days such as in 2/17 and 12/18.

My three-night (left Tuesday, got back Friday evening) road trip to the Plains last week was an immense bust, was on the Leoti/Elkader LP Wednesday which died, bailed for the Dodge City area storms which had some robust convection (mostly on the left split) but the right split likewise died just as I got close to getting in position on it. Targeted western OK on Thursday which was another massive fail.

Depressingly, it took the start of that trip (Tuesday night in central Iowa) to be just the second actual thunderstorm I've seen all year.
 

Dave C

EF2
Jun 5, 2013
128
187
11
Denver
www.davidcrowlphotography.com
Since abandoning traditional plains chase 'vacations' after my 2nd year of chasing (2013), I have always chased opportunities that look good and feel worth the drive rather than just pre planning a block of time. This uses minimal time off, often none since I can makeup time the same week, and saves a lot of gas, hotel, food, maintenance, miles, and frustration. I've been fortunate to be able to work remotely during chase season for several years, and can leave on short notice during WX season on a majority of days. As my forecasting abilities have improved, my success rate to see something I like (great structure, lightning, or a tornado) on days I choose to chase is pretty good lately.

This year is hopefuly far from over for me, and I often chase deliberately only for structure and lightning. I was very selective on what to chase so far, as so often long drives to TX or OK end up being low contrast messes with grungy tornadoes I could care less about in my past experiences, so I avoid weak shear, VBV, or meridional flow days of which there are too many lately. So due to (in my opinion) over performance (or my bad forecasting missing mesoscale subtleties that were not obvious :D) I missed out on the photogenic TX structure and tornado days. I had work and personal obligations that made the drive impractical (10 hours on too little sleep) but the choice to skip was still mine, and a bad one it seems.

Few enticing opportunities arose for me until late May. I had one initial local outing that saw nice mammatus and a couple landspouts in late April. In late May I saw some weak tornadoes and beautiful stormy skies in Colorado on 5/23. My only bust this year was 5/24 where I left late knowingly/foolishly and missed tornadoes by ~20 minutes. On 5/26, my season was made what I consider a success with a very good chase where I enjoyed photogenic structure and tornadoes in Benkelman, NE, though I could have been positioned better with earlier commitment on final target and not stopping for gas I didn't need. I am perplexed by how many better chasers than I busted in KS on that day though, as personally I thought that on the day of, NE panhandle and far norhtern KS became the obvious target based on surface observations. SW. KS and E. CO were both showing issues with either cloud cover, dewpoints or capping concerns and only still looked good in model land to me. Last weekend I saw the Campo rain wrapped tornado and some nice structure, but was guiding some friends not as comfortable getting close up on dirt, so didn't have the best view. So far, happy with the experiences vs. the expenditure (except 5/24 whch was a poor choice) but feel the offerings were numerically few and scattered. I'll be hoping for some central and northern plains slight risks, and if the monsoon starts off well, I may take a week in the southwest to camp and see lightning.
 
Jan 7, 2006
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USA
www.skyinmotion.com
This has been the oddest YTD I've experienced, by a mile. Once again, the large scale pattern over the continent has been trash for the great majority of the spring. Yet, a bunch of very flawed setups have delivered results -- sometimes rather astounding ones, at that. I've had a few good days and missed or busted on some the others, which is still emphatically better than I would've predicted had you shown me a loop of daily 00z 500 mb heights for April-May in advance.

The oddest part has been the emotional roller coaster, both on the seasonal and day-to-day scale. Almost continuously horrifying medium range guidance; near-record MJO magnitude and aggressive S2S signals/teleconnections that never quite panned out; an incredibly anemic cutoff low delivering some shockingly good supercell and tornado days; and, of course, a handful of classic-looking High Plains setups that could've really cemented May 2021 as a legitimately memorable month, but largely bombed.

On all three of my tornado days this spring, I've been nonchalant, annoyed, fatigued, and even starting to think about what I should grab for dinner an hour before the show started. Surprises like that are awesome in moderation, but at a certain point also deprive you of the build up and excitement that clearly favorable setups provide. The most shocking day to me, the Sudan/Earth storm on 5/16, really drove this home: what happened was almost so surreal that I found myself unable to switch gears into hype mode even as it happened before my eyes, if that makes any sense! I've experienced that occasionally in the past, but there's something especially weird when it's in the midst of such a ho-hum pattern, years removed from the last successful "hype" setup I can even remember.

Of course, none of this is really to complain about my personal fortunes. But from a broader perspective on the season's quality for chasers at large, there's plenty of gloom to go around. Anymore, it seems, it's simply impossible to succeed if you're even remotely selective. Solid looking setups from >24 hours out have been in short supply, and once again, all have fallen short of expectations. Personally, I consider the 5/26 debacle in W KS one of the biggest gut punches I can recall; on par with or even worse than 5/20/19, since it was in the ultimate flat, unpopulated promised land, where nothing truly obvious and targetable has happened since 2008. Both that day and the preceding Sunday in CO (5/23), while not evident outbreaks or textbook in every possible facet, at least looked like legitimately exciting opportunities for days in advance. I wouldn't blame anyone for having chosen only those two days to commit to if they had significant financial or other constraints. Likewise, it would be absurd to accuse people who willingly sat out days like 5/16 or even 4/23 of being unreasonably snobby, unless they lived very close.

I think all this continues to be reflected in how the chasing community is evolving. There's something of a bifurcation between tour operators, chasecationers, the independently wealthy, and hardcore addicts on the one hand, and more casual to moderately committed chasers of eras past on the other. For the latter group, chasing is probably nothing but a source of grief these days, leading to burnout, sniping on social media, and even people just losing interest in the hobby entirely. I don't think I can remember a really obvious Plains setup that panned out roughly as expected since 6/12/17, and the last one I can remember chasing personally was Pilger... maybe even El Reno 2013, if you stipulate it needed to look obviously good from days out. The crucial point is that you could afford to be moderately selective in some past eras, but you haven't been able to afford that at all for most of the past 8 years. The ramifications of this vary so much by your specific situation, though. For me, I'm a big enough addict that I've acclimated to chasing way too much and accepting a low success rate/return on monetary investment. But that doesn't mean it's fun. I'm tired of lowering what few standards I have to make sure I catch something like Sudan 5/16, all because one look at the GEFS invariably tells me the alternative is sitting at home through most of the peak season. We're living through an extended era of scarcity, and for almost everyone besides fixed chasecationers who luck out on their timing, that scarcity exerts various pressures, annoyances, and frustrations that make chasing less fun than it otherwise might be.
 
May 28, 2011
77
145
11
Omaha, NE
Welp, based on mid to long range guidance this year appears to be pretty much in the books...seemingly over before it started. Only two chase days, both effectively busts in western KS, with the added nut-kick of warm front tornadoes going nuts 30 miles from where you sat watching towers die. I suppose this beats last year with one chase and one bust though. Once again, the horrific nature of the chasing for those of us that have to be selective on our chase dates cannot be overstated. Brett R was much more eloquent above than I could ever be, and I feel we're pretty much in lock-step on our thoughts. Being from Omaha, I'm close enough to the alley to make day trips on chase days but far enough away from virtually every single setup to need to be selective on them. The last several years have produced nearly zero days that are obvious chase days (especially ones that actually pan out) but there have been several of them that ended up overperforming by a large margin. To compound this, the area within about a five to six hour radius of me has been a virtual dead zone for anything even resembling a chaseable setup, as north Texas and the Texas panhandle seem to get 90% of the traffic.

The toll this is taking is starting to get to me. Every year feels like a failure on two fronts. One, the lack of anything resembling normal large-scale spring weather patterns immediately sets up a depressing mindset as you watch months go by with ever more increasingly creative failure modes. I can't do anything about this. But two, every decision on whether or not to chase feels like a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't choice. The (very few) days I decide to chase usually have a correct or at least reasonable forecast that offers up the best chance for severe weather and tornadoes. However, these types of days typically have absurd crowds and wide storm coverage with ever more messy storm modes with stronger forcing. It's been years since I've seen a nice lone supercell. The days that I decide not to chase typically end up overperforming and locals and the people who can take days off at a time and chase every setup usually end up with incredible years.

When I started chasing in '11 and for several years afterward, I was able to get in 15 to 20 chases a year, without being much less selective than I am now. As you've seen from above, I'm averaging two to three days a year for the last several years. I have plenty of other hobbies besides chasing so it's not like my self worth is wrapped up in this like so many other people, but damn if it doesn't feel like a failure from the first time the calendar hits April til the day we flip to July every single year.

"We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place among the supercells. Now we just look down, and worry about our place on the couch." Matthew McConaughey, probably
 

Paul Bird

EF0
Aug 24, 2016
38
63
6
Xenia Oh
Had a great trip, with 8 tornadoes from the 22nd and 24th. Was able to make the Brush Colorado Rope and then the Brewster Kansas to Seldon sequence of tornadoes. I can see how this season was frustrating for a lot of people who missed the big days; but this year opportunities were there and it simply came down to whether you were able to capitalize on them. Being within 50 yards of the Seldon tornado was an experience I will never forget. It was nice to see tornadoes on the plains again.

288 tornado reports for the month of May bringing the total to just above average. They were challenging forecast days and were easy to miss as most were not the obvious target. Its too soon to write off June either as some are already doing. Latest model guidance shows potential next week which is also reflected in the spc long range discussion.

My dates were the 20th to the 27th and had chases 6 out of the 7. The days in-between my tornado days had plenty of structure so the only true disappointment for me was the 26th. The season for me is a solid B+
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,255
1,205
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
On all three of my tornado days this spring, I've been nonchalant, annoyed, fatigued, and even starting to think about what I should grab for dinner an hour before the show started. Surprises like that are awesome in moderation, but at a certain point also deprive you of the build up and excitement that clearly favorable setups provide. The most shocking day to me, the Sudan/Earth storm on 5/16, really drove this home: what happened was almost so surreal that I found myself unable to switch gears into hype mode even as it happened before my eyes, if that makes any sense! I've experienced that occasionally in the past, but there's something especially weird when it's in the midst of such a ho-hum pattern, years removed from the last successful "hype" setup I can even remember.
@Brett Roberts I always enjoy your well-written and thoughtful posts, and the above paragraph is particularly insightful. I never really thought about it before, but you are exactly right. I have experienced that same feeling myself. Even seeing a tornado, there is a much longer period of enjoyment from anticipation when the parameter space is likely to produce, versus the ”surprise” of a tornado after following a storm that doesn’t have a lot of structure or a ton of apparent potential, stayed with solely because of a sense of obligation or fear of leaving it, while never really expecting it to do anything. Of course the time spent watching the tornado itself is equally mesmerizing in either scenario, and perhaps the latter situation is ultimately more of a satisfying accomplishment for having stuck it out on a marginal day, but I am no stranger to the feeling of thinking about dinner and wishing I wasn’t obligated to follow a storm for another three hours of daylight!


I think all this continues to be reflected in how the chasing community is evolving. There's something of a bifurcation between tour operators, chasecationers, the independently wealthy, and hardcore addicts on the one hand, and more casual to moderately committed chasers of eras past on the other. For the latter group, chasing is probably nothing but a source of grief these days, leading to burnout, sniping on social media, and even people just losing interest in the hobby entirely. I don't think I can remember a really obvious Plains setup that panned out roughly as expected since 6/12/17, and the last one I can remember chasing personally was Pilger... maybe even El Reno 2013, if you stipulate it needed to look obviously good from days out. The crucial point is that you could afford to be moderately selective in some past eras, but you haven't been able to afford that at all for most of the past 8 years. The ramifications of this vary so much by your specific situation, though. For me, I'm a big enough addict that I've acclimated to chasing way too much and accepting a low success rate/return on monetary investment. But that doesn't mean it's fun. I'm tired of lowering what few standards I have to make sure I catch something like Sudan 5/16, all because one look at the GEFS invariably tells me the alternative is sitting at home through most of the peak season. We're living through an extended era of scarcity, and for almost everyone besides fixed chasecationers who luck out on their timing, that scarcity exerts various pressures, annoyances, and frustrations that make chasing less fun than it otherwise might be.
Kind of ironic because here I always thought the local Plains chasers had the advantage. I do see what you are saying and can appreciate that perspective. But for chase vacationers it’s a double-edged sword. True, we have that week or two to chase “everything.” But we can just as easily come up completely empty; some years even marginal days do not present themselves. This week is a case in point, hence my foregoing the second week of my scheduled trip. There have been countless years that I came home with no good chase days, wasting time and money, only to see a big day in Nebraska, Wyoming or South Dakota two days after I got home. At least Plains chasers are in a better position to catch the “big” days if and when they do come, or the “better” marginal days. Also, I think within the group of chase vacationers there are both “hardcore addicts” as well as “more moderately committed” chasers. I actually consider myself in the latter group. I am not one to go all over the place, from Kansas to South Dakota for one day and back to Kansas etc. Even this year, I passed on SE CO on 5/29 because I didn’t consider it worth the drive from Odessa.

The (very few) days I decide to chase usually have a correct or at least reasonable forecast that offers up the best chance for severe weather and tornadoes. However, these types of days typically have absurd crowds and wide storm coverage with ever more messy storm modes with stronger forcing. It's been years since I've seen a nice lone supercell. The days that I decide not to chase typically end up overperforming and locals and the people who can take days off at a time and chase every setup usually end up with incredible years.
But isn’t this almost always the case? The higher-end days are always going to draw the bigger crowds, and have the potential for more storms and therefore storm interference that impacts storm mode. To me it seems the best chance of a “nice lone supercell” would be on exactly the type of marginal day that one might be inclined to pass on...
 
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May 28, 2011
77
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Omaha, NE
But isn’t this almost always the case? The higher-end days are always going to draw the bigger crowds, and have the potential for more storms and therefore storm interference that impacts storm mode. To me it seems the best chance of a “nice lone supercell” would be on exactly the type of marginal day that one might be inclined to pass on...
True, but the risk/reward of chasing a single marginal day hours away is just too great to justify the vast majority of the time. Therein lies the problem for those that need to be selective during poor years.
 
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John Farley

Supporter
Apr 1, 2004
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I know it has been a pretty iffy year for a lot of chasers, as have most years (at best) recently. Still, it kind of startles me when I hear people say things like "It's been years since I've seen a nice lone supercell." I was lucky enough to see those on several days in May this month, but when I saw this map in the "State of the Chase Season" thread, I began to understand a little better why my experiences this year have differed at least somewhat from those of some others:

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Living in the Southwest, I am mostly a southern plains chaser, and all of my chases have been in areas that are blue on this map, in the Pueblo, Albuquerque, Amarillo, and Lubbock CWAs. And as I said in my previous post, I would rate this season as slightly above average for me - not great, but apparently better than the experience of some others. Although one thing I would note about this map, as I understand it, is that in each CWA it is comparing this year to other years in the same CWA. So that does not mean in an absolute sense that these areas have been more active than others, just that they have been more active relative to past years in the same CWA. That said, there were a lot of marginal days that produced SOMEWHERE in May in each of these CWAs, though it was often far from obvious where they would produce on any given day. Still, if you chased quite a bit in these areas, there is a decent chance that you did OK. I suppose one other thing that helps is that I am retired and to some extent have the freedom to go when the setup looks good - although there were plenty of days when I did not or could not chase that produced pretty well somewhere.

On a slightly different note, but still relevant to this thread, I have now completed chase logs for all the days I have chased so far this year, all in May. You can access any or all of my logs for this season at www.johnefarley.com/svrwx2021.htm
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Good point about the context of the map @John Farley , i.e. that it represents only comparisons/trends within each individual CWA. Admittedly just anecdotal, but I can remember many consecutive years that I did NOT chase in southwest TX or in NM, so this year did indeed seem more active in those areas. As you said, this does not necessarily mean they were more active in absolute terms compared to other CWAs. I will also add another dimension to that - even within the blue CWAs the 2021 activity might not have been that great in absolute terms, but only represents an improvement relative to a pretty low baseline of activity in the previous years.
 
Mar 6, 2019
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I had a great chase vacation personally. It could be that I was just overly positive based on not leaving Arizona at all for storms last year and a super dud of a monsoon season back at home. I was out for 2 weeks and only had 2 down days.

Because of last year I chased everything this year and had a lot of sleepless nights to position for the next day.

I did have some judgment errors and missed the storm of the day several times but I was just so happy to see thunderstorms, I never really felt my normal regret even when I put in a ton of miles and effort for a wimpy set up that barely produced hail.

The absolute highlight was my first day out. I left the Phoenix area around midnight and rushed to S/E Colorado for a marginal set up on May 2nd. I drove all night for a 2% hatch and arrived just as the storm went severe, it produced a tornado around Wiley that I was able to photo document and the set up was so bad, I only saw 1 other chaser the whole day!

I’ve only been at it on my own since 2015 but, this was my least stressful and most fun season to date.
 

Jeff Duda

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I think all this continues to be reflected in how the chasing community is evolving. There's something of a bifurcation between tour operators, chasecationers, the independently wealthy, and hardcore addicts on the one hand, and more casual to moderately committed chasers of eras past on the other. For the latter group, chasing is probably nothing but a source of grief these days, leading to burnout, sniping on social media, and even people just losing interest in the hobby entirely.
Yep, this is now me in every sense.

I have gone on three chases this year, and none of them produced much worth writing home about. Shit, on 5/26 I turned around after crossing into Kit Carson County on I-70 after seeing WoFS shit on the entirety of the W KS setup. Less than 30 minutes later the Brinkelman, NE storm had fired, but I was already 30 extra minutes out of position. I would have had to have driven excessively illegally to catch the end of that cycle of tornadoes.

And I'm sooooooooooo beyond sick of being in that position.

I have not had a clearly-tornado-seen chase since Memorial Day 2018, and I have chased fewer times since that day than any other period in my chasing career. I think since then I have 9 total chases, because, as Brett said, the models almost never depict a setup worth heading out for more than a day in advance, and the number of times CAMs have shit on previously-good-looking setups the day of is enough to make me want to quit.

And, in fact, that's mostly what I contemplate anymore. My life was different when I was still a student and lived in Iowa or Oklahoma; I was closer to the action, had fewer responsibilities, and more free time, and I hadn't seen as much. Today, I'm closer to 40 than 30, divorced, unable to land a long-term relationship (which has become a top-three focus of my life), and I have begun pivoting over to other hobbies that are far more reliable and have a similar level of reward and enjoyment. Those include hiking, cycling, exploring National Parks, reading, and music. The worst feeling I have anymore are those days where it's 4 PM and I already know I've busted, but am 200 miles away from home (and did not plan for, nor cannot, stop nearby and get a hotel for the day). It's such a demoralizing feeling to know you just wasted at least 6 hours of your time, including PTO, gas money, and whatever else you didn't get to do as a result of wasting your time driving.

Storm chasing has absolutely sucked shit on the Plains since 2018. Those of you who were not chasing before 2018 have no idea how crazy awesome setups used to be. You could wake up at 9 AM and make a dryline target 300 miles away without hardly missing anything. You could chase 3 separate tornado producing supercells on the same day in close proximity to each other. You could see nearly 10 legit tornadoes (not counting satellites and landspouts). Those days have all but disappeared during the classic spring Plains chase season. That shit has only happened in Minnesota or in February anymore.

If this is the new pattern for spring chasing, consider me no longer a storm chaser. I get that chasing was never easy (even in 2010-2013, it never was), but these last few years have been beyond ridiculous and not worth the effort I have put into it lately. Should the events of the 2000s and early 2010s and their associated synoptic patterns ever return, I'll come back out. But don't expect to see me out on the roads much until then.
 
Oct 10, 2004
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Well in all fairness, post-2018 is only a three-year sample size, and 2019 had a pretty active stretch in May although it wasn't necessarily easy or quality chasing. I myself would include 2018 (and 2017) among those lean years, lacking any really synoptically predictable tornado events in the Plains (that didn't bust, like the May 2017 high risk) other than the Tescott day in 2018.
 
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Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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It would be interesting to go back and evaluate long-range model accuracy for this odd season. Glancing through the posts in this thread, several of the long range predictions were in error. I'm still waiting for the "amazing" season Accu-wx predicted. Maybe they were talking about the monsoon? lol
 
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I have a somewhat rosier look on this season than others, but my bar has always been pretty low. I started chasing in 2012, and with the exception of 2020, I've chased every year since. I don't believe I've ever been on the storm or tornado "of the year/season" due to not living in the Plains and being restricted by work or, for several years, school. Given how frustrating 2019 was and that 2020 was non-existent for me, my bar may have been set a little lower this year, but I feel that my view of this season comes from a more probabilistic mindset when it comes to forecasting and chasing. Additionally, I've gotten more into photography, so I'm happy just seeing a well-composed, beautiful scene and don't need the "THE MOST [ADJECTIVE] [ADJECTIVE] [ADJECTIVE] STORM/TORNADO EVER" to consider a chase a success. I saw a couple of tornadoes, a couple of good storms, new places, and in general experienced new things, so I'm content with my spring 2021.

Through my 11 day period (May 18 - May28) out in the Plains, it seems like the most of the storms of the day were low-probability, high-reward targets that even in hindsight, I'm not sure if I would have gone after. And I'd argue that the "high-reward" mostly comes from seeing something almost completely by yourself while nearly everyone else is on the main target a couple hundred miles away. I've chased plenty of setups like that before and ended up with a blue sky or complete crap of a storm while the main target verifies nicely. While I understand they're low-probability so they're not going to verify often, it's just not worth it to me to go after anymore.

I'm fairly happy with the targets I picked, with the exception being May 26. The environment was definitely conducive in SW/W Kansas where I sat most of the day, but from what I recall, the CAMs were more consistent with convection in the TX Panhandle and along the KS/NE border in the days leading up, and then central KS the morning of...all locations that experienced supercells and tornadoes that day. I was able to salvage the day by heading north and catching some structure as the sun set, but it was a frustrating day that I started dreading when I woke up. The bigger the hype, the harder the fall.

While not living in the Plains greatly limits chasing potential, and putting all your eggs in one basket by picking a week or two each year can be risky, I do like the idea of making the trip and basically being "forced" to chase. I'm not going to drive 12 hours from home to chase a marginal setup in CO, but if I'm already out in the Plains, then why not. I've gotten some great storms on marginal setups. With that logic and that this year was a bit of a redemption after the last couple crappy years, I'll give 2022 a spin.
 

Dean Baron

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Sep 25, 2006
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whatever else you didn't get to do as a result of wasting your time driving.
This is the thing I end up focusing on the most when I know I've busted. The money and PTO suck but it's not the end of the world to me. The bigger issue is thinking about what I could have done with my time instead of driving many hours away just to essentially turn around and drive home. It wasn't as big of a deal when I was 19-21 and had extra time to burn but now that I have been working full time for almost a decade my spare time means much more to me. I've also been in an MBA program the last few years so my spare time has been extremely limited. To waste that time on a bust hurts way more than the financial or PTO cost does.
 

Jeff Duda

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Here's an example:


I seem to recall 2005 was regarded as a pretty bad year for chasing, and yet this happened in June. In good years during that stretch, a day like this would be relegated to the "honorable mentions" section of someone's year-end highlight reel.

Had something like this happened in 2021 (May 26th was close, but not the same), you'd have people with this facial expression the entire time they were typing their REPORTS thread post:
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