Chase Staycation 2022

Jun 4, 2018
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Altus, OK
Despite living in Altus, OK, my chasing typically has to be done more like how chasecationers do it, due to my job in the Air Force preventing me from short notice (as in less than 2 weeks of lead time) chasing. Last year I went with the last two weeks of May, and I ended up with only 3 days I would have chased. Two of those days I had obligations with respect to my kids' t-ball games. The third day I biffed it. Last year when I asked this question, the conventional wisdom was applied, and the back half of May into the first half of June were recommended as my best bets. As we know, the last few years have been a bit odd with regards to the more conventional chase season in the southern Plains. This year I am here to ask those more knowledgeable than myself, has the conventional wisdom shifted? If I only have 3 weeks to take off should I still stick with end of May into early June, or move a little earlier or a little later? Are other chasecationers planning to adjust their weeks off to increase their chances? Thanks for any insight!
 

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
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Menominee, MI
I don’t know about being more knowledgeable, but I think you have to stick to the top of the bell curve. By only having a two week window makes it overwhelmingly likely that you‘ll miss the ”chase of the year”. Even if you pick the two weeks with statistically the most tornadoes, you’re still having 14 days to compete with the rest of the year.
Being in your shoes, I’d try not to worry about the chases you miss and just enjoy the ones you do get. Going with the same time frame as before will give you more chases overall I believe.
If you changed this year and all the action was when you weren’t on vacation, that might be enough for you to lose your mind!😀
 

adlyons

EF2
Feb 16, 2014
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Norman, Oklahoma
I agree with Todd, the best bet every year is to just "play the odds". Despite all the recent strides, seasonal forecasting really is just a guess. ENSO and the other teleconnections only account for about 20-30% of the variance in tornado reports across the CONUS. There's also a very noisy signal when things get into April and May which confuses things further. So really following climo is the best bet until we develop the tools to make longer-range predictions with something resembling accuracy.

For what its worth, the current teleconnections hint at a transition from La nina to El nino. These years have historically been active in the midwest and southeast early (Feb-March) and east of the I35 corridor though there have been larger outbreaks well west. Its just difficult to know at this point how the year will shape up.
 
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Jun 4, 2018
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Altus, OK
I appreciate the replies so far! As of now, I have blocked off 14 May through 5 June as my 3 weeks for this year. As long as I don't shift anything around too much, I won't need the exact dates set in stone until the beginning of May. Hoping for some better luck this year for sure!
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
I agree with the above posts from @Todd Lemery and @adlyons. The last two weeks of May and the first week of June is still the best window. I can usually only chase for two weeks, not three, but I like to reserve that full three week window. I start with the assumption that I will use the first and second weeks (i.e., last two weeks of May), but if the first week of the three does not look good, I use the second and third weeks instead (last week of May, first week of June). This means that, no matter what, I will be out the second week of the three week window, which is the last week of May. If I could one chase only one week, that is probably the week I would pick.

When I talk about these weeks, it is usually weekend to weekend, so they are not exact. For example, what I call the last week of May could end up being the week that ends on Saturday June 2.

If I could chase two weeks, but lacked the flexibility within the larger window that I just described, I generally like being out the weeks on either side of Memorial Day. Depends how the calendar falls with the weekends and all. If I end up back home on or before May 31, I always feel like it’s too early. It feels right going a few days into June, but I‘m happy with just a few days, up until around June 4 or 5.

I know some chasers like that second week of June, or even prefer June vs May overall, but that seems boom or bust to me. Maybe a good event or two - sometimes quite memorable - or the season has pretty much shut down with a summer pattern. Even if I had a fourth week available, I would probably instead tack it onto the front of my usual window and add the extra week in May (i.e., second week of May), and not use it for a second week of June. Many will disagree.

We are all subject to the biases of our own experience, and sometimes make these decisions based on our own prior experience, rather than climatology and statistical probability, especially when deciding between individual weeks that are statistically similar. But I think it’s pretty safe to say objectively that late May / early June is best.

It is an annual pastime to think about the “ideal” chase period and endlessly debate it with myself and others, especially when working around other (personal, professional, family) constraints. I was once told I practically need an algorithm to figure out when to chase, with all the variables I usually have each year… Expanding on what Todd said, as chase vacationers it is way too easy to lose your mind when you pick the wrong week(s). It is especially infuriating when you pick a down period, but there is a big event immediately before or immediately after your chase vacation. No matter what is “normal,” anything can happen in a given year. As Todd said, it’s a bell curve; there’s a normal distribution and not every year is at the top of the curve. Unless you can chase the entire season, you just have to accept that you are going to miss some (most?) events and try not to worry about it. I often wonder if I should even bother looking at what’s going on before and after my vacation, so I don’t torture myself. But before I head out, I need the forecasting and nowcasting practice, and after I get back I have trouble getting out of chase mode…