Chaser convergence- getting even worse.

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Aug 19, 2005
238
48
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Atlanta, GA
The Tulia area tornado day was an absolute zoo, and that was on a day where a fair number of folks were still farther north. An endless line up of cars, at one point the speed in the line escaping the hail etc was 35-40mph. If you dared to stop and take a photo getting back on the road again was almost impossible. I dread the day when it is a weekend in OK where there is only one target storm- maybe this Sat-Sun? I am actually thinking of not going out of choosing a less obvious target- besides where is the fun in seeing a tornado that hundreds of others also witness? My general plan in these situations if I do chase them is to hang back farther away and get my structure pics, since most chasers these days are obsessed with getting as close as possible to the tornado. Can't wait for WY/MT in June.
 

Mark Blue

Staff member
Supporter
Feb 19, 2007
2,793
325
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Colorado
I noticed SN was red dot city throughout the TX panhandle the other evening. I thought to myself that it’s getting dangerous to be on the roads with so many others chasing these days. I can’t imagine gridlock with nowhere to go and a tornado bearing down on a whole line of cars. We’ve somehow created our own tragedy that’s primed and ready to happen. How do we undo this mess we’ve created?
 
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Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
2,475
2,132
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St. Louis
stormhighway.com
Again, this was a situation where there was ONE road available through the Palo Duro Canyon and only one clear target storm at that point in the day. When you have even 100 people all forced onto a single bottleneck like that, there will be a line of cars. Was there a problem at any other point during the day? No. It was just where there was a road bottleneck.
 
Mar 8, 2016
174
251
11
Bloomington, IL
That canyon has always been quite the bottleneck too. First thing I look at whenever targeting out in the panhandle is how likely I'd be to stay to either side of it, and then I generally commit to one or the other regardless of how good things look on the other side. I remember especially in 2016 quite a few people got stranded by flooding in that area too.
 

Mark Blue

Staff member
Supporter
Feb 19, 2007
2,793
325
21
Colorado
What I saw on RS was a lot of red dots on every storm in the panhandle. Hereford is a long way from the canyon road and there were chasers all over a storm that went up in that general area. It’s just getting crazy to chase in those convergence zones nowadays. Glad I’m safe at home waiting for upslope season to start.
 
Mar 8, 2016
174
251
11
Bloomington, IL
What I saw at least on that particular day was many chasers played north initially and then bailed south to Tulia once it became apparent that the north target was growing upscale too quickly, and became bottlenecked on their way south through the canyon to get out ahead of the Tulia storm.
 
Jun 16, 2015
449
990
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32
Oklahoma City, OK
quincyvagell.com
The combination of chaser convergence and poor behavior on the roads was, by far, the worst I’ve experienced in my chase career on May 7th, 2019. It reached a peak around Vigo Park, but it was bad before and especially after that too.

On most chases, I may encounter just one or two cases of reckless chaser driving/parking, but it happened over and over this time. A couple of hours after Tulia, I came up to a T-intersection and there were two chaser SUVs just parked at a stop sign, side-by-side, sitting there. This was blocking the right lane and the middle of the road. There was no severe storm nearby, so no danger, and there were no hazard lights on or other signs of car trouble. I know they were chasers due to Skywarn stickers.

Also after Tulia, on the long stretch of bumper to bumper chase traffic, one vehicle pulled out onto the road in front of me when there was no clear opening and luckily I had slowed down immediately as I saw them pull out (no right of way), because with wet conditions, if I hadn’t acted fast, we would have collided.

There was another case on a narrow road with a speed limit of 70 that a chaser was driving erratically, between 30 and 50 MPH, swerving and slowing down. I understand that they were probably trying to find a spot to pull over, but put on a blinker or let other vehicles pass or something. I refuse to pass vehicles in a no passing zone, on a narrow road, unless they’re pulling over or signaling to let me go. Luckily it only lasted a few minutes, but it started to create a line of traffic behind me too.

This is an increasingly common issue, but I also encountered chasers with tripods on paved road surfaces, within the driving lanes, not on the shoulder. If you have an SUV, it’s not going to hurt you to pull off the road slightly. Most chasers do this, but for whatever reason, some do not follow safe rules of the road.

I’ve never had too many major issues with light bars, but I saw at least two or three trucks with light bars that were so bright that they literally caused a distraction on the road. In my opinion, these aren’t necessary and may not even be legal, but I’m not positive about that last part for sure.

Well after Tulia and even after Howardwick, I bailed south to get away from the mess and even though most chasers (based on SN) were going north or east, I hit an essential traffic jam getting over to Silverton and Antelope Flats. The speed limit was 70 through most of that stretch, but we were averaging about 50 in relatively dry/safe road conditions.

The canyons exasperate the issue, especially due to limited road networks and poor cell reception is probably a factor too (access to radar and GPS). The presence of muddy roads was another limiting factor, as I refused to spend any length of time on dirt roads that were wet. With all of the rain the Plains has experienced this season, dirt roads are going to be less of an option than they’ve been in recent chase seasons.

This makes it harder to stay on back roads and avoid the traffic jams on main thoroughfares. This should relax a bit, once chase targets move north into Kansas more consistently. I will do my best to take side roads and sometimes just avoid the main target at all costs. It’s not worth the risk of an accident, plus I’d rather be able to take photos and videos without a ton of vehicles and light bars taking up the shot.
 
Jun 16, 2015
449
990
21
32
Oklahoma City, OK
quincyvagell.com
What I saw at least on that particular day was many chasers played north initially and then bailed south to Tulia once it became apparent that the north target was growing upscale too quickly, and became bottlenecked on their way south through the canyon to get out ahead of the Tulia storm.
This is true. It’s good to think and plan ahead. Be strategic about chase targets. I don’t want to waste time on lesser storms or get caught in traffic jams.

This is especially the case when you know there aren’t many “escape” routes and I knew that I was going to lose cell service in the canyons. That leaves no room for error with respect to radar access. That limits your ability to watch storms evolve. I’ll try to jump on a storm in that case with a “no looking back” mentality.

I wouldn’t want to have to cut south in front of a potentially tornadic, HP supercell, with only one paved road and few, if any other ways to bail out in case things get bad.

I got to Tulia around 5 p.m., so I avoided the southbound bottleneck, but once storm reached the Vigo Park area, there were bottlenecks in most directions.
 
Jun 1, 2008
469
363
11
Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
I agree the Canyon played a role. Compounding it was the last minute mass target/cell switch. A string of pearls on a DL or WF/DL combo would ease the single target problem; and, Nature may provide that a few times in the coming weeks.

I'm a big fan of hanging back for several reasons. First is safety. I'm not talking Captain Obvious the storm, but more about other drivers. Second the structure shots are so amazing back a little bit. I've had my fun up close, but now I like to chill a bit. Finally, dinner: last into the storm is first out, and first to get seated.

Finally I prefer a true pull-off cattle gate over just the shoulder. I try to back in on one side, such that another chaser can share the spot.
 
May 18, 2013
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We had been tracking this cell from the beginning, and I was shocked about the number of folks that either core punched from the north or drove from the east thru the wet RFD in the Vigo Park area. We where driving north in the right flank with only a few other chasers when we came to a road that was packed with east bound chasers desperately trying to get east. One by one they would appear out of the wet RFD. They where not letting anyone in. I had 3 vehicles in front of me and the first one was either too busy taking pics or too scared to pull out in traffic (or both). After getting hit by the RFD, the 2 vehicles in front of me and us managed to get around the first car. I've always thought chaser converanage was just another inconvenience we deal will, but this taugh me that it could have been life theating (i.e. if the cell had made a right turn and if it really was tornadic). My lesson learned - it can go from no crowd to dangerously crowed very quickly and you really need to give the storm more space on days like Tuesday was. After exciting the masses, we passed Daniel Shaw who would latter document some of the chaser convergance.

 
Feb 22, 2010
11
6
1
Almost smacked into a guy that decided to flip a U-turn in the middle of a highway directly in front of me in torrential rainfall near Tulia. Had to completely lock it up and narrowly avoided smashing directly into him. Don't kid yourself though by calling these people chasers. They are morons, nothing more. Anybody who I consider an actual "chaser" has enough respect for their own lives and the lives of other around them to be safe. I've been out chasing for almost 25 years now, and it simply gets worse ever single year. People parked on highways, standing in the middle of the damn road taking pictures because the ditch is muddy, trying to pass 3-4 cars at a time on narrow highways like they are the only ones out on the road interested in seeing a storm, etc etc. It's only a matter of time before LEOs crack down and put a stop to the idiocy. Frankly, they have better things to be doing with their time when trying to keep the public safe in severe weather scenarios. And sadly, when that day does come, they're not going to care how long you been doing it, how safe you are, whether you have a degree in meteorology, or how much you love chasing severe weather. Everyone will be lumped together, good and bad.

Speaking for myself here, and I expect others will not agree, but I personally will get physical with the next dumbass that puts my life in danger. I'm not going to have stupidity and utter disregard for safety ruin one of my favorite things to do in this world, because some asshole values an adrenaline rush over the lives of those around them. I hate even typing that, but I'll stand behind it completely, regardless of the legal implications that will undoubtedly be caused if that happens.

I am fully aware that nobody has exclusivity to mother nature, and there are a multitude of reasons why each individual chooses to go out.
The commercialization of chasing, and the appetite for adrenaline porn, has also come hand in hand with an erosion of common sense. The worst thing for me now is having a 5 year old of my own who is as absolutely smitten with weather as I am. I really struggle with how to share our mutual love for the weather. Given how extremely dangerous it is becoming due to the carelessness of increasing numbers of people, I don't honestly know how to proceed.
 
May 22, 2007
132
40
6
Mesa Arizona
I have to agree with Matthew. If a storm is anywhere near a major city, I usually choose my secondary target. More than once it payed off when the mob got burned. Like the Felt Oklahoma tornados a couple years back. I honestly think the bulk of the mob just follows the crowd and have no idea what they are doing.
 
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It's always good to reopen this subject every year -- even though it's been discussed 2.5 billion times. Things do change annually, with more chasers, technology, laws, etc.

I did not chase the Tulia day but I was able to watch live feeds. Some of the worse offenders were individuals reporting for local news stations. Some were employees and some were stringers. The live reports included speeds at over 100 mph judging by the passing lane markers and drivers crossing the yellow lines multiple times. Some either picked the wrong target or started out too late.

There is NO solution for this besides the STOPCHASER (TM) spike strips now available at badchaser.com. (Joke). Seriously, the cat is out of the bag and this is not going away anytime soon. Every time this subject comes up, my mind goes back to the El Reno event and Highway 4. The odd fusion of panic and partying by locals who did not have a clue.

Fortunately, everyone in our small chase group has a similar mentality. This means picking secondary targets further to the south or west. We also focus on the later part of the season. We generally base out of western cities like AMA, LBB or Eastern Colorado so the sneak attacks can be covered. (Campo). A lot of chasers (locals, Klingons, news crews, etc), return east after each chase and they don't want to drive back to a western target unless it's a big day. I personally do not chase targets if conditions say "HP" even if it's a High Risk day. I'll opt for a lower risk on a western moving outflow boundary.
 
Apr 25, 2009
64
25
11
Scottsdale, AZ
In 2013, we missed the Moore, OK tornado because we chose not to chase in OKC, and instead went down near Pauls Valley. We had lunch in Moore, and I had picked it as the most likely spot. But, we just didn't want to get into the middle of a chaser convergence.
 
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Photo is of a screenshot from a video I took while chasing back on July 3rd, 2016 near Carney, OK. About 20 cars literally just stopped on a back road watching a tornado warned cell. This was by far the worse experience that I've ever had with "Chaser convergence" Thankfully, I've never had a repeat like this. But, I have been in a few small "Chaser convergence's" and the only thing I worry about when I am in one, is that I need to be paying attention to the road and not the storm. Cause stuff can go pretty down hill if you're watching the storm and not the traffic. I will usually also be about 1 mile to the South of where the main traffic is if possible, so that way I don't encounter this exact problem.
 

Trey Thee

EF2
Mar 29, 2010
191
29
11
Tulsa metro
It's always good to reopen this subject every year -- even though it's been discussed 2.5 billion times. Things do change annually, with more chasers, technology, laws, etc.

I did not chase the Tulia day but I was able to watch live feeds. Some of the worse offenders were individuals reporting for local news stations. Some were employees and some were stringers. The live reports included speeds at over 100 mph judging by the passing lane markers and drivers crossing the yellow lines multiple times. Some either picked the wrong target or started out too late.

There is NO solution for this besides the STOPCHASER (TM) spike strips now available at badchaser.com. (Joke). Seriously, the cat is out of the bag and this is not going away anytime soon. Every time this subject comes up, my mind goes back to the El Reno event and Highway 4. The odd fusion of panic and partying by locals who did not have a clue.

Fortunately, everyone in our small chase group has a similar mentality. This means picking secondary targets further to the south or west. We also focus on the later part of the season. We generally base out of western cities like AMA, LBB or Eastern Colorado so the sneak attacks can be covered. (Campo). A lot of chasers (locals, Klingons, news crews, etc), return east after each chase and they don't want to drive back to a western target unless it's a big day. I personally do not chase targets if conditions say "HP" even if it's a High Risk day. I'll opt for a lower risk on a western moving outflow boundary.
Maybe there needs to be some form of chasing license that we pay for? Go through storm spotter training online or in person. Repeat it annually, pay a first time fee of $500 and an annual renewal of $250?
Catch someone driving and chasing storms without this and the fine is $1,000+? Needs some teeth. Convergence has been bad for years and in many instances its downright dangerous, similar to the stories here I have my own. People pulling out in front, whipping U turns, not looking, blocking the opposing lane, just all kinds of crap.
 
Maybe there needs to be some form of chasing license that we pay for? Go through storm spotter training online or in person. Repeat it annually, pay a first time fee of $500 and an annual renewal of $250?
Catch someone driving and chasing storms without this and the fine is $1,000+? Needs some teeth. Convergence has been bad for years and in many instances its downright dangerous, similar to the stories here I have my own. People pulling out in front, whipping U turns, not looking, blocking the opposing lane, just all kinds of crap.
That would never work. No way to regulate it.
 

Lou Ruh

EF2
May 17, 2007
137
24
11
SE PA
In 2013, we missed the Moore, OK tornado because we chose not to chase in OKC, and instead went down near Pauls Valley. We had lunch in Moore, and I had picked it as the most likely spot. But, we just didn't want to get into the middle of a chaser convergence.
I was near Pauls Valley too on that day ... the chaser convergence/bad driving/etc. was horrible there (probably the worst I have seen) ... I eventually bailed off the main road just to get away from what I saw as a dangerous situation traffic-wise.
 
I was chasing in the same location Daniel Shaw was shortly before he took that video. We were both on 207 watching the Tulia tornado, when Daniel Shaw noticed that the tornado was headed straight for us. We all made the decision to leave and move south. Daniel was able to find an opening immediately, and got out of there. But I had to sit there with a tornado headed straight for my chase partner and I for a few minutes before I found an opening to get back on the road. My chase partner was in a small Mazda Protege and had to wait for an even larger opening than the one I found (due to his slower acceleration rate). In this case, chaser convergence was very dangerous to all of us parked along 207 that day.

That said, Dan Robinson is right. This was a unique situation where you had a SPC Moderate outlook that brought out a lot of chasers. Combine that with only 2 chase options (Tulia, TX and western OK). Most chasers chose the Tulia tornado. They all came south down 207 through the canyon, or east on 146. Most came south on 207. So you have one lane in each direction, combined with wet grass ditches that only SUVs can safely drive in and out of, combined with well over 100 cars all on the same road, and well... it was a problem.

Now let's talk about those tripods in the road. I swear I'm going to get a grill guard, and the next one I see, I'm going to drive straight into it and keep on going. Put your tripods in the grass like everyone else!
 
Jan 16, 2009
554
476
21
Kansas City
VORTEX2 chasing days were the worst I ever saw but Tulia was close. Like others said the one road had a lot to do with it but the quick escalation of the cell caught a lot off guard and unprepared. This is less of a problem with good road networks (why I take off roads) giving other options to chase and with more cells to pick from. This was a very unique situation that I hope chasers learned from.
 

Ben Faber

EF0
Jan 7, 2008
13
3
1
Cave Creek, AZ
Maybe I'm just being cynical but I think a lot of it is the "look at me" mentality of some where they have to get "likes", thumbs ups, subscribers, a viral video, or something the news channels pick up. The same news channels, by the way, that say "send us your video but don't put yourself in danger", but in the next breath will tell you about a video they're showing where someone put themselves (or others) in danger.

Until the lure of monetary gain or 15 minutes of internet fame are removed, it's not going to do anything but keep getting worse.
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
3,015
1,534
21
Westminster, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
I feel like a lot of the folks posting on this thread were not here in the 2008-2011 period. In particular, northwest Missouri on 7 June 2009 and central Oklahoma on 19 May 2010. Now that was epic chaser convergence! I have not seen anything quite that bad except for maybe on 16 May 2015 going east from Tipton, OK.

This is how storm chasing is now, folks. It's not going to change, so you need to adapt, as complaining will not do anything unless you start issuing citizens' tickets or reporting bad actors to law enforcement (and even then, we're talking about pulling a handful out of a crowd of hundreds).

I chased on 7 May, was on the Tulia storm (granted, I got there late), and did not encounter any excessive, or even truly bothersome, chaser traffic. I think a lot of some folks' concerns boils down to chasing strategy. I have discussed this with others over the past week and found that it is apparently very common for many people to literally "chase down" the storm (i.e., follow it from behind). I don't do that; instead I favor the "in the path of the storm" approach. I was as far into that storm as being southwest of Vigo Park on FM-2301 with the wall cloud basically due west of me, and crossed through Palo Duro to get there from my Norman, OK starting point. After 10-15 minutes fooling around on 2301 I worked north to FM-285, skirting along the edge of the FFD, and still only had a handful of others around me. Knowing the canyon and limited roads would be a severe issue, I booked it back out and went back north to Claude ahead of the storm, again, with only two other vehicles anywhere near me the entire time.

Don't lose situational awareness. You always need to plan ahead and have escape routes and future locations in the front of your mind.
 

Dave C

EF2
Jun 5, 2013
103
110
11
Denver
www.davidcrowlphotography.com
I think it is obvious convergence is getting worse in quantity and quality- just like national parks are now packed to the scuppers with the wrong kind of people. It is the age of trends, gratification, attention seeking, and shallow behavior.

Convergence seems especially problematic in TX, OK, KS where there are plenty of large metro areas within a few hours drive, and not as many other distractions like the coast or mountains- nearly every chase I can remember being within an hour of a decent sized town, there are many hundreds of people out whenever SPC or popular people hype up the day- never fails. Even for garbage setups with terrible surface winds that you just know will struggle to have anything photogenic or interesting, if SPC puts up a moderate or our favorite celebrity chasers speak, the droves increase. So many of the people out chase dots on SN, or are out there for social time and deliberately converge. Many seem to have a chase team, brand, or noticeable vehicle which speaks volumes in some cases.

The prevalence of cheap and easy streaming and the social media, dopamine based reward loop most people seem to thrive on has made it all so much worse on average over the last few years. It seems pretty easy to predict which days will have mass convergence: SPC, metro nearby, media hype. Weekend? x5

While numbers of people who do this are on average increasing, the behavior is what really strikes me as worse in relatively short amount of time. People blocking roads, hanging out windows, extreme aggression to get a few car lengths ahead on muddy roads- all for nothing. People are competing out there, acting like they are unique and going to see something that the other 100 in the line aren't. Too many are not remembering these roads are fair use for everyone, including locals, slow grandmas, people with bad tires or heavy loads, etc. No one has a right to block, rush, intimidate, or otherwise behave towards others but many chaser have that self important attitude and are doing these things regularly. 99.9% of the footage and photos I see are trash- shaky low quality junk with no style or art or technical understanding of photography or videography. All too many people care about is getting close and getting attention. Stringing is a net money losing proposition these days except for the best of the best. All of the private research or instrumentation vehicles I have seen are completely fake, done without scientific rigor or any kind of safety- again more attention seeking. Nothing out there legitimizes this behavior but it is increasing. Bottom line is we are in the full age of instant gratification and imbecility, and that cross section is represented in chasing like everywhere else.

There certainly seems to be a lot of drama and dysfunction in the 'community; if it could be called that, and so I prefer to think of myself as a storm photographer and hang to the fringes, if not just for my chase success, but also for dignity. Petty and conceited? Probably, but it makes me feel better than to be part of those savages surfing the hook on some rain wrapped garbage in an aggressive line of cars 100 long.
 
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