Chaser convergence- getting even worse.

Bobby Little

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Mar 18, 2013
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Arriving on the 6th around Larnard Ks to catch that storm, i didn't really see too many chasers out. The next day, I decided to chase north of the Tulia storm for several reasons. First, although i am a very experienced driver of 56 yrs old, I dont have experience chasing out west (still feeling it out). So I went to the map and I noticed the bad roads network near that canyon ne of Tulia and didnt want to mess with Amarillo Tx either. So my wife and i choose to stay north and chase the Spearman storm. I have to say it was very enjoyable to set up just off a side road and watch the cells come by. Although we didnt see that actual rainwrapped tornado, we did experience a great storm chase with little traffic. Another rotation tornado showed up over head in Farnsworth where we were. I will choose to do this type of chase rather than fight the crowds, core punch,etc. I found i get just as much adrenaline by picking a target and letting the storm move in rather than chase from behind etc with the cattle.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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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.
Jeff, I agree. I am sure May 7 was bad (I wasn’t there), but I think it’s easy to say “worst ever” just because it was most recent. Same reason people say “best structure I ever saw” just because it was yesterday, the memories are fresh and the excitement is still there; same reason current popular songs make the “top 100 rock songs of all time.”

Of the events you listed, I was only there for 7 June 2009; that was probably the worst I had seen to that point, and to be honest it’s hard to quantify if I have seen anything that bad since; probably not, or I would remember it, but then again these things are pretty subjective and how “bad” it is can be judged on a number of different criteria or combinations of criteria: number of cars, extent and type of roads, what the storm is doing, how people are behaving, your own position, etc. Sounds like May 7 was a perfect storm (pun intended) of factors. Fortunately, I think the HP storms that make chaser convergence the most dangerous are exactly the type of storms that are more conducive to farther-out structure shots.
 
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J. Mike Sheard

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May 7, 2019
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If every chaser followed road laws and wouldn't act like complete idiots this would not be a problem, Using Mike's picture as an example which puts plenty of people in danger. Another thing that needs to stop is the pointless blinding light bars that Quincy mentioned.
 
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It's my belief the so-called trouble makers left this group a long time ago. Most departed because their excuses for bad behavior was either called out, or they did not want to answer for reckless behavior. Many supported and defended the very idiotic and misleading antics that contributed to the current lunacy. Many are now on Facebook where they can befriend those with similar opinions and post whatever they want while removing any critical responses. Unfortunately, many champions of responsible and honest chasing simply burned out. No one is completely free of chasing "sins," but supporting an overall careless attitude is wrong.

Although I don't personally know the majority of people on this list (mainly because I keep a low profile now days), it would appear that most chasers and contributors here are honest about their pursuits and chase in a responsible manner.

I suspect this coming Friday will be total insanity.
 

B. Dean Berry

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May 25, 2014
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Everyone's going to have to adapt to the new way of doing things, or go home. Very simple, point-blank. I don't want hundreds of people on my storms, and locally, I'm never going to have that problem.

But, if it was the case, I'd just have to deal with and find a way to make it work for me, or give up the sport.
 
I didn't find the Tulia chaser convergence too terrible but there were certainly a lot of chasers (and others) there. The part that made it worse was the eastbound option at the stop sign where you had to choose north or south, and getting through that intersection was pretty interesting with the storm bearing down like it was.

Jeff is right, May 10th, 2010 on Highway 33 near Kingfisher was hands down the worst convergence. Miles and miles of nothing but cars. If you pulled out for anything there was no getting back on the highway for quite a while. A distant 2nd for me was May 21st, 2014 near Bennett, Colorado.

Lack of roads, an individual storm and a moderate risk all led to the congestion. I don't care for it, but either I go and deal with it or I miss it (and that isn't happening). I'm already seeing quite the advertisement for this weekend's setup on social media, so chances are good we'll see convergence again. All you can hope for is that most everyone behaves and the storms/area are favorable to keep the traffic to a minimum.
 

Dan Robinson

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Jan 14, 2011
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The big question I think everyone needs to step back and ask is how many times has convergence significantly affected your chase? For me, it's been almost never. And I'm right there with you all most of the time. The convergence fears have always been around. There are examples in the old ST print edition archives as early as 1988.

For those who weren't aware, I maintain a web site dedicated to this subject here which includes full-day timelapses from my 4-way dashcam setup of every chase I embark on in the Great Plains:

 
I didn't find the Tulia chaser convergence too terrible but there were certainly a lot of chasers (and others) there. The part that made it worse was the eastbound option at the stop sign where you had to choose north or south, and getting through that intersection was pretty interesting with the storm bearing down like it was.
Interestingly enough I managed to avoid large groups of chasers that day right up until said north/south intersection. That got hairy for little bit. I was either on dirt roads a good portion of the time, or on paved highways several miles away. Up to this point, my experience has been that the largest concentration of chasers is always on the same stretch of paved road closest to ground zero, so to speak. Usually 1-5 miles. The numbers fall off rapidly after that.
 
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Jun 16, 2015
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Chaser convergence is often subjective. It was cited that Tipton, OK (5/16/15) was among the worst convergence heading east from Tipton, yet I was up close and personal with the tornado, bailed east last minute and encountered very little traffic/convergence. Either the backup was short-lived or it was relatively isolated to a specific road. That sort of thing happens a lot, especially in vicinity of a tornadic supercell.

The difference with Tulia/Vigo Park is that, the combination of traffic/congestion/convergence/reckless driving behavior was easily the worst that I have personally experienced in my chase career thus far, which spans nearly 300 storm chase days. Convergence along a road is one thing and many of us have seen this plenty of times. I can cite Pilger and Dodge City as two examples of dozens (if not hundreds) of vehicles backed up along one stretch of road, but in those cases, in my experience, the backup did not affect the chase too much and I didn't personally have issues with other drivers. Near Vigo Park, I had multiple close calls with other chasers who were driving recklessly. Subjectively, the reckless behavior was the worst that I had witnessed during any one storm chase event and it was echoed by others across social media and on Stormtrack.

Yes, there were many factors leading to a "perfect storm." A moderate risk in May in Texas with one storm focused in an area with a poor road network and limited cell service. Most dirt roads were ruled out due to antecedent rain. Many chasers were punching south last minute due to earlier storms to the north. You had a situation with a large number of chasers arriving at the same point around the same time. Luckily the storm was not tornadic at this point, as it could have turned into an El Reno or worse situation. As it was, there was a borderline panic from what I was seeing on the roads, meaning chasers pulling out into oncoming traffic, parking in the middle of the road, not using turn signals, swerving, driving at erratic speeds, etc.

Chaser convergence is getting worse. This can't be argued. More chasers are out in the field and this isn't a bad thing. It's an issue when you have inexperienced people, plus locals, plus your average Joe who has little to know education on how severe weather works. More people than ever before are getting closer, whether it's due to following other chasers (either via social media or literally following on the road) and/or apps like RadarScope allowing chasers to get close to the mesocyclone (or other red dots).

Each experience is personal. @Dan Robinson often cites not having many issues with convergence. If you avoid main roads, don't get dangerously close (like directly under an HP mesocyclone with little to no visibility) and always plan a few steps ahead, then you'll not encounter issues too much. Dodge City was a case that you really had no choice getting into the long chain of traffic, unless your vehicle could handle going down wet, dirt roads, or if you bailed early to stay ahead of the hoards.

In my experience, chaser convergence is mixed. It doesn't happen during every chase and it doesn't always negatively impact the chase itself. Sometimes there aren't many issues at all, but there are times in which the convergence takes away from the pleasure and safety of storm chasing. When traffic slows from 70 MPH to 30 MPH with no opportunities to pass, then you're stuck. Maybe you shouldn't be that close in the first place, but part of chasing for many chasers is getting close. Most of us can handle getting close without problems, but as storms become more intense, there is less room for error. It's easy to see why a situation like El Reno could happen again. If you're in an area with no chasers, it's easy to bounce on an escape route. Hold up traffic due to convergence and then what might have been a 2-3 minute maneuver turns into 5 or 10 minutes. Add in wet roads, low visibility and strong winds, and the situation gets that much more dangerous.

My chase was essentially over by Vigo Park on 5/7/19, even though I arrived at the storm early and wasn't one of the many who were core-punching south as the storm approached the main road. I made a last ditch effort to bail south (which was away from the masses) and I was still held up by slow chaser traffic in the opposite direction.
 

Todd Lemery

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Jun 2, 2014
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Hell, I might as well add my two cents. My wife says that I’m a really impatient driver, but I really don’t get too cranked up about convergence. I just really find it amazing that so many people can all show up in the middle of nowhere because they all share the same interest. Cities drive me nuts while chasing though and I always avoid them like a fat chick with syphilis.
My big fear though, is the possibility of an accident or something stopping traffic dead while a mile wide tornado comes rolling up from behind. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that something like that could happen. I hope it never does.
Bottom line for me is that as much as I like having the road to myself, everyone is there for pretty much the same thing and they probably want to make it back home to their families. If convergence is inevitable, you might as well make the best of it.
 
May 18, 2013
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The big question I think everyone needs to step back and ask is how many times has convergence significantly affected your chase?
Up until this storm I would have said never (other than my mood), but this was the first time I ever felt endangered by the chaser convergence. I went from just a couple of chasers to a few miutes latter being stuck at a stop sign behind 3 cars and a line of traffic with no one letting anyone in for almost 5 mins with the storm bearing down on us. Add to the fact that many in the line where in a panic, it was like a heard of stampeding bulls. As chasers I think sometimes we become too comfortable with storms until one day something supriseses us and we take a step back and have a little more respect for the storm. This chase has taught me to have a little more respect for chaser traffic.
 
Feb 22, 2010
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I don't really have a problem with chaser convergence, or the number of people that choose to chase. Mile long trains of chasers is such a common occurrence anymore, that it is just one of the inevitable things you will deal with while chasing anymore. You have to be prepared for that the same way you prepare for any other aspect of a chase anymore. As I posted earlier, nobody has exclusivity to mother nature. Everybody though, should have the right to participate without having their life endangered by carelessness, recklessness, or blatant stupidity.

My only issue is with the increasing amount of inconsiderate and dangerous people out on the road. Not just on the Tulia storm, but as a whole. I honestly do feel like the majority are not the problem, but there is no denying that common sense and basic safety are being increasingly left out of the equation by some while pursuing storms. I remember it wasn't that long ago (2009 maybe?) that discussions were taking place on this forum regarding the chances that eventually somebody was going to be killed while storm chasing. How many deaths (or close calls) have there been since? It's definitely not at zero anymore. I don't know the exact numbers, but traffic accidents are to blame it seems as often as actual severe weather. To a certain extent, I really feel nowadays that the danger level experienced while chasing comes as much from other people chasing as the storm itself. Maybe it's not 50/50, but surely more than it has been in the past in my experience.

Everybody was an inexperienced, wide-eyed chaser at some point, and I highly doubt at some point that all of us haven't done something stupid at one point or another. I'm not innocent, but I can honestly say that I've also not risked somebody else's life in the process while doing so. I don't, and won't, ever begrudge anybody the opportunity to get out and see something as awesome as a giant mothership lp supercell blowing up like an atomic bomb on the dryline. It truly is one of the most fascinating things to me in the world. It just raises a risk vs reward question for me when deciding whether I'm going to go these days. Most times the risk is worth it for me, but events like last weekend sure make it a tougher choice for sure, and honestly tarnishes all that awesomeness being put on display just a little bit.

Sorry for a post that looks like a skinny version of War and Peace, but it really is something that weighs heavy on my mind. It's hard to read back through it honestly. It does really sound like it's just another bitchy soapbox rant from a disgruntled chaser, and that's not my intention. It really is something that causes me concern, and a question for which I don't have a firm answer, or even a glimmer of a solution. I just don't want to die unnecessarily while doing something I love, and I suck at fishing and golf, so I have no other real hobbies to devote my time to. Perhaps it's something that can be addressed through a greater community feeling among chasers. Even if it's only a small group of like minded chasers in pursuit of a storm among the masses, surely there is still a bit more safety in numbers vs going solo all the time like I currently do? But community doesn't come easy, and there is definitely a tendency for storm chasers to segregate based on a multitude of factors....education, forecasting ability, personal chasing style, years of experience...etc, etc that make it harder and harder to find the common ground among chasers of all levels of experience.
 
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Jun 1, 2008
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I estimate traffic risk greatly overwhelms storm risk. Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us do each day. If you live in Oklahoma you have a one-in-a-million chance of being impacted by a tornado (not counting chasing). Everybody has been in a car accident.

Can't regulate it because it's not enforceable. I drive a boring sedan with no markings. My plate is well out-of-state but I have a Jayhawk front plate. I'm visiting friends and family back home. Actually I am but we are storm chasing together, lol! My chase partner drives an unmarked small SUV. Regardless of who's turn to drive, we do not look like chasers. Honestly I don't want people to know I'm a chaser. I'll tell other chasers if appropriate.

Getting ready for the upcoming sequence I have a tinge of hesitation based on this thread, but it's just chaser apathy (see State of Season). Must get out there! However we'll be 2-5 miles back. We'll be extra careful. We'll have 2 escape routes. We'll be last in but first out. And we will be seated first for supper!
 
Most of the bad driving described in this thread and similar ones is what I encounter on a day-to-day basis when commuting in a city. Whether I'm driving in a city grid, interstate, or rural backroads, I never trust people to drive properly or abide by the law, so I'm always driving defensively.

Chaser convergence does suck. While there are some chasers that are part of the crowd that truly are creating an issue on the road, all of us who go out there and get stuck in a chaser jam are contributing to the jam. It's just an unfortunate byproduct of what chasing has become. As pointed out several times, it doesn't reach apocalyptic levels for most events unless certain things occur just right like a single storm, bottleneck road network, etc.

The hype surrounding the upcoming pattern coupled with the chasing drought most have experienced over the last year or so does have me concerned about crowds. Secondary and some major roads through certain parts of the Plains and Midwest have either been taken out due to historic river flooding or are going to be soft due to a wet spring, potentially further complicating things. However, none of that is going to keep me from going out. We just have to keep from getting tunnel vision on a storm and keep an eye on the surrounding road network to make sure to keep our distance, have proper escape routes, and avoid bottlenecks where possible, which should be typical chaser practice anyway.
 
Let's also discuss how folks know where to chase...of course, the SPC highlight the risk areas clearly, and even the worst forecaster could just drive into the risk area, fire up RadarScope, and start the chase. However - and this harks back to a thread about SN and how to become part of it - the fact that it's easy to see SN dots on RS, GRLx, etc, means folks just need to get onto it and then they can see where all the dots are going. I would urge everyone to not have their position on until you're in position and something interesting is about to occur which you want to report - I always keep mine off until it's time to make a report.

I'm not saying this will solve much, but I'd love to see a map with very few icons on until the storms start up!
 
May 18, 2013
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After Tulia, I almost think folks leaving their icon on is a good thing - that way I can see the crowd and avoid it. It would be quiet a surprise if you though only a couple of chasers where on a storm and it turned it to be hundreds in a traffic jam. Having said that, I rarely turn on the display of other chaser's icons, so I wouldn't know anyway. Even if folks turned off their icons, you would still get warning polygon chasers.
 
After Tulia, I almost think folks leaving their icon on is a good thing - that way I can see the crowd and avoid it. It would be quiet a surprise if you though only a couple of chasers where on a storm and it turned it to be hundreds in a traffic jam. Having said that, I rarely turn on the display of other chaser's icons, so I wouldn't know anyway. Even if folks turned off their icons, you would still get warning polygon chasers.
True - re: polygons - but you have to be pretty close to do that - and ideally you're on the storm before the polygon. I just think there are more icons than there are folks who really know what they're doing...and at least some gravitate to the other icons.
 

Todd Lemery

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Jun 2, 2014
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I do like Paul’s idea of keeping your position off until you are on the storm. I’m sure it could help a bit for at least a short while. I remember 2014 in Northern Texas where we were the only dot on a storm. The NWS stuck a tornado warning on it and literally within 1/2 hour there was a “string of pearls” heading there from every direction.
No matter what, we’ll still get swamped from the warning chasers at some point.
 
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Stephen Sponsler

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May 2, 2019
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I honestly think the bulk of the mob just follows the crowd and have no idea what they are doing.
Seems to me to pretty much sum it up. Once the news gets out there is a potential tornado producing storm in the area, the masses come out with cell phones or whatever else and head in that 'general direction' and then just start to follow around whoever looks like they might know what they are doing. (Okay, it's a theory, that by appearances might be at least partially legit). That seemed to be the case on the Chapman day all along Highway 70 at every exit. Yokels galore, who might never have 'chased' their entire lives had plenty of time to get out - given how long it was on the ground (though the convergence in that situation was not 'impossible' (but at the exit ramps at times it was close). There was another situation in far NE Kansas along the Missouri River, I seem to recall it was 2009 , that the Weather Channel was calling impending disaster all morning long in their broadcasts (I saw them earlier at the motel in Nebraska airing)... the hordes were lined up down one hill and up the other as far as the eye could see. In one regard it seemed some were Chasing the TIV.
 

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Once the news gets out there is a potential tornado producing storm in the area, the masses come out with cell phones or whatever else and head in that 'general direction' and then just start to follow around whoever looks like they might know what they are doing.
Nothing wrong with this IMO. It might surprise you that not everybody on this forum is a chaser. We have discussed this before that there are three main categories of storm enthusiasts:
  • Storm Spotter (reports to the NWS from their house)
  • Mobile Spotter (travels around their county, but generally stays close to their home/work; reports to the NWS from wherever they are)
  • Storm Chaser (travels across the country on multi-day trips)
Just look at the number of local people who never chase who attend Skywarn training. Lots of people are interested in the weather. It's an awesome show and very exciting to observe. And of course people want to take photos and video on their cell phones so that they can show their friends what they saw.

Locals also have a very important role to play in notifying their local NWS office of dangerous weather, especially 1" hail, high winds, and flooding (things storm chasers don't really care about, but can still cause damage to people, property, and animals).

I'm all for locals going to out to observe the weather. It's to be expected, and it's the number one reason most storm chasers don't like to chase near big cities. Besides, what makes any of us so special that we should be allowed to observe the weather, but locals shouldn't?
 

Todd Lemery

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Jun 2, 2014
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I’m not complaining, but wow! The convergence around Lake Altus Lugert today was something. Pretty much impossible to keep up with the storm....A9CC5DA7-739D-41CA-BF0C-DC585E4FDFA4.jpeg
 
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Jun 16, 2015
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It shouldn't be that much of a surprise, but I felt that today was even worse than Tulia/Vigo Park. Right from a few miles from Mangum, traffic went to a screeching halt. I witnessed a few chaser car collisions and plenty of reckless driving/behavior. Cars pulling out into oncoming traffic, vehicles parked in the driving lanes, pretty much the usual stuff we see in favored target areas now. I even had the Tornado Tech team pass a bunch of cars, including myself, in a no passing, double yellow line section of road. Traffic was already going above the speed limit... I usually don't care about isolated instances, but now I'm starting to feel a push to call out bad actors on Twitter.

Anyway, once a sneaky hail core moved up toward Lone Wolf, the crowds slowly began to thin out a bit, but it was too late. I was on the Mangum storm right from Northwest Texas, but narrowly missed the tornado(es). I'm not complaining, it's just an observation. I knew I was taking a big risk to bail out on West Texas storms for a storm heading toward Oklahoma.

I will think twice about chasing a higher-end event in Oklahoma again. Today was madness. It should be expected with a high risk in Oklahoma in May with one semi-discrete supercell on the fringe of a very favorable parameter space. I had no consistent data connection for about an hour, as I was only able to get an occasional radar scan, but even that was a major challenge. I tried to livestream the chaser gridlock traffic multiple times, but never had enough reception. This was in an area with 3-4 bars of Verizon LTE. When you have hundreds of chasers in close proximity, running lots of gear, that's a major drain on the network.

I already thought that I was a bit of a risky chaser for sometimes picking the sleeper targets, but after this, I think I'll end up leaning toward alternate targets, by default.