Chaser traffic in 2012 and the "CTI" (Chaser Traffic Index)

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Rob H

EF5
Mar 11, 2009
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Twin Cities, MN
The one thing that irks me, and I've seen this a few times in reference to recent events, is the notion of "real" chasers. This is a made up term by those with a false sense of self worth used to try and elevate themselves above others
I used this terminology in the other thread, so I want to touch on this.

The media and EM people are specifically blaming out-of-area storm chasers and are adamant that the local to chaser ratio was lower than 2 in 10. There's no way that 280/350 cars in that convergence self-identified as chasers and were all out-of-area. Johnny from Salina, who saw a big tornado on the TV and went to drive after it, is certainly chasing and has every right to be there on the road with the rest of us. It doesn't follow that we're on equal footing for acting in a responsible manner though, and it doesn't help that he's absolved of his contribution to the convergence. There are at the very least two separate demographics causing problems here, and one is taking the full brunt of the blame.

Instead of trying to explain all that, it's sometimes easier to just say "real chasers" vs "local chasers". I don't have a better label off the top of my head, but I'd gladly use one.
 
Mar 16, 2012
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Lenexa, KS
As a chaser, Vortex2 was very exciting, until I saw the public response. It was an incredible line of people who, in my opinion, found weather interesting their whole lives and hoped to someday see a tornado, but had no experience forecasting or chasing.

These were lines of "followers" rather than "chasers".

On typical days with a large chaser following, the back roads and side roads to get around a storm to get in better position are active with chasers. When Vortex2 was on the road it was purely a follow the leader. If something had happened and a tornado took a sharp right turn, many followers would have no idea it was coming and would blindly follow the car ahead of them. I was honestly scared what may happen and greatly relieved it did not.

When V2 was on a storm, I usually wasn't. (This was difficult as there were not a lot of good storms to chase that year!)

I believe in the value of V2, the intention and integrity of those involved in it, but hope we don't see a V3 anytime soon.

I'd like to hear from some people who were involved in V2 and find out if you had some of these discussions about how to keep the general public further away and in a safer position, etc.
 
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
stormhighway.com
My experiences this week were mostly in line with Skip's, I had no problems with traffic and only once (south of Cooperton) didn't have a place to stop due to the half dozen or so pull-offs with good views taken. As such I was very surprised to hear how bad Kansas was in places. I was mostly ahead of the storms Friday and Saturday and *much* closer than usual to the tornadoes. As I approached the Ingersoll tornado and caught it crossing the road, there were no cars in sight in front of me, and only 2 other chase vehicles stopped along the road there.

It's apparent that avoiding the crowds can be done even today, no question about that - I just wonder to what degree you can actually plan and execute a chase to avoid them. Seems like it's hit or miss that you'd end up in a jam from what most have said so far about 4/14.
 
Aug 16, 2009
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Amarillo, TX
June 7, 2009 was probably a CIT-4 for us, mainly because we did jump ahead of most of the crowd and crossed the river early. April 22, 2010 was probably a CIT-6 especially on I-40 & HWY 70 south. Also up north of Alanreed.

April 14 wasn't too bad for us. Maybe a CIT-3 for the most part, but that changed when we were near Castleton, KS. Someone had let a red shoe in line and several cars followed, making us come to a stop at an intersection that we didn't have a stop sign for.

Side note...I chase icognito, with no markings or hardly any equipment. I drive a 1998 Nissan Altima with a 5 speed in it, with a screwed up windshield, tint coming off on the rear windows, and headlights that are so dull I just leave the highbeam on. The only possible way of knowing that I was a chaser is already knowing me, the jungle of wires hanging around my face, and maybe the Andy G sticker on the back.
 
Dec 18, 2003
4,138
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Lubbock, TX
daviddrummond.com
Just out of curiousity....

How do you identify, or define, or determine, a "real" chaser?

Thanks,
Tim
Well, I know your trolling me here to see if I'll get defensive or go off on a tangent, but I'll clarify what I meant in context of what I was talking about there, I was talking about "real" chasers, being those that had planned and executed to be out before the event has ever even begun, mostly in the case days before. Usually these "real" chasers have some sort of equipment. If their chase vehicles aren't openly overt, you can at least see things like a dash cam, or a laptop or some other equipment that tell you they had planned to chase before the last couple of hours. All the rest were folks who had nothing but cell phones and point and shoot cameras.

Another way I can tell, is when we are parked, watching a wicked rotating wall cloud, and they park next to us, and start taking pictures of....us...or other chasers, or they say stupid things like "so where is the tornado gonna be?". It's not that hard to tell "real" chasers from "chaser for a day" people when you've been out there for a while.

And no, I'm sorry, I'm not one that subscribes to the notion that just because a person decided to jump in the vehicle and hit the road because a tornado warning was issued for their location, makes them a storm chaser.
 

Timothy Finn

Well, I know your trolling me here to see if I'll get defensive or go off on a tangent, but I'll clarify what I meant in context of what I was talking about there, I was talking about "real" chasers, being those that had planned and executed to be out before the event has ever even begun, mostly in the case days before. Usually these "real" chasers have some sort of equipment. If their chase vehicles aren't openly overt, you can at least see things like a dash cam, or a laptop or some other equipment that tell you they had planned to chase before the last couple of hours. All the rest were folks who had nothing but cell phones and point and shoot cameras.

Another way I can tell, is when we are parked, watching a wicked rotating wall cloud, and they park next to us, and start taking pictures of....us...or other chasers, or they say stupid things like "so where is the tornado gonna be?". It's not that hard to tell "real" chasers from "chaser for a day" people when you've been out there for a while.

And no, I'm sorry, I'm not one that subscribes to the notion that just because a person decided to jump in the vehicle and hit the road because a tornado warning was issued for their location, makes them a storm chaser.
David,

You and I, we don't know each other so well. So, opening with that, I would like to assure you that there is no trolling of any sort coming from me, and I really hope you didn't take it that way. I'm not attempting to goad you into putting yourself in any sort of compromising position.

However, what you did write was quite enlightening. Being fresh around here, I was truly curious as to a veteran's view on what constitutes a storm chaser.

Unfortunately, I think, from appearances, I may not meet your criteria as a true storm chaser, as my truck is very plain, no lights, decals, stickers, or any outward clues. I do run PYKL3 on my Garminfone, which sits above my rearview mirror. I'm still in process of building my laptop mount, as I feel it is unsafe to just set the computer on the center console.

I did chase both Friday, in Oklahoma, and Saturday, in central KS, and have no illusions, nor any misguided ideas about what I am doing, or my motivations for doing it.

With all due respect, stupid question people aside, you may be judging some of us without knowing the entire story, and by that, possibly judging a book by it's cover.

For what it is worth, I do agree with your assessments. Once again, no trolling intended, and I understand the reason behind the thought given the internet climate, so to speak.

Tim
 
Dec 18, 2003
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Lubbock, TX
daviddrummond.com
I probably took it the wrong way Tim. So much of that "trolling" going on these days a person gets defensive up front about it. LOL

I'm fully aware there are some newer people that either haven't equipped their vehicles, or maybe don't want to, and I may not can put my finger on it, but I can almost always tell when someones is a chaser out there, who set out to be a chaser, and not someone who "just now" became a chaser because it was a high risk day and 15 chasers just blew through town.

On the other hand, I had one guy pull up next to me in a fully decked out truck when me and a couple of long time chaser friends were watching one of the most awesome wall clouds ever, and he strolls up and says, so where should I look for the tornado. Really? I actually told him, if you don't know that right now, you really don't have any business out here. And I mean that. Some basic spotter class knowledge of storm structure is absolutely necessary. So no, I don't think every person with a decked out vehicle knows what they are doing either (in fact I know they don't).

But you can tell, who set out to be an actual chasers, and who set out to chase that day because it looked like a fun afternoon activity and the news said it was going to be a big day.
 
Mar 7, 2009
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Norman, OK
Judging someone's chasing credibility based off the appearance of their vehicle is ineffective and asinine, IMO. I'm in my fourth year of chasing and have logged over 20,000 miles on solo chases, all of which in plain Jane sedans with front wheel drive, and the first of which with no traction control and a rusting door handle. No decals. No antennas. FWIW.
 
Dec 18, 2003
4,138
39
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Lubbock, TX
daviddrummond.com
Judging someone's chasing credibility based off the appearance of their vehicle is ineffective and asinine, IMO. I'm in my fourth year of chasing and have logged over 20,000 miles on solo chases, all of which in plain Jane sedans with front wheel drive, and the first of which with no traction control and a rusting door handle. No decals. No antennas. FWIW.
I think you missed either my point or my follow up post.
 
Mar 7, 2009
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Norman, OK
Caught the follow up after the fact, David. I wasn't intending to totally go after you, I'm just a little defensive at the moment when I've seen stuff coming from multiple directions (media, EMA, etc.) talking about looking for antennas, laptops, etc. when judging the people they see out there. I don't chase the way I do by choice, I chase the way I do because it's either that or not get out there at all. Just because someone's a little lower on the financial totem pole doesn't mean they don't have a passion for something.

Again, it wasn't you specifically, I'd just seen enough where I felt like I had to say something.
 
Dec 18, 2003
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Lubbock, TX
daviddrummond.com
It's all good Jacob. My early chase vehicles were pretty unassuming as well. Like I said, I can't either put my finger on it, or explain it well, but I can almost always tell. Maybe it's how they are acting/reacting in the situation, idk. I did see a large amount of people that were acting more like chaser groupies than storm groupies though.
 
Feb 27, 2009
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Texarkana, AR
Did someone say they were out there with everyone and their “grandma� Or... did they say they had their grandma out there? I did see an elderly white haired lady standing outside a car with a group of people watching one of the storms I came upon. I’m being serious. I don’t know if they were real chasers or not :)

I think we all understand what was intended.

Some people got on a storm and stuck with it. Some people stair stepped this event. I probably stair stepped to a greater degree than most. The worst I encountered was CTI 2, maybe 3 briefly, and that was with most cars going in the opposite direction. The worst of the traffic was almost always to the southeast of the meso and many were even behind the storm….for the most part looked to be small cars and suvs with 18-22 year olds. I bet I didn’t drive over 15 miles actually chasing a storm. And I hit 5 or 6 storms. This can be effective if initiation works out right, and you hit them right, which I didn’t this time really. Mainly it’s just a lot more laid back way of chasing, especially if you go solo. Of course it is not nearly as effective if you get on a tornado machine and stay on it like the tail end storm on this event. I’ve found that a storm really has to moving at less than 30 miles an hour for me to actually enjoy chasing it. What I am is a storm ambusher. Don’t anyone steal that cause I’m going to make a big sticker for the rear window of my truck, lol.

Anyone can do it anyhow they please, I’m just saying there are different ways to do it. If you stair step and set up to where the vault area and couplet are coming right at you…. and especially if you are good at setting up right ahead of where the couplet is maxing out… :0 you won’t have a problem with chaser numbers. This can be a bit unnerving, but I try to assure myself it’s better than dodging cars.

I could use a little more courage.
 
Apr 16, 2010
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Omaha, NE
Anyone can do it anyhow they please, I’m just saying there are different ways to do it. If you stair step and set up to where the vault area and couplet are coming right at you…. and especially if you are good at setting up right ahead of where the couplet is maxing out… :0 you won’t have a problem with chaser numbers. This can be a bit unnerving, but I try to assure myself it’s better than dodging cars.

I could use a little more courage.
Good point, that really is the key, but the road network isn't always gonna provide for this. I think I made only 1 true mistake that cost me the wedge on Saturday. Has this ever happened to anyone? I learned a tough lesson luckily it's still early in the chase season.
 
Dec 18, 2003
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Lubbock, TX
daviddrummond.com
Good point, that really is the key, but the road network isn't always gonna provide for this. I think I made only 1 true mistake that cost me the wedge on Saturday. Has this ever happened to anyone? I learned a tough lesson luckily it's still early in the chase season.
I'll be honest....I've blown plenty of high risks due to a tactical error. I really don't like chasing them all that much to be frank, they are very stressful to me. In fact, I was not going to chase this one, as I was going alone and didn't want to handle the stress of it alone. My friend Jay McCoy decided to come and bring his friend and I felt better about it, but it was still pretty stressful. I may blow off future giant days, we'll see.
 
Mar 2, 2009
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Norman, OK
My roommate (David Gagne) wrote a quick Python script that downloaded the locations of people on Spotter Network and plotted their density on a map. The attached map was created at about 3:00 PM on Saturday. I think he said the reds are ~30 spotters per 0.5° x 0.5° block. Granted, not everyone on the road has a Spotter Network account, but it's still kind of an entertaining map.

20120413_2000_chaserdensity.jpg

EDIT: Just realized that I didn't pay attention to the date when naming my image file. My naming convention suggests Friday, but the picture is from Saturday.
 
Oct 27, 2011
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Panama City, FL
Depending on the situation I might, and have before. One because I knew a person, two catch someone being stupid, and three, because I think it can help add to the story. One thing I like about photography, is that you can tell stories with it, and sometimes catching the emotion on chasers faces can add to that story. Unfortunately this last chase, I was behind due to hesitating, and putting myself out of position. Granted, I only take a few photos, and when I talk with other chasers I don't ask stupid questions like "Where do you think the tornado will be?" My vehicle is fairly incognito with a small AH sticker (mainly so I can identify it in photos since it's the most common color of Cherokee), and I only have a phone that I use for data at the moment. I'm not trying to troll you, but explaining why I've taken photos of chasers in the past.

and I'm betting neither one of you are pulling up next to other chasers, with a rotating wall cloud ahead of you, and rather than watching that you start taking pictures of the other chasers.
 
Dec 18, 2003
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Lubbock, TX
daviddrummond.com
I take pictures of other chasers, for a variety of reasons, when not a whole lot else is going on, but when a tornado is about to come down, that is the only thing that is getting in the camera at that moment. I didn't drive 500 or more miles to watch other people jump up and down, I ultimately came to see the storm, and everything else is secondary. It's only going to happen once, and I want it on camera. The chasers will always be there.
 
May 6, 2009
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That day in 2010 that was in Oklahoma was also made worse by the huge Weather Channel coverage and advertisement about VORTEX 2 being in the area, as well as the other two big idiot magnets were out that day too. That was by far the worst I've ever seen in terms of mass number of people chasing, Its just starting to get sad how many idiots are out and they don't give a rip that they're making themselves as well as everyone else look bad