Chasing Bases for Retirement

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Jun 1, 2008
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After the chaser convergence this year, I'm not sure about Wichita. Maybe Kansas City gets one north for the latter half of the season. However it's quite a bit east of the High Plains. Lawrence is a great town, but I'm not biased in any way wearing my Jayhawks, lol!

Long as we are on I-70 Denver is another big city base. Can't argue with Pueblo or Cheyenne for mid-size markets. Omaha is another city with more amenities and culture than one might expect. I heard they are good stock pickers too, lol!
 
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Jun 16, 2015
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After the chaser convergence this year, I'm not sure about Wichita. Maybe Kansas City gets one north for the latter half of the season. However it's quite a bit east of the High Plains. Lawrence is a great town, but I'm not biased in any way wearing my Jayhawks, lol!

Long as we are on I-70 Denver is another big city base. Can't argue with Pueblo or Cheyenne for mid-size markets. Omaha is another city with more amenities and culture than one might expect. I heard they are good stock pickers too, lol!
Omaha might be an underrated location with respect to chasing. It puts you in a prime location for June/July chasing. It keeps IA/IL targets easily in play. Sure, you’d be displaced relatively far away from the panhandles and other more southern targets, but it opens up the possibilities for sleeper days in the Dakotas/Minnesota. How about those fluky days in Iowa? Iowa often gets a bad reputation, but the state seems to have one or two sneaky good tornado days in most years. I’d trade down time for more chases with less hoards on the road with slow-moving summer supercells.

In terms of a city, Omaha is very diverse. It’s not quite on the level of KC or Chicago, but it’s close.

I had a friend who lived near Omaha (Bellevue) and I’d visit at least a few times in June/July. I’ve actually had a lot of chases in the Omaha/Valley CWA. Some of which rank among the best tornado days I’ve had.

Good call @Jeff House!
 
Jun 4, 2018
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Omaha might be an underrated location with respect to chasing. It puts you in a prime location for June/July chasing. It keeps IA/IL targets easily in play. Sure, you’d be displaced relatively far away from the panhandles and other more southern targets, but it opens up the possibilities for sleeper days in the Dakotas/Minnesota. How about those fluky days in Iowa? Iowa often gets a bad reputation, but the state seems to have one or two sneaky good tornado days in most years. I’d trade down time for more chases with less hoards on the road with slow-moving summer supercells.

In terms of a city, Omaha is very diverse. It’s not quite on the level of KC or Chicago, but it’s close.

I had a friend who lived near Omaha (Bellevue) and I’d visit at least a few times in June/July. I’ve actually had a lot of chases in the Omaha/Valley CWA. Some of which rank among the best tornado days I’ve had.

Good call @Jeff House!
This is why I'm so excited about getting stationed up in Omaha later this year. San Angelo has been great, but it's still pretty far south of most everything, except those random I-10 storms that seemed to like popping up earlier this year. And we even got an EF-2 of our own back on 18 May. But Omaha is a great city in a pretty good location.
 
ABQ would not be a bad place to retire if you have a desire to use it as a partial chase base. No major snow / cold issues and it's less than 3 hours to the western portions of the Alley. You also have the monsoon lightning storms and access to more exciting recreational activities to the N/NW. There are some nice communities on the outskirts of the city.
 

Todd Lemery

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Jun 2, 2014
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My wife and I seem to have settled on three finalists for our eventual retirement home. We were looking for low crime, low cost of living, within reasonable driving distance from a bigger city for facilities and airport, little snow and not a brutally hot summer. I of course want tornadoes and she doesn’t. The three finalists are Broken Arrow OK, one of the suburbs North of Dallas and Bentonville Arkansas (60 miles South of Joplin). There are other factors too. Any thoughts on these? BB757119-7122-4A23-984C-800108F198CA.png areas?
 
Jan 14, 2011
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If I was presented with only those three options, Broken Arrow would be my choice. Northeast Arkansas is in the Ozarks, so there you're living in the forests a long way from good chasing terrain. You also don't have many direct highway routes out of there (into Kansas for example). DFW is almost always pretty far from the action on most spring events, not to mention having long, hot summers.
 
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@Todd Lemery NW Arkansas is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation. Once the Bella Vista bypass is complete, access to Kansas won't be terrible, as it's simple enough to get up to Joplin and catch US-166 or 400 going west. No less of a direct route to Wichita than having to catch US-412 out of Tulsa to go to I-35 north, just a little farther.

I grew up in the Tulsa area, and these days do prefer the OKC area. City is in better shape financially, public safety isn't reliant on 25 year old radio systems, but cost of living isn't really any higher. One thing to keep in mind is, while the Tulsa area and NW Arkansas have a lower average temperature during the summer than DFW or OKC, the humidity most years is significantly higher. NW Arkansas will be the coolest during the summer of the three overall, but also the coldest during the winter and most likely to get snow due to the elevation. My dad lives in that area and it's certainly a nice area with plenty to do. Given those three, if a suburb of OKC such as Yukon isn't an option, I would probably choose NW Arkansas.
 
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Mark Blue

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I’ve often thought Salina, KS, would be a great place as it’s about dead center in the alley and is a nice sized city but not too big. I also agree with Q about Omaha as it’s an excellent place to live for chasing and other activities.

My last suggestion is Canyon, TX, just to the SW of Amarillo. We stopped there one day and drove into town for a gourmet cup of coffee and really liked what we saw. We’re getting within a handful of years before retirement, so we’ve actually talked seriously about moving there. Gotta love that Caprock Magic but it’s somewhat displaced from the alley. I like that it’s located to the immediate south of one of the major surface cyclogenesis regions (i.e.SE Colorado) and the dryline is generally in play, so those are my reasons. Are they selfish? Yes, but my wife is on board so I don’t have many hurdles in front of me to jump. Time will tell!
 
Jan 14, 2011
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I really wish RV infrastructure/cost/logistics wasn't so prohibitive. The ideal IMO would be to have an RV as a base (not for chasing, you'd have a separate vehicle for that) and move it from place to place for a few months at a time. RVs are too expensive, they cost as much as a house, on top of that you'll pay apartment-equivalent rent+utilities wherever you park with utility hookups, and most are not built for full-time residency. There aren't many RV parks around the country either, so your options are limited.

I've thought about just downsizing my personal belongings to the point that it would all fit into a full-size pickup/Uhaul trailer, then just doing short-term apartment leases. In theory that would equal the flexibility of an RV, with more living space, real kitchens/bathrooms at a fifth of the cost. More and more I lean toward doing that in my later years.

Kansas for March-June, ABQ for July-August monsoon, September-October in the South for hurricane season, then a wildcard (new location every year) for November-February.
 

Jeff Duda

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I think an overarching theme here is that there is no single perfect location to cover all of Tornado Alley within a half-day drive (so that you don't have to position yourself the night before). Realistically your final decision would be based on your personal preferences and where within the chaser preference distribution that puts you.

I see three or four sub-regions within the larger Alley. My suggestion would be to put yourself in the center of one of those sub-regions and focus on chasing those areas.
  • Southern Plains: for early-mid season action. This would limit you to E NM, TX, and OK. A good place for there would be Lubbock, Amarillo, or Dallas. Smaller towns/cities such as Abilene or Wichita Falls (or Lawton, OK) could also work if your needs are more open.
  • "Main season" Plains: to get the widest time period for chasing, and for capturing the total peak Alleywide. Region: N TX, OK, KS, possibly S NE. Good locations: Norman/OKC, Wichita. Smaller centers of population: (Topeka...late add), Salina, Woodward, Dodge, Manhattan, Lawrence, Lawton. Note: not considering Tulsa, although it might be okay. It is generally on the east side of the region, so most of the time you wouldn't be chasing east of town. Also, good chunks of E OK are not favorable chase terrain. KC generally too far NE to be close enough to the other side of the region.
  • Northern Plains or High Plains: you're not chasing before May or so, but you can chase well into June or even July. Region: NE CO, E WY, E MT, ND, SD, W NE. Good locations: North Platte, Rapid City, Cheyenne, Denver. Secondary bases: Bismarck, Pierre...there really isn't much else. Note: not including Colorado Springs or Pueblo because those are on the edge of the region and you wouldn't be able to reach other parts of the region in a comfortable day's drive.
  • Midwest: less certainty on getting good events, but events can occur over a larger part of the year. Region: IA, MN, IL, MO, E NE. Good locations: Des Moines, KC, STL. Secondary locations: Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities. Note: not including Chicago because there is a 90-degree swath of space that you cannot chase from there (i.e., Lake Michigan).
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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@Jeff Duda the sub regions are a good conceptual way to think about it. Agree that Tulsa and KC are too far east but for the same reason surprised you would include Lawrence or Manhattan as viable. Lawrence is close to KC and in fact slightly east of Tulsa’s longitude. Manhattan is a bit west of that same longitude but only slightly.
 

Jeff Duda

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Lawrence is close to KC and in fact slightly east of Tulsa’s longitude. Manhattan is a bit west of that same longitude but only slightly.
True, but consider the surrounding territory of Manhattan and Lawrence (I should have also included Topeka). In all of these locations the entire 360 degrees of surrounding area is good chaseable area, which is not the case for Tulsa.
 
Jan 20, 2015
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Norman, Oklahoma
I’ve often thought Salina, KS, would be a great place as it’s about dead center in the alley and is a nice sized city but not too big. I also agree with Q about Omaha as it’s an excellent place to live for chasing and other activities.

My last suggestion is Canyon, TX, just to the SW of Amarillo. We stopped there one day and drove into town for a gourmet cup of coffee and really liked what we saw. We’re getting within a handful of years before retirement, so we’ve actually talked seriously about moving there. Gotta love that Caprock Magic but it’s somewhat displaced from the alley. I like that it’s located to the immediate south of one of the major surface cyclogenesis regions (i.e.SE Colorado) and the dryline is generally in play, so those are my reasons. Are they selfish? Yes, but my wife is on board so I don’t have many hurdles in front of me to jump. Time will tell!
Nice choice! I am a bit biased since I am a Canyon resident myself (live in Canyon, work in Amarillo). :) Speaking from a chasing perspective, it is a pretty good staring point for a lot of action (both local and further east in the alley with OKC only being 4 hours, DFW 5.5 ish, Denver about 6.5 or so, and Salina about 6.5 hours) with a lot of quick ways out of town in all directions highway wise. The local days can be pretty good too but a bit hit and miss on frequency here lately (but boy when they do happen, they can be a lot of fun). Being only 15 minutes south of downtown Amarillo, you have the perks of a city of 210,000 right there but still with the small town feel. I fly a ton myself so the airport in Amarillo is important to me. It isn't the cheapest place to fly out of, but you can catch some pretty good deals on Southwest if you look for them (and then you have AA and United to get you elsewhere if need be).
 
If someone is retiring, I might suggest to live where you really want to retire. It's easier to simply fly in on big days for pin-point accuracy. I just can't see moving to a location in Tornado Alley for a few weeks of active chasing when you have so many off months.

I do agree about Amarillo. The majority of classic tornado images have occurred within a 250 mile radius of AMA. You have major infrastructure and within a few hours you are set for LBB / MAF / DDC / CDS / New Mexico or Eastern Colorado. Although the drought has pushed the dryline a little east, there are still good sneak attack days along the dryline. This year, the show shifted back a little west and without the bad timing, there would have been some insane chase days. I'm hoping this westward retreat continues. It really suits my style of chasing with excellent road networks and generally superior visibility. The other big advantage is traffic. It's no problem chasing around the city.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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If someone is retiring, I might suggest to live where you really want to retire. It's easier to simply fly in on big days for pin-point accuracy. I just can't see moving to a location in Tornado Alley for a few weeks of active chasing when you have so many off months.
I’ve said the same thing several times on ST. Not just about retiring but choosing a place to live in general. Can’t see living in Tornado Alley *just* for chasing. You’re talking about a season that lasts a few weeks. Maybe you can grab two of those weeks anyway in the form of a chase vacation. So the *incremental* number of weeks available to a Plains resident is lower still. Six weeek season less two weeks of a chase vacation is four additional weeks. Even at a generous average of 5 chase days per week that’s 20 more days of chasing. Sprinkle in another 10 on the outer bounds of the peak speak season and that’s 30 days more of chasing per year living on the Plains vs what you may get anyway on a chase vacation. That’s less than 10% of the year.

Like Warren said, live based on what you want to be doing the other 90% of the time. When you retire, hopefully you have the time, flexibility and financial wherewithal to just take a longer chase vacation. That’s what I hope to do, spend 4-6 weeks per year out there when I retire.
 
Jan 14, 2011
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Warren and James, exactly! In some respect, I was able to do my chase-influenced 'retirement' move in 2010 when I moved to St. Louis. I could have gone to the Plains, but chose against it for many of the same reasons you both cited. The Plains tend to have more predictable setups in a limited season that allows me to get there in time from here with minimal effort, so most years, I don't miss many good Plains days by not living there.

The difference in my move from a pure retirement one was that I still had to consider the availability of employment options. St. Louis has fulfilled its role in that department. That being said, Wichita, Omaha and OKC all have good economies at the moment with a lot of job options. Just in my current career in the past few years, I've had several opportunities come up to apply for a position in those areas.
 

Todd Lemery

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I agree with the last few posts. Although I’ll be moving closer or in to the Southern plains, it just so happens to fit into the criteria my wife and I are looking for in many ways. I just got done plowing again this morning and hate having to wait until some time in March to see the ground again. Better weather to me is getting some snow and then having it melt. On the other hand, I don’t do well when it starts getting hot out so I need somewhere where the summers aren’t too brutal. It’s too hot and humid East, too snowy West, too cold North and too hot South. Somewhere in the Southern plains is my sweet spot.
As of now, it’s an eleven hour drive just to get to Kansas so it won’t be hard to be closer to better chase terrain. My wife and I will take our time and check out a bunch of different spots down there. Anywhere we choose will greatly affect my chasing convenience for the positive so I’ll let all the other factors decide where we end up.
 
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Jeff Duda

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It’s too hot and humid East, too snowy West, too cold North and too hot South. Somewhere in the Southern plains is my sweet spot.
I would seriously re-evaluate this statement before making any major decisions.

Don't forget that in the summers of 2011 and 2012, OKC hit 100+ 60-some times (2011) and hit 110+ 3 times in August 2012, with one of those days hitting 113. Wichita was over 100 a lot, too, in 2011. And the state's record warm daily minimum temperature of 87 occurred very near Tulsa in August 2011.

Southern Plains summers are hot. Eastern US summers are not hot by comparison. They are very humid (as is the southern Plains, actually), but not as hot.
 

Todd Lemery

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I would seriously re-evaluate this statement before making any major decisions.

Don't forget that in the summers of 2011 and 2012, OKC hit 100+ 60-some times (2011) and hit 110+ 3 times in August 2012, with one of those days hitting 113. Wichita was over 100 a lot, too, in 2011. And the state's record warm daily minimum temperature of 87 occurred very near Tulsa in August 2011.

Southern Plains summers are hot. Eastern US summers are not hot by comparison. They are very humid (as is the southern Plains, actually), but not as hot.
Thank you. I’ll definitely look into that!
 
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I lived in Trinidad CO for 8 years. I have long said that it has just about the best weather in Colorado. In the winter it is often the warmest place in Colorado and in the summer it stays relatively cool due to the 6000 foot elevation. Also, because of the elevation the air is less dense than sea level, making cold and hot temperatures feel less so. You may be skeptical of that last contention, but I am sure it is true. The dew point rarely exceeds 50 there. Trinidad also has great tap water.

I left Trinidad in 1994 for a couple reasons, one of which was the rotten economy, but now it is a boom town because of all the marijuana stores there.

Obvious drawback is the distance to any big-city amenities, especially airports, but at least you're right on I-25. There still aren't any decent restaurants in town, either.
 
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To Jeff's point, that's where NW Arkansas would probably be a happy medium. I've lived both in the old South and the Southern Plains. There's a fairly significant difference on average just between Tulsa and Springdale. The humidity in Tulsa when I lived there was close to the same as anywhere I lived or was stationed in the South (just warmer temperature wise), but NWA tends to run a bit cooler. The elevation difference may have something to do with this. That said, it is a very fast growing area so I'm sure cost of living continues to rise, albeit probably not at the pace of Nashville.
 

Todd Lemery

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NW Arkansas (Bentonville) is going to be our primary target for a retirement home. It has low crime, low cost of living, an airport with commercial flights nearby and big city services without a big city. The terrain at the foot of the Ozarks looks great too with tree covered rolling hills. There’s plenty of lakes and streams in the area also.
The houses prices are surprisingly low for a growing area with plenty of homes with acreage available.
It would check the box for climate for me too. The highest average high is only 11 degrees more than what I have now and the coldest average high is 20 degrees more than what I have now. (Pics) FD3C52BB-8341-4D7E-8ECB-1693B42B93A0.jpeg C940A149-BF90-41F1-8B3C-6720CE548555.jpeg
Although the city of Bentonville is in unfavorable chase terrain, it’s only one hour from Joplin, 2 hours from Tulsa and 4 hours from Wichita. The crappy chase area is what I’m used to at home anyway. I’m used to driving for hours to still be in a crappy chase area!
I’m in no rush as I’m not retiring until next summer, but will get down there for a bit with my wife as time permits for final approval.