Chasing Bases for Retirement

Jun 1, 2008
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Chattanooga, TN
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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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Oklahoma City, OK
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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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San Angelo, TX
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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Menominee, MI
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.pngareas?
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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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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Feb 19, 2007
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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 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!
 

Dan Robinson

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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

Resident meteorological expert
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Oct 7, 2008
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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: 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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