Chasing Etiquette

Discussion in 'Introductory weather & chasing' started by Ryan Witek, Jun 1, 2018.

  1. Ryan Witek

    Ryan Witek Lurker

    Joined:
    May 25, 2018
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    1
    After going out chasing a few times in my local area, I have noticed something. Finding a spot to stop and take photos / make reports / etc. without inconveniencing others and/or trespassing (stopping on a road alongside private property) is, well, awkward. I often find myself in empty parking lots or working with non-ideal positions on property owned by friends + family in the area I'm chasing in.

    I understand that there is a certain way to go about chasing without having to worry too much about either of these - a sort of etiquette to it. Aside from the concerns about stopping and driving, I'm willing to bet there are several other significant items that come to the minds of those who have been around longer...

    The reason I am making this thread is to open up a conversation about what is acceptable / unacceptable of spotters when they are out in the field. If anyone has any specific comments about this topic, feel free to add them below. I'm very interested to hear what everyone has to say so that I may be a better chaser.

    Thanks much!
     
  2. John Farley

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,303
    Likes Received:
    257
    IMHO, the most important thing is to stop COMPLETELY off the road on any paved road. Sometimes on low-traffic gravel roads I will stop on the road in a place where I can be easily seen, and have seen a lot of other chasers do this. But on any paved road, where traffic is likely to be faster and/or heavier, be completely off the road. I often pull over in field entrances, and have never been questioned for being on private property (because they are not; they are in the highway right-of-way). Once a farmer came along and needed to get into his field and asked me to move so he could, which I of course did. But he did not seem to mind my stopping there. Also recently once when I was pulled over parallel to the road in a field entrance, two chasers came along and wanted me to move so they could get their trucks into the field entrance perpendicular to the road, which I did. However, I was annoyed a half hour or so later when I came by the same two chasers stopped in front of a field entrance parallel to the road in exactly the way they had objected to me for stopping. But I continued on my way and did not say anything. That day I did encounter a chaser stopped on a highway blocking the entire right lane. It was a low traffic road so I just went around him and on to the next field entrance; perhaps should have said something but didn't.
     
    • Like Like x 3
    • Agree Agree x 3
  3. Marc R. O'Leary

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    401
    Likes Received:
    206
    A few basic rules:

    Stay out of farmer's fields.
    Stay out of private driveways when possible or sitting for longer duration. Pausing to make a quick report is ok, IMO.
    Be considerate of traffic AKA get as far off the road as you safely can.
    Don't stand in the road unless you know it's rarely traveled (be aware!)
    Don't set up a tripod in the road unless you know it's rarely traveled (be aware!)

    Common sense is really important. And empty parking lots are perfect places to stop.

    Most roads have easements for the purpose of pulling off safely, but most of the roads we chase on those easements are often places you don't want to, or can't put an average car. Many roads around here, the 'easement' consists of a yellow line and a ditch. Not suitable.

    Personally, I prefer to chase the roads less traveled. If the masses are on the main paved road, I'll look for the less used secondary roads. Less traffic means less worry, and more parking spots for me. Not really an etiquette point, more safety and personal preference I suppose.

    Now bare in mind, every geographical area is going to be different in road design and pull off availability. Personally, I chase CO almost exclusively and have never had a problem finding a place to pull off safely. Just be smart and safe and remember there will be people not paying attention to you, but more the storm, so you need to pay twice as much attention for your own safety.

    I'll let some of the more experienced chasers/spotters add to this should they chime in.
     
    • Like Like x 4
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. John Farley

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,303
    Likes Received:
    257
    Not an etiquette point, but one thing I would add is that if you do go on unpaved roads, it is good to have some local knowledge about what happens to those roads when they get wet. In some areas, including parts of CO and KS, those roads can become undrivable even with all-wheel drive in a heavy rain. If unsure, I usually avoid such roads if they are wet or likely to become wet - and have regretted it a couple times when I broke this rule.
     
    • Like Like x 5
  5. Ryan Witek

    Ryan Witek Lurker

    Joined:
    May 25, 2018
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    1
    I drive a 2010 Honda Pilot AWD - I'm good as far as road environment is concerned. Thanks a bunch for your response - all very helpful!
     
  6. Ethan Schisler

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2012
    Messages:
    268
    Likes Received:
    377
    I always try to not pull off and get out of the vehicle on busy roadways or highways. Try finding a side road and then pull off maybe a few hundred yards past the stop sign or where the road ends and then get out safely. If you stop on a heavily trafficked road you are risking an accident for either yourself or another driver hitting you. Its just not worth it in my opinion. When I'm chasing, I'm almost always thinking of places to pull off before I actually pull off. In other words you have to be 2 steps ahead of your own game. Driving down a busy highway while chasing a supercell, you should be thinking of where you are going to pull off next and then how long you want to stay there before getting back on the pursuit and staying ahead of that storm.

    Others have stated some good points above so I won't reiterate those. Storm chasing is all about the navigation and finding roads to stay ahead of the storm you are chasing in my opinion. Its like a good game of chess. Sort of. Kind of.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  7. Warren Faidley

    Joined:
    May 7, 2006
    Messages:
    1,091
    Likes Received:
    343
    1: Use the Pursuit Intervention Technique or "PIT" on local vehicles when ever possible.
    2: Road spikes are a "must deploy" to limit local traffic.
    3: Chase vehicles should use all available light bars and decals.
    4: Just kidding.

    Seriously, it's basic common sense just like when driving down a city or Interstate road.
    1: Be predictable.
    2: Don't brake unexpectedly.
    3: The driver must be paying 100% attention to driving, not rubber necking at the storm or looking at data, etc., when there is heavy traffic.
    4: If you do something stupid, try to find the other driver and apologize. We all make mistakes.
    5: Avoid major city areas during high risk days. (A personal preference).
    6: Like many others have said, pull all the way off the road, preferably onto a genuine pull off or side road. I hate parking right next to the highway, even on the shoulder as it's very dangerous, but sometimes the only option.
    7: Don't set-up tripods in the roadway.
    8: Don't think anyone is going to slow down or move over just because there are storms and lots of people looking. Last week, we had semi-trucks passing us on the side of a narrow two lane highway going at least 85 mph - not slowing down or moving over an inch. I'm all for a new law requiring vehicles to slow and / or move over when passing a vehicle pulled off the road, just like they do for LEO and road workers.
    9: Don't stand between parked vehicles. A rear-end collision could cause multiple pile-ups and you could be crushed.

    Obviously some of these are "safety" tips but they are all related.
     
    • Agree Agree x 4
    • Like Like x 3
    #7 Warren Faidley, Jun 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2018
  8. Marc R. O'Leary

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    401
    Likes Received:
    206
    As Warren stated, a lot of this is safety, but I think safety and etiquette overlap more than not in this particular hobby.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  9. John Moore

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    19
    Agree with Warren and Marc - safety, not etiquette, is the primary issue. But yeah, basically on etiquette, don't be rude. That includes minimizing the time you are in someone else's camera shot, along with obvious stuff like not driving aggressively, not blocking people (or at least, be ready to let them through quickly), etc.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Todd Lemery

    Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2014
    Messages:
    365
    Likes Received:
    289
    Treat others and their property how you would like your property and you to be treated. It really should be this simple. Now, this safety stuff....oh boy, is there some work to be done!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Jason Boggs

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2013
    Messages:
    364
    Likes Received:
    268
    Good points everyone! A couple I will throw in...

    And for God's sake, don't go 40 in a 75 while trying to find a place to pull over. If you miss one, go the speed limit until you find another one.
    ALWAYS put your blinker on well before you pull over. Don't put in on as you're turning like a LOT of chasers do.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
    #11 Jason Boggs, Jun 3, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  12. Jeff House

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2008
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    144
    We prefer backing into a field entrance, which allows quick departure - preferably turning right not left. If it is wide enough try to be on one side in case another chaser comes. However first come first serve.

    Often tornadoes go just after office hours, so parking lots of closed businesses are good. Try not to take good spots for customers if it's open. Otherwise traffic is covered well above.

    We try to wave or otherwise make contact with property owner(s). Normally they wave back. Sometimes they ask about the storm. We have not had trouble and most people are actually welcoming.

    Talking to other chasers is like talking to the adjacent passenger on a plane. Look for cues. Some like the interaction. Some want seclusion. Either way a polite wave is always good.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  13. Ryan Witek

    Ryan Witek Lurker

    Joined:
    May 25, 2018
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    1
    Thanks everyone for the continued responses - Maybe the StormTrack community could get together and make a new spotter field guide that covers all the safety and etiquette information those of you who are more experienced have come to learn! This information is fantastic for my use as a new spotter, and I am thankful to everyone on this thread for their help. :D
     
  14. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1,981
    Likes Received:
    1,339
    In terms of turning off roads, I understand the difficulty of finding one at speed. The little pull-offs are sometimes hard to see at a distance. That said, just be mindful of traffic behind you. If there are multiple cars behind you and you're unsure of pulling over, just find the earliest possible safe place to pull off to let traffic pass. A short stretch looking for a pull-off is OK. The annoyance is if you continue on for miles like this letting traffic pile up behind you.
     
    • Agree Agree x 4
    • Like Like x 1
  15. JamesCaruso

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2009
    Messages:
    588
    Likes Received:
    205
    Love this one, it’s something we don’t see too much written about. Definitely agree with Jeff’s thoughts and the airline flight analogy is perfect. Agree also on a “polite wave” - I think it’s completely ridiculous that so many chasers won’t even acknowledge each other with eye contact and a nod. I understand the desire for privacy - I am like that myself - but don’t pretend other chasers are invisible when you’re right next to each other.

    Having said that, I am much less anxious to talk to other chasers than I used to be - I guess it’s the shear number of people - i.e., believe it or not it used to be a novelty to run into another chaser, but obviously that is no longer the case, and it used to be that you could still experience relative seclusion even while chatting with a couple of other chasers, but now with these huge groups around you the only way to pretend you have any solitude is to avoid getting into a conversation. But that shouldn’t mean even avoiding eye contact, a nod or a wave; that alone would make us feel more connected as a community and mindful of protecting each others’ rights and safety.

    On a related note, I will add another “rule” of etiquette: if you are going to start a conversation with another chaser, don’t let the first words out of your mouth be “Did you see the tornado ....(back there, earlier today, yesterday, last Tuesday, etc.) Nobody nursing a still-fresh frustration, failure or disappointment wants to hear that, it’s salt in a wound. Some teen or college student on a tour standing next to me in OK this week, after he avoided eye contact when he first came near me, started asking if I saw the Colorado landspouts the day before, which I hadn’t. Then he tells me how they also saw the Wyoming tornado the day before that (which I also missed), and that it was his first two days chasing ever. Not something I was in the mood to hear after two days of disappointment, not to mention from a kid who hasn’t paid his dues with over 20 years of chasing (and was on a tour, not even really chasing himself anyway). This type of thing is yet another reason I am less inclined to talk to other chasers nowadays, everyone just wants to start bragging about what they saw, pretend that they know exactly what is happening or going to happen with the day’s storm, etc., with no sense of awareness of exactly how little we all know. Sure, this is what we all have in common, but let the conversation get there naturally, don’t feel like you have to show how much you have seen or how much you know (or think you know).

    I’ll add one more unrelated suggestion - last week while watching the OK HP, it finally became tornado warned. I realized it only because the emergency warning went off on my phone - the storm was looking mean but “outflowy” at the time so it wasn’t visibly apparent from where we were standing - but another chaser speeding north into the notch started honking his horn in a series of short blasts, I assume to get the attention of the other chasers standing there and let them know about the new warning. I thought that was a pretty cool thing to do and something that we all should make a standard “signal”. Maybe it kind of is already, I mean intuitively I knew why he was honking, but maybe we should “formalize” it.
     
    • Like Like x 4
  16. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1,981
    Likes Received:
    1,339
    Despite how I may seem on this forum, I am quite introverted especially during a solo chase when I have a lot on my mind. It is difficult for me to shift into outgoing conversation/interaction mode on chases, and I tend to be that guy who seems "cold" and unfriendly at gas stops/convergences unless I have a long wait ahead with no forecasting/data monitoring to do. This was especially true on this trip with the high mileages and 4-6 hours of sleep per night I was averaging. I apologize in advance if I did that/will do that to any of you, it is nothing personal.
     
  17. JamesCaruso

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2009
    Messages:
    588
    Likes Received:
    205
    Dan, I don’t think I saw you this trip, but no apology necessary, I definitely understand the difference in “mode” - I feel like that even at work, shifting between “meeting/conversation mode” and “analysis mode” - it’s a bigger shift requiring more psychic energy than many people realize - and I have probably been in a similar state of mind to yours at many chaser convergences. But nice of you to post that.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  18. Jeff House

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2008
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    144
    Good point @JamesCaruso to focus on today. When I talk in the field, we almost always talk about the here and now. Compare nowcasts. Discuss the current cell. Cheer development. Seems strange to bring up the previous day, especially in the heat of battle.

    Most of the time, yeah it is just a wave and people wave back. Reminds me of NYC, lol, they will smile if one smiles first.

    I would say talking about the past is more acceptable at dinner/drinks after, or even breakfast/lunch before. In the field though, it's all about right now.
     
  19. Michael Towers

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2007
    Messages:
    239
    Likes Received:
    59
    Yeah, that can burn. I’ll never forget getting on the Bowdle storm just after the EF-4, ignorant in my bliss as I was filming a nice multi-vortex when some chaser came up and jubilantly exclaimed “How about that wedge!” Talk about the ultimate chasing buzz kill, I knew the storm had produced a few tornadoes but had no clue that I missed anything of significance.

    As for etiquette I’d rate safety first and consideration for others second as the most important things to keep in mind. Consideration not only for other chasers but everyone and remember that local folks might not only not share your enthusiasm for the storm they might be experiencing a completely different set of emotions as the supercell you marvel threatens their home or community. Another time I’ll never forget, back in 2010 in Colorado, I’m out setting up my tripod to film a developing wall cloud when this girl pulls up in her car and asks what I’m doing.

    “Filming the storm!”

    “Why, do you think it’s special or something”

    “Yeah, it might even spawn a tornado any minute!”

    “Really? Where”

    “Right where my camera’s pointed!”

    “Oh my god, that’s where I live!”

    She looks at me like I’m a monster, starts crying and proceeds to blast off right toward the circulation. Had I acted with concern instead of jubilation I might have kept her from driving into danger or at least not drove her to panic. I also could have spared myself from coming across like a complete ass and feeling like one as well.

    Another thing I’d recommend is don’t get lost in the chaser frenzy where you forget that not every other vehicle on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere is a chaser. I was guilty of that this year in Oklahoma, pulled off on a gravel road and lacking any spot to park decided to pull off parallel to the road on somebody’s driveway entrance. I figured if any car wanted to pull out I’d move so no big deal. A minute or so later a vehicle pulls right up behind me, right on my bumper and I got a little pissed thinking why the heck don’t they get their own spot? This one is a little tight for two, do you really need to crowd me like that? Just then a sheriff pulls up beside them and after talking with them a few seconds pulls up beside me. I figured he wanted to ask me about the storm but to my surprise he asks me to move so the folks behind me can get in their driveway. I nodded sheepishly, apologized and in my embarrassment thought to myself “did I really just do that?” I still feel the shame just writing about it and you can bet I'll never let anything like that happen again.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  20. Quincy Vagell

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2015
    Messages:
    244
    Likes Received:
    476
    Another thing that came to mind is not yelling and/or honking at chasers as you drive by them.

    When I was watching the Coleridge, NE tornado in 2014, I had a vehicle drive by with people screaming at me and honking. I don't know if they were even chasers and honestly, I did not mind it. It was my first up-close encounter with a strong tornado and I was perhaps even more excited than they were. However, other chasers who may be filming or otherwise enjoying an event probably don't want loud sounds interrupting the moment.

    I do try to wave when I pass by some chasers on the road, unless it's a mobbed scene with dozens of chasers, then it seems silly. Otherwise I think it's a nice gesture, especially if you're in a remote area with few chasers.

    One thing that I try my best to avoid at all costs is following or otherwise driving right up to chasers who are by themselves. I don't mind some social interaction, but unless I'm good friends with the chaser or have some other reason to join them, I'll let them be. If anything, I usually try to keep the most distance possible, so I'm not getting in the way of any cameras and there's the safety aspect too.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  21. Bill Hark

    Bill Hark EF5

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2004
    Messages:
    1,192
    Likes Received:
    104
    Very good thread. I don't have much to add beyond what Warren, Dan and everyone else has said here. If one will be parked for an extended time at a gas station, try to park off to the side, away from the main customer traffic areas and maybe ask if it's all right to wait. Throw some business their way. Share information with clerk or manager about the weather situation. A nice reminder to be "weather aware" is always appreciated.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  22. James Wilson

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    292
    A couple other things to remember
    1. Slow down by people off the side of the road especially on dirt due to rock and dirt hitting chasers. Be alert while doing so to what is behind you vehicle wise.
    2. When coming to join people stopped be mindful that they may have time lapse going or recording. Keep quiet until you know what is going on.
    3. Never pull in front of a chasers vehicle that was there before you. They most likely have a dash cam or other recording happening. DO NOT BLOCK THEIR VIEW.
    4. Ditches or the side of the road is not always hard or paced. May times you can get into trouble due to mud or what have you.
    There is probably more but that is off the top of my head.

    NOTE: There is no type of vehicle currently deployed to chase that will be fine on the roads. Mud/clay etc will teach you that soon enough.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  23. Paul Knightley

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Messages:
    872
    Likes Received:
    135
    All great points in this thread! Indeed, pretty much all the chasers I 'see' on here, or on Facebook, etc, are those who will behave in a decent manner - it always makes me wonder who the chasers are who don't - e.g., those who dawdle along at 35mph, or just stop without signalling - then it dawned on me that it *could* be any of us, at times...I'm sure most of us have had a moment or two where we've realised we've done something which isn't as courteous, etc, as it could be. I just try to do the best I can, as I'm sure most do.

    But the driving slowly thing - that still gets my goat! ;)
     
    • Agree Agree x 1

Share This Page