Concerns about 2021 first big events (numbers, traffic, idiots and such)

Bobby Little

Supporter
Mar 18, 2013
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eagle, michigan
Thinking about the start of chasing season 2021, wondering how good/bad the first big events will be?
I am sure there is HUGE pent up demand to get out to the first targets, especially after such a dismal 2020 season. Add that to pent up demand JUST TO GET OUT...because of Covid..we may have a recipe for UNSEEN numbers..unbelievable traffic jams, plenty of idiots, and chaos.
Unfortunately I'm a pessimist about it all?!
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
 
Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
I doubt this year will be any different than the trends. If there is a high risk day in KS/OK everyone will be out again. The slight risk days or 5% tornado days (when big days usually actually happen) will remain a crap shoot depending on location and day of the week.

As far as unseen numbers I look to 2010 and Vortex2 and doubt we ever see more vehicles on the roads then during that project.
 

Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
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Mos Isley Space Port
www.stormchaser.com
The crowds are my number one concern now days. It's a non-controllable situation once you are in it. I like to have control over my safety decisions as much as I can.

Not placing blame on anyone, because anyone (including myself) who punches their ticket for Circus Maximus is part of the problem. El Reno was the final straw for me. Social media is the driving force and there is no way to stop it. We are only one blocked highway away from a mega-tragedy.

I've always been a western dryline chaser. I love the open horizons and road networks running from Midland into Nebraska. There are still slight risk / big reward events in these regions, where a lot of chasers don't want to roll the dice with a big drive west -- especially late in the season. In 2019 I was on a beautiful, tornado-warned storm heading into Roswell and I had the best vantage point outside of town all to myself. The storm came ***really*** close to producing. The problem now is the drought. Not a good situation for a dryline cowboy out west -- but it might scare some people away.

My strategy today is to completely avoid the insanity by picking alternative, longer-shot set-ups, which often do occur on big days. I'll take a cap bust further south over a low visibility wedge and clogged roads every time. There are also isolated, big events out west when the dryline retreats into a nicely-timed wave and all hell breaks lose. So fun!

I can't wait till spring!
 
As someone who hasn't chased in the Plains since May 2019, I'm very excited to hopefully get back out this spring, but it's not much more than my usual anticipation coming into severe weather season. I too dread the crowds and do my best to avoid them through various ways, but I'm personally not anymore concerned with storm chaser conga lines this year vs. years past.

COVID restricting people's travel and the last couple years being pretty much crap by traditional chasing standards does seem to point to the potential for a surge in chasers this year. However, it would be difficult to separate a signal (increase in chasers due to crappy years/COVID) from the noise (things like MOD/HIGH Risks, events on weekends, events near population centers, etc.). Sure, people want to get out, but I'm sure there will still be folks who deem it an unnecessary risk, have financial woes/job issues that are pandemic related, etc. that prevent them from participating. And anticipating a surge would also assume that there are many more new people chasing (recent down years don't particularly support that) as well as anticipating that there would have been many chasers who willing sat out events in the past who decide to gun it this year.

I'll wait to get concerned about unprecedented chaser hordes until it looks like chasing season is going to be confined to 3 days near Oklahoma City centered on a weekend in mid-May :).
 
Jan 7, 2006
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USA
www.skyinmotion.com
Alex really nailed it with the inability to separate signal from noise in our current era. On a setup-for-setup basis, I just don't think things are changing that much anymore from year to year, even as background factors like COVID wax and wane. Chasing has increasingly consolidated into a sizable group of fairly hardcore people, of which many of us are part, who will go after a lot of marginal setups up and down the alley if we're able. It's all but guaranteed that every >=5% tornado outlook in the traditional alley will have at minimum several dozen vehicles out, no matter where or when. There are no sleeper days anymore where you can sneak out and be the lone hero -- as soon as the nearest 88D sniffs 35 dBZ on such setups, 15 SpotterNetwork icons will appear out of thin air. The increasingly rare obvious days will be mobbed, no matter where or when. If it's within 150 mi. of DFW or OKC, you can probably double or triple the expected traffic for any given setup. This has been the case since at least the mid 2010s and I'm not worried about it getting much worse this year, but I also don't expect it will be noticeably better, either.
 
Jun 4, 2018
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Altus, OK
While not big events, tomorrow and Saturday may be an indicator of things to come. If those days end up more crowded than such setups normally would be, then we could be in for a wild ride as far as crowds go if any big days materialize later in the season. I'll be interested to see what happens.
 

Dave C

EF2
Jun 5, 2013
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Denver
www.davidcrowlphotography.com
I'll take the long shot chance every time!
Same. Or if I do still rarely chase the same storm as the masses, I will stay back on the next nearest road as the main crowd when possible. I enjoy the view and experience from further out more anyway, generally speaking, as a fan of structure and good photographs vs. adrenaline and close but bad photographs. Nothing fun about being so close you can't see well and are constantly stressed by the mob.
 

Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
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Mos Isley Space Port
www.stormchaser.com
I guess what concerns me the most about the big days are the new chasers who may not have enough experience in combining mapping, storm movement and radar interpretation. You really need to be able to think in 3D. I'm so glad I had the experience of chasing with no radar, cell phones, etc., because it really forced me to learn how storms develop and move. I could see some inexperienced chasers getting into a lot of trouble because they goofed up the route and under estimated how a supercell behaves.
 
Oct 10, 2004
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Madison, WI
I guess what concerns me the most about the big days are the new chasers who may not have enough experience in combining mapping, storm movement and radar interpretation. You really need to be able to think in 3D. I'm so glad I had the experience of chasing with no radar, cell phones, etc., because it really forced me to learn how storms develop and move. I could see some inexperienced chasers getting into a lot of trouble because they goofed up the route and under estimated how a supercell behaves.
May 20, 2019 could easily have been a chaser bloodbath had it behaved closer to initial/outlook expectations (e.g. multiple fast-moving supercells producing families of long-track violent tornadoes, barely visible until close range thanks to the wildfire haze). That traffic jam tailing the Mangum storm was moving no more than 30 MPH, with the person in front of me (clearly not an experienced chaser) repeatedly stopping in the middle of the road to take cell-phone pictures of featureless clouds and rain.
 

Dave C

EF2
Jun 5, 2013
117
143
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Denver
www.davidcrowlphotography.com
May 20, 2019 ..... That traffic jam tailing the Mangum storm was moving no more than 30 MPH, with the person in front of me (clearly not an experienced chaser) repeatedly stopping in the middle of the road to take cell-phone pictures of featureless clouds and rain.
I think there was a chaser accident at Mangum as well. One week later, out near Lamar to Cheyenne Wells there were two car wrecks involving chasers in the massive circus line bringing it to a crawl for several miles. If a serious tornado had planted and crossed that line of cars, it would have been disaster as with Mangum. I endured both Mangum and Eads days, and those experiences have really driven me to work hard to avoid chases in territory with only one usable road and no other places to be. Social media and spotter network are a real problem for chasing, helping people who lack any kind of awareness, manners or skill otherwise required to find the right storm and cause mayhem; of course sheer numbers alone will do that, qualified chasers or not. The same social media driven erosion has happened with so many other outdoor activities as well, but don't want to get off topic.
 
Feb 20, 2019
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Decatur, GA
Well, judging by the situation around Armarillo, it look like the congestion has come to pass. At 16:50 EST, I-27 40nm south of Amarillo shows just a line of chasers. There has to be at least two dozen.
 
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Jeff House

Supporter
Jun 1, 2008
593
622
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
The real gem was all the dots right in the path of the Happy wedge; however, their location could be delayed more than the radar image.

How many chasers are out there for each one showing a dot? I believe that's important to answer the questions above.
 
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Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
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I've seen some discontent on social media regarding "established" chasers behaving poorly, but as usual, no one had the guts to mention names. I think the storms moved somewhat fast and the cloud cover / storm mode / spacing / terrain / made interception difficult and split up the hordes. I'm glad no one was killed or injured -- considering the chase complexities and apparently strong / large / rain-wrapped tornadoes. Some chasers got stuck on muddy dirt roads, which is (as we all know) very dangerous, although I don't know the circumstances.
 

Dean Baron

Supporter
Sep 25, 2006
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Minneapolis, MN
This was Stephen Moore's location during the Happy tornado a couple of days ago.
I think we need to be careful about posting screenshots of SN locations and using it to say a chaser was hit by a tornado. There can be significant lag in SN location so using it as the only source of information to say a chaser got hit can be a dangerous accusation.