List of high chaser traffic events

Discussion in 'Introductory weather & chasing' started by Dan Robinson, May 15, 2017.

  1. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1,758
    Likes Received:
    1,066
    I see a persistent sentiment within the chase community lamenting the traffic issue, and I'm still quite puzzled. My take is that many are conflating 1.) a personal annoyance that they don't have the roads/storms all to themselves any more and 2.) *actual* problems worthy of concern (that is, traffic that is impactful to chasing and/or locals). Those who are experiencing the first item above are equating it with the second, which is distorting reality and giving the outside detractors impetus to criticize (with anti-chaser articles, presentations, etc).

    So, in addition to the video links I've been collecting, I thought I'd add another item of empirical data to the arsenal: let's make a list of every high-chaser-traffic event we know of. Hopefully this might bring more perspective.

    Here are the ones I know of:

    Problematic events and their causes (CTI 6+)
    6-7-2009 - Oregon, Missouri (limited Missouri River crossings, limited roads on the MO side)
    5-19-2010 - Hennessy, Oklahoma (VORTEX2, Discovery show, High Risk in mid-May near OKC)
    4-14-2012 - Salina, Kansas (Well-advertised-in-advance High Risk on a Saturday)
    5-31-2013 - El Reno, Oklahoma (Chasers and locals chaotically fleeing south)
    5-10-2017 - Eldorado, Oklahoma (All chasers forced onto one road due to limited Red River crossings)

    Elevated traffic, but orderly/no real problems (CTI 4 or 5)
    5-27-2001 - Crosbyton, Texas
    5-10-2010 - Wakita, Oklahoma
    5-11-2010 - Vici, Oklahoma
    5-21-2014 - Deer Trail, Colorado
    4-8-2015 - Barber County, Kansas
    5-16-2015 - Tipton, Oklahoma
    5-24-2016 - Dodge City, Kansas

    If you have pictures/videos from events to support classifiying them as problematic, that would be helpful.

    Some of you may remember my previous position on chaser traffic - I was in the "sky is falling" crowd like many others after seeing the May 19, 2010 fiasco, even choosing not to chase the Plains at all in 2011 so as to not contribute to the problem. However, after looking at the evidence, I changed my mind in 2012, and see no reason that I was wrong in doing so. Here is my blog post back when I was a "chaser traffic crisis believer":
    http://stormhighway.com/blog2011/march411a.php

    In a nutshell, I would like to hear from anyone who still thinks traffic is a major problem in chasing to explain why that is, when the evidence shows that truly problematic events are very rare (once every 2 years or more on average). By "problematic" I mean creating actual obstacles and safety issues to chasers and locals, not just disturbing one's personal desire for solitude and open, empty roads.
     
    #1 Dan Robinson, May 15, 2017
    Last edited: May 15, 2017
  2. Ben Holcomb

    Ben Holcomb Digital Janitor
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,077
    Likes Received:
    620
    5-21-14 near Denver was at least 5 if not 6. That was a circus.
    6-29-14 in Western Iowa was a disaster too. 4-5 there.
     
  3. John Farley

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,254
    Likes Received:
    188
    Totally agree with Ben on 5-21-14. Problem was that, east of a certain point, U.S. 36 was practically the only east-west option, as alternatives are pretty much non-existent. Here is a picture:

    View attachment dbc458799371e844e4ed69bdf0b71783.jpg

    These chasers were just ahead of heavy precipitation in the hook area of the storm. Had there been very large hail or a tornado at that point, a lot of chasers could have had a really bad day.
     
  4. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1,758
    Likes Received:
    1,066
    I was also in the May 21, 2014 event - here is my dashcam after turning east on US 36 just ahead of the storm (you can see me breaking out of the precip at the beginning). There was a guy with a large camper shell at the front of the line that I was in, slowing everyone down - once we were able to pass him, it improved dramatically.

    Although, I will say I personally didn't encounter any *problems* with this event other than the brief slowdown there, despite the large numbers.

     
  5. John Farley

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,254
    Likes Received:
    188
    It was a problem for a number of us when we got back to 36 after going north to view the storms. Stuck for quite a while trying to turn left with the storm bearing down. And pretty much took a mad dash to do so when there was a small break in the traffic. There was never a large break during the time I was trying to turn left. Under normal circumstances we all were plenty ahead of the storm to turn onto 36 and go east, but when there was a line of traffic like in my picture above it was nearly impossible to make the left turn. As I said, fortunately by that time there was not real large hail along 36 and there was no tornado in the hook, but had there been either it could have been bad.
     
  6. Shane Adams

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2011
    Messages:
    519
    Likes Received:
    338
    I have to wonder Dan.....you seem to be alone in this conquest to debunk the very real issue of chaser traffic. My hunch for some time has been this is because you're actually worried authorities might start sniffing around and agree with the majority of complaining chasers and implement possible sanctions that could curb an individual's ability to chase, thus hindering your personal ability to make $$$ from chasing. You seem to be so far out on an island regarding your stance that chaser traffic isn't an issue, I can only assume you're trying to protect whatever revenue stream you still have left from chaisng storms. Please, correct me if I'm wrong.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1,758
    Likes Received:
    1,066
    What I'm trying to figure out, Shane, is exactly why supposedly everyone feels that way. I've put everything I have out there for someone to show me where this problem is, and no one says anything. Show me where it is.

    I have made zero so far from Plains chasing this year. Prove with evidence why you think that isn't the case.

    All I hear is opinion, while I'm offering empirical evidence to show that:

    1.) chaser traffic is not as bad as it's being made out to be, and
    2.) the truly problematic events are rare.

    Stop SAYING there is a severe problem, and SHOW me there is a severe problem.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. Brett Roberts

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2006
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    317
    Dan, my stance is firmly in the gray area between #1 and #2 in your list of complaints regarding traffic complaints. I would say it's more than just annoyance over "not having the storm to myself." I don't care much about that, since I started chasing well after that idea had become laughable on any remotely chase-worthy day.

    When I'm annoyed, it's typically because of significant slowdowns stemming from long lines of chasers at intersections and/or behind inconsiderate slow chasers who won't pull over. A secondary annoyance is when there is literally nowhere to pull off the road after minutes of searching, due to hordes of chasers. A tertiary annoyance is when, after pulling off for a brief look or photography, it takes more than 30-60 sec to rejoin traffic on the main artery. I encounter these situations on probably 3-5 chases per year, as someone who typically chases on about 12-18 days.

    In terms of your assessment on catastrophic convergence events that actually present a serious public safety issue, I largely agree with you: they are extremely rare. Shane, perhaps you're viewing the issue through a different lens (i.e., whether convergence is impeding chasing) and that's the source of your disagreement.

    Put simply: is chaser convergence making chasing and keeping up with the storm difficult on a semi-regular basis? Based on my subjective experience as an OKC-based chaser, yes. Is chaser convergence so severe that emergency responders would be greatly impeded and residents might be trapped while attempting to flee a tornado's path? Very rarely; and, to the extent it happens, local yokels typically make up a large percentage of the problem by that point.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  9. Todd Lemery

    Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2014
    Messages:
    296
    Likes Received:
    211
    Brett put it pretty good. Hell, if I've got to drive a little further to find an unoccupied pullout, or get stuck behind a slow moving line of chasers every once in a while, it's all good. I've never seen convergence that bad where I'm stuck behind traffic with a tornado about to steamroll me or going miles to far because I can't find somewhere to pull over. Being out chasing beats just about everything else and if I have to share the road with a few more people than would be ideal, I'll take it in a heartbeat!
     
  10. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1,758
    Likes Received:
    1,066
    The thing is, I'm out there every year, on the biggest Southern/Central Plains events of each season (I'm not a Colorado or Northern Plains secondary target 2 percent chaser) and I don't see the crisis. Lots of chasers? Sure. Problems impacting my chase? Very rarely. Something worthy of national news articles every year smearing all of us? I'm perplexed that anyone sees that.

    Granted, I am rarely near OKC unless it's a major event (El Reno/Shawnee/etc), and I realize I can't be everywhere at once, but do I just have the mojo to avoid national-news-level jams on every single chase? The only issue I had this year was a person doing 60mph in a 65 near Wellington, Texas on May 16 that several of us had some difficulty passing. Annoying, sure, but not worthy of a crisis.

    In the old Stormtrack magazine (it's in the archives somewhere), there was a LEO report of a mile-long line of chasers on a storm near Oklahoma City in the 1980s. This was pre-Twister and maybe even pre-Nova. On the Crosbyton supercell day in 2002, there was a large number of chasers taking most of the pull-offs.

    My point being, what I see now in the Plains is all I've ever known, and I don't have any notable issues. Would it be more accurate to say that around the OKC metro during big events, there are a lot of locals mixed in with the rest of us?

    Are there chasers that actually agree with the news articles? I really would like to hear your opinion, because before Shane, I had no idea anyone actually felt that way.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  11. Brett Roberts

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2006
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    317
    I've rarely taken the time to read those articles, but I can only assume they're greatly exaggerating the problem and invoking public safety as a serious issue. After all, if the only consequence of a chaser convergence event is that a bunch of us get behind and miss the shot we wanted, why would it be news in the first place? If my assumption about the nature of the media coverage is accurate, then I completely disagree with said coverage. I think we're on the same page here: you seem to agree that convergence can make chasing moderately more difficult on some events, but don't regard it as a major annoyance, while some other chasers do.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Randy Jennings

    Joined:
    May 18, 2013
    Messages:
    202
    Likes Received:
    129
    To me it is more of an annoyance that a real problem, although I'm not a drive to the SPC target type of person. If I see a good chase outside of the highest risk area I will take it especially if the drive is shorter. The way I look at it is this - we are blessed to chase in a time where we have almost unlimited access to radar, satellite, observations, and models in the field. We may have to put up with more traffic than the early chasers, there may be more tripods in the road, fewer places to pull off at, and we may have to deal with an occasional LEO road block, but we still have it good. To me it's all part of the chase. Think of it as playing a board game and drawing a card to lose a turn or move back two spaces. The early chasers probably didn't complain about having to stop at NWS office or library to get access to data and we need to stop complaining too and enjoy nature's show.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  13. John Farley

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,254
    Likes Received:
    188
    I looked at the CNN article and did not actually find a lot to disagree with (except for a couple things chasers said about barricades and about following scientific teams) - thought the article was actually pretty balanced. Can't speak to other articles. As to my experiences personally, the only really bad chaser jam I have been in was 5/21/14 near Denver and to some degree Dodge City last year, though my positioning kept me away from the worst jams in that one. So in terms of my own experience, really bad jams are something that happen occasionally, but not a lot. Have I seen people do stupid stuff? Sure, but not necessarily in the worst jams. Have I been inconvenienced by the numbers of chasers I am sharing the road with? Again, sure, but not to the point of the old days of having to stop at a library to get data, for example. I do avoid chasing near OKC and occasionally take crowds into consideration when picking a target, especially in Oklahoma. All that said, I do have a concern that sometime, somewhere, a big jam will make it impossible for chasers to escape monster hail or a tornado. There have been several situations where that could have happened but the storm did not tornado or produce giant hail in the situation. That does not mean it could not happen in the future, and it is one more thing to take into consideration in chase strategy.
     
  14. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1,758
    Likes Received:
    1,066
    So, here is a recap of my history with the chaser traffic issue.

    In 2011, I wrote this blog post, mostly in response to the May 19, 2010 "Super Jam" near Hennessy, OK:
    http://stormhighway.com/blog2011/march411a.php

    In a nutshell, I went into "freak out" mode because of that jam, thinking that we were in "traffic crisis" mode. I did not chase in the Plains in 2011 because of that belief.

    Based on reports during 2011 that indicated that traffic was not problematic (in other words, May 19, 2010 was an outlier due to Vortex II, the Discovery show and a high risk near OKC), I resumed chasing the Plains in 2012. In 2013, I began keeping a video archive of my own chases from start to finish. This includes the Rozel, Bennington and El Reno days.

    Based on my experiences from 2012 onward, I retracted my claims in the March 2011 blog post because what I was seeing in the field did not support a traffic crisis.

    Let me show you why I came to that conclusion.

    Here are my dashcam archives from May 16, 2017:



    Relevant timestamps:
    08:40 tornado/light chaser traffic at McLean, TX
    09:30 elevated chaser traffic
    10:15 peak chaser traffic at I-40 interchange
    14:30 -14:36 60mph driver in 65mph zone

    This chase is typical of my experiences in the Plains since 2012. Hopefully, it is plainly apparent from this video why I don't see an issue with chaser traffic. I'm not deliberately ignoring problems or minimizing issues. It's amazing that conspiracy theories about my motives are floating around when *I'm* the one posting videos of my entire chases!

    I have publicly posted every chase of mine in its entirety in the Plains since 2015. There are 64 videos like this (as of today, May 30, 2017) showing full chases, from me and other chasers:

    http://stormhighway.com/blog2015/april2815a.php

    Now that the claim is persisting from chasers that traffic is indeed still an issue, I am interested in full-chase videos that show problematic traffic. Right now, the only ones I have been able to find that show elevated traffic approaching levels of even minor concern are during the Dodge City and 5/21/14 Colorado days. If I come across more, I will add them to this list (nothing is being deliberately omitted). If you have a video that shows problematic traffic that you do not want to make public, send me the link (I will keep it private).

    My goal is to build a 100% empirical record of chaser traffic issues, precisely *because* there is so much subjective opinion inside and outside of the community.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    #14 Dan Robinson, May 30, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2017
  15. Alex Elmore

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2015
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    15
    I agree with Denver on 5/21/14 being a bit of a mess. That was a combination of a relatively good chance of seeing tornadic storms that day in the midst of a crappy year, only one storm firing, and then its RFD sweeping across the main west-east option in the area, pushing everyone east out ahead of it on one road.

    I also agree with what Dan is doing. I have heard from several chasers that they will not chase in certain areas due to the traffic. Whether that is the true reason for them not chasing an event is only known by them, but I do feel some are truly sincere about it. Additionally, we all know the negative attention chasing has been receiving from outside of the community based on a few rare situations and bad eggs. I feel that an effort to archive and make footage available showing that it's usually not a circus may not fix the negative opinions completely, but it's a step in the right direction.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  16. Tim Supinie

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Messages:
    118
    Likes Received:
    47
    Would like to add 19 May 2013 (OK-66 east of Edmond, OK) to the list. Probably the worst chaser traffic I've been in, outside of the 19 May 2010 fiasco. Not a serious event on the order of 31 May 2013, probably a CTI 4-5 (which I assume means "Chaser Traffic Index" ... however that's determined).

    FWIW, I was in SW OK on 10 May 2017 and didn't have any problems with traffic. Of course, that's probably because we got a late start and didn't intercept the storm until it was entering OK. For the most part, I've had very few issues with traffic in the last several years. There's probably a bit of luck in that, though my traffic issues are strongly correlated with chasing in the OKC metro area. Decided after the 2013 shenanigans I wasn't going to do that anymore.
     
  17. James Wilson

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    224
    I love catching myself in your dashcams Dan lol ...So far I found myself at10:07 parking to film the below tornado. Question that tornado to the left (West) of your video at that point ... is that the end of McLean or another one? Sorry to hijack but I have not had confirmation yet.

    BTW I totally agree on 6-7-2009 - Oregon, Missouri which was also aided by LARGE hail up to grapefruit size.
    Whitney First Tornado McLean Texas.jpg
     
  18. Ed Sweeney

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2010
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    1
    Interestingly enough, I thought the 5/21/14 event certainly had a high volume of chasers, but seemed pretty orderly (at least where I was that day). While mindful of the volume, I never felt overly concerned/worried at any point, although it may have just been the luck of the draw on our part in terms of positioning.

    On the other hand, Lou Ruh & I were discussing this thread during our chase this year and both agreed on one event that hasn't been mentioned yet: 5/20/13 near Pauls Valley, OK. Although we were chasing separately at the time, we both had similar experiences. Stopped dead for several minutes in a chaser traffic jam on a narrow road (i.e. no ability to turn around if need be), limited visibility in the trees, and a confirmed tornado (the Marlow/Duncan tornado) heading in our direction. I was sweating it out until we reached a 4-way intersection and were able to get out of that mess. Although thankfully averted, it stands out to me as an event that had a significant potential for disaster due to convergence.


    Sent from my iPhone using Stormtrack
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  19. Brett Roberts

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2006
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    317
    Come to think of it, I do recall some rather insane traffic volume on 20 May 2013 down south. I don't think I was ever stuck in gridlock, but I was nonetheless amazed at how persistent the heavy highway traffic was all the way from wherever I exited I-35 (Pauls Valley? Wayne?) all the way down to the Duncan storm.

    I've been concerned for several years now that another dangerous convergence event is likely if we get a focused setup within 50-60 mi. of OKC that pans out. The only one we've really had in recent years was El Reno 2013, and we know how that turned out. Yeah, it was also a worst-case scenario in terms of storm evolution and tornado size, but still. There have been other significant tornadoes in central OK, but we've continually lucked out in terms of their either being somewhat unexpected (Wynnewood 2016, Moore 2013) or on spread-out target days with numerous good storms (24 May 2011, 6 May 2015). The next time central OK is the obvious target on a big setup and gets the first/only good storm that day (e.g., 3 May 1999 or 8 May 2003), I'd genuinely be surprised if we escape without major problems. That being said, OKC is its own animal, and I agree with Dan that crisis-level convergence is rare outside this area.
     

Share This Page