Pre-Initiation....

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Feb 19, 2004
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Oklahoma City
Ok here is a question that I'm always asking myself during a chase. How far should one be in a typical severe storm setup away from the Dryline/Outflow, etc.? Just for specifics let's say the storm motions are going to be SW to NE at about 30-35mph.

What is your strategy on this? How far do you sit away from the boundary and how long do you wait and move along it if the cap looks like it is winning in a particular area? I hope this spurs some decent discussion :)
 
I'm not sure if there is a right or wrong answer to this one, but what I like to do is chill out play some catch or something about 60 miles or so off the Dryline giving me a decent angle to intercept a wide range of the DL, in the scenario you drew up I would favor the Northern Extent of my target, as with storm motions I'd be better off blasting South to intercept a storm moving towards me as opposed playing catch up because a storm formed North-West of me (though you got to watch out so you don’t get burned by the right movers). From my experiences though, typically with in about an hour of initiation you can typically tell via Satellite where things are going to go first, so I tend to believe as long as you are within 60 miles or so of the Dryline you can typically make it to an area that you know is going to go before the first T-Storm Warning is issued.
 

Shane Adams

I try to be 30 miles east of where I think storms will form on the dryline. The reason is twofold; (1) it ensures I won't get caught behind it if it accelerates unexpectedly during the day and (2) if things go as planned, it gives the storms about an hour or so to get themselves together while I either drive up to them or let them come to me.

Usually I end up further east than I need to be, because I got burned by going too far west once back in 1998 and spent that whole day chasing storms from the backside all the way back home (sucked). Plus I prefer to view tornadoes from the east looking west, so I take extra steps to keep myself ahead of sups and not trailing behind them. Doesn't always work, but it's always the plan.

If storm motions are expected to be more northerly (typical earlier in the Plains Spring season) I'll venture out to the dryline itself, north of the area I expect storms to form. This is the same basic "down stream" strategy as hanging back east later in the year.

If it's a classic triple point setup with storm motions that parallel the warm front, I'll drive to the TP to catch any storm that might interact along that boundary intersection...however if there's a buldge/kink further south/southwest along the dryline, I will always be drawn to that feature first.
 
Jul 8, 2004
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Miami, Oklahoma
As far as the dryline goes I try to stay about 30 miles from where I believe the dryline is. I will keep an eye on visible sat. and visually to see if CU are building to indicate the dryline is beginning to become active. Sometimes I place myself back even further, but that depends on what type of day is forecasted. It is a very dynamic day like a high risk or a high end moderated risk I may get a bit closer to the dryline as storms can explode and become tornadic very very quickly with the right ingridients. As a rule of thumb overall I guess I would have to say about 30 miles. It usually takes storms a bit to mature anyway so a little space of about 30 miles seems to usually work for me. As far as moving to a different area if the CAP is winning is one of the hardest things to do as a storm chaser. It is always a tough decision that has to be made, but it can eat you alive if you make the wrong decision. That is part of the fun of it I guess. I typically don't wait too long, esp. if it is getting late in the day. I would like to hear other thoughts on this as I don't generally have a rule of thumb I follow to move rather than just a feeling I guess.
 
Well if you had storm motions of 35mph I would put myself two to three counties ahead of where you expect storms to fire. I always want to make sure I'm far enough ahead of the boundary to make last minute adjustments if needed. You want to be able to see how storms come off the dryline and be far enough ahead of them to move North or South to get on the best storm. For instance, if three cells come off the dryline and I want to get on the tail end storm, which is say 40 miles South of me, then I will be far enough East (out ahead) of the storms to get South of it without having to core punch the storm. It is easy to get on a storm when you're out ahead of it, but it is very difficult to catch up after you've fallen behind. You need to remember that it usually takes a supercell about an hour to mature and usually you won't get tornadoes until at least an hour to an hour and a half after the storm first shows up on radar, so don't worry about not being on the storm right away. If storm motions are going to be around 20mph or less I will usually get within 25 miles of the dryline since that is slow enough for you to easily cath up to storms if you fall behind. It can be very beneficial to see how towers are going up. Typically IMO you can tell where the strongest convergence is (where storms will first fire) long before you ever have anything on radar. Once storm motions get above 25mph though it isn't worth the risk of falling behind.
If storm motions are 40mph or greater I will get three counties ahead (at least) of the boundary and as the storm gets within 20 miles or so of me I will start driving to stay ahead of it. The reason I do this is because it is a good bet that your residence time on the storm is going to be limited when storms are moving that fast so you want to make sure you move in on the storm at the most favorable time for tornadoes (to maximize your chance of seeing a tornado). I wait until I think the storm is about to go tornadic and then drop back to get in close. I got burned on this several times when I first started chasing. I got on the storm way to early and I had fallen behind by the time it started to tornado.
Always error on the side of caution IMO. Like I said before, it is very easy and quick to move in on a storm when you are ahead of it, but it can be very difficult to catch back up after you've fallen behind. Not leading the storms enoug in fast storm motion scenarios can lead to having to core punch or loosing the storm completely.