Relocating for storm chasing

Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
stormhighway.com
How many of you have relocated, or considered relocating, with storm chasing being a major motivating factor?

I thought and planned for a move from my original home state of West Virginia starting around 2005, and finally did it exactly 5 years ago this week (January 9, 2010). My job is web development that I do from home, so I literally could go anywhere I wanted. Like most chasers do, I strongly considered several locations in the Great Plains: Tulsa, Enid, Pratt, Amarillo, Lubbock or somewhere within an hour's drive west of OKC or Wichita. I also had a few Midwest locations in mind. My only criteria was 1.) to be close to an urban area for easy access to services, conveniences and jobs (if needed) and 2.) to have a wide-open sky view from home.

In the end, I chose not to go the Great Plains, but to move to the St. Louis metro. Here are my reasons:

- I'm always going to make trips to chase the Plains from wherever I live anyway, so moving there isn't necessary to benefit from its setups.

- The Midwest is full of chaseable events. Studying up on the Midwest's tornado history made me realize that I would have many opportunities there throughout the year that would likely not be seen by many others. Events like the Tri-State Tornado, many of the historic outbreaks in the region and finally seeing the Crosstown, MO F4 in 2006 convinced me that I would likely get to see significant events on a fairly regular basis.

- As much as I'm fond of the Plains, I wanted to retain a little bit of it's "road trip vacation" novelty. I felt like moving there would remove that aspect of chasing that I've come to love. Kind of like someone moving to their favorite tropical paradise full-time. You'd probably get sick of living everyday life there eventually - then where would you go to "get away"?

- Being in St. Louis meant that I could still make most Plains targets with relative ease (I-70 and I-44 leading directly to most S Plains setups).

- St. Louis and the I-64/70/44 corridors have always held a special place in my heart from my many trips through the years going to do something I loved. The Arch has always been my personal symbol of heading west to go chasing.

- The eastern STL metro in Illinois is Plains-like, as flat as the Texas Caprock and western Kansas, with wide-open skies and great roads.

- I wanted to remain within a day's drive to family and friends back east so as not to isolate myself from them too much.
 
Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
I moved from metro Denver about 30 miles east. Peace and quiet small town were primary reasons, but my wife will tell anyone who asks that the weather ranked right up there.
 
Nov 18, 2006
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Chicago, IL
Dan basically listed every reason why I have chosen to remain in the midwest, and not move to the plains. Chicago I think is about as far away as one could be though to keep things semi reasonable. I will always go out to the plains for their noteable days, but the last thing I want to do is become a southern plains snob that chases those states only and misses all the great events elsewhere. No matter where I live, there will always be marginal days that go big that I will miss. There will be 5% days in Oklahoma that dont lure me from IL that end up producing a nice tornado, and everyone living in Oklahoma will cheer about how great it is to live there. The same thing happens here in IL too, only the difference is Im more likely to have that storm to myself ;)

IMO I think its more about structuring your life to be able to chase if thats what you want to do. This many mean sacrificing a well paying career for flexibility, not getting married or having kids etc etc etc. The way I see it, if I moved to the plains nothing in my life would change. I would still have to work. Id still miss out on setups I want to chase. The only thing I did was increase the chance of becoming a tornado victim at my home.
 
Jun 24, 2010
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Norman, OK
I want to live in Denver or a city close by like Aurora one day. For the longest time Norman was near the bottom of the list of cities I wanted to move to because I didn't want to join the group of other non tornado alley chasers who relocate there every year.

However having my chase partner living in Norman after moving from Tennessee has made Norman a more tempting city for me to move to. Of course as long as I have job here in Tennessee I won't be moving anytime soon.
 

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
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Menominee, MI
Definitely have thought about moving. Coming from the upper peninsula of Michigan, where you'll have a tornado like once every five years, even the "local" chases usually involve a few hours ride down to southern Wisconsin. I've long envisioned what it would be like to live in an area where my chase day could start with me heading North, South, East or West. I've got two options, South or West. Wichita has always had a bullseye on it for me. A good centrally located area that puts you within striking distance of a majority of good chase days West of the Mississippi.
 

Shane Adams

We relocated to Fort Worth from Norman in late 2009, but the move was strictly for work. I've found that the DFW is what I always thought it was: simply too far south for a reasonable chase base if you're serious about chasing. But, it is what it is, and we make it work as best we can. Regarding Adam's comment about the southern Plains storm snob, I can speak for no one but us, but our situation is that we simply cannot afford to make 2 day trips to the Dakotas or even Nebraska late in the year. And I refuse to sit on my hands during April and May, waiting for June tornadoes in the C/N Plains that may or may not come. When I was young, single, and had a handful of friends who were as nuts as I am, we often made those long treks across the country, because we could. These days, life is a lot more complicated, regardless of how much I try to keep it from being so. Believe me, if I could afford it, I'd be on everything. We chase the southern Plains exclusively simply because, for now, it's all we can afford to reach. If I lived in Valentine, my chase seasons wouldn't start until May or June. When you don't have the money to go everywhere, you chase in the region you live. It's pretty simple really.
 
Mar 30, 2008
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Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
I moved from Michigan (a hotbed of tornadoes let me tell you) to Norman, OK in 2010 and really think it was the best thing I could have ever done in regards to life and chasing. Norman is a great place to base from for just about any event, and you always can get days like 9/17/11 which produce a nice tornado that someone from Chicago will be too busy at the Casino to come chase.

With that said, I've seemingly shot myself in the foot scheduling vacations in the fall when it seems like the midwest sees their one storm a year so I haven't gotten to chase those events. Would have loved to have chased the Nebraska stuff this past June. Work kept me from that, but I've since gotten over it.

Jobs here are great. OKC is doing pretty well, even with the recent oil downturn. Being able to work in the weather field is also a great positive. I wouldn't be able to do that if I still lived in Michigan. Cost of living is low here unlike some of the bigger cities (Chicago) so I don't have to pay 100's of dollars each year to park my car in front of my house.

Prior to moving to Norman, I had never seen a tornado and slept in my own bed on the same day. Now I mostly see tornadoes and sleep in my bed the same day.
 

James Gustina

Supporter
Mar 9, 2010
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Dallas, TX
www.thunderingskies.blogspot.com
Although my main motivation was college, Norman being in the heart of Tornado Alley didn't hurt either. I wouldn't want to live anywhere other than the Plains having grown up back east and honestly the allure and beauty of the prairie and Norman haven't dimmed in the three years I've been here.
 
Nov 18, 2006
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Chicago, IL
Regarding Adam's comment about the southern Plains storm snob, I can speak for no one but us, but our situation is that we simply cannot afford to make 2 day trips to the Dakotas or even Nebraska late in the year. And I refuse to sit on my hands during April and May, waiting for June tornadoes in the C/N Plains that may or may not come. When I was young, single, and had a handful of friends who were as nuts as I am, we often made those long treks across the country, because we could. These days, life is a lot more complicated, regardless of how much I try to keep it from being so. Believe me, if I could afford it, I'd be on everything. We chase the southern Plains exclusively simply because, for now, it's all we can afford to reach. If I lived in Valentine, my chase seasons wouldn't start until May or June. When you don't have the money to go everywhere, you chase in the region you live. It's pretty simple really.
That I can understand (and that sucks because Id like to see you branch out beyond that.) My southern plains snob sterotype is more aimed at those who CAN go, but choose not to because they believe that unless the setup involves a dryline its garbage. Its merely my rebuttle when I get called an idiot for chasing a November setup instead of going to a sportsball game in New York *coughcoughBENcoughcough*
 
May 31, 2004
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Peotone, IL
illinoisstormchasers.com
I've always wanted to move to the plains, more specifically the Oklahoma City area. Part of the reason is because [yeah] it would be much easier to hit more set ups throughout the year. Another reason, though, is that I simply love the area and the climate. When I go to OKC I sit and think "I could totally live here." I don't get that same vibe with Wichita, Kansas City, Omaha, or any other city in the plains. I remain in Chicago due to family and employment, but the first real golden chance I get to move out there I would take it.
 
A couple of years back I took a job in Casper, WY and thought I would be able to chase northern setups and basically have to forget about the southern plains because with a new job came new expectations about being there and a less flexible schedule. Part of me may have been spoiled by chasing in Oklahoma so long because I could get to anything in a decent amount of time, now I would be four hours at a minimum to chase anything and that's if I had the time off...but I couldn't reconcile having to miss any part of the chase season.

I ultimately decided to come back to Oklahoma and I'm very glad I did, because most everything is within reach and I have a job that is very flexible yet I don't have to sacrifice professionally to chase. I can be in Nebraska by 2pm if I leave at 8am, and I can be anywhere in Texas same day if I choose. South Dakota is really the only place that I have to have a vacation plan for, except for multi-day events up north. But, most days are "leave in the morning, drive back in the dark and get home" type days.
 
Nov 12, 2011
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New Auburn, Wisconsin
I have considered it, but for now I'll just suck up the drive. Cant pass up on all the auroras I see here in west Wisconsin since it has been way bigger for my photo sales than storms have. I def think one day it will happen though.
 
Aug 16, 2009
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Amarillo, TX
Although I live in Amarillo and love chasing out here, I've been considering making a move to Kansas or Nebraska. I've been talking to a guy about a job in Hastings, NE. At least I'll be centralized and able to make a day's drive to just about anywhere on the Plains. I somewhat envy those who always drive west for chase (i.e. Skip and Dan) because you can follow systems towards home. There's a few times where I had to bail on a target because I knew I'd be chasing further from home.
 
Jan 17, 2008
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I've lived in the southern Wisconsin area my whole life, and I like the midwest. Though southern WI is not my ideal base location as a chaser, it is far from the worst. Yes, I do make some longer drives out to the plains for some of the bigger setups in the springtime, but even those drives are manageable, and I can leave in the early morning to make a plains target by mid afternoon. We also get our share of more "local" setups in MN, IA, MO, and IL. What I love most about the midwest is that the "season" never truely ends during the summer and fall. While the central and southern plains are baking in the summertime ridge, I am keeping my eye out for the next northwest flow setup in the upper midwest. NW flow has given me a WI and MN tornado over the past two summers. And of course, the fall season can never be ruled out either, as evidenced by 11/22/10, 10/04/13, and 11/17/13.
 
While school is keeping me tied to Pennsylvania for the next few years, I've actually considered living more on the fringes of the plains, like Kansas City or Des Moines or even someplace like Omaha. But I'll really take whatever location where I can get work in my field of study (TV and radio broadcasting).
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
I have been chasing since 1996 and often fantasize about living on the Plains. But with a wife, three kids, and most of our extended family currently within three hours of us, it is just that - a fantasy.

Perhaps this is just my own attempt to rationalize and deal with my inability to live on the Plains, but I really do not think it is worth it. (Let me clarify - the Plains is a great place to live for many reasons - but doing it ONLY for chasing may not be worth it). My chase partner and I frequently talk about it during our annual two-week chase vacations. Thinking it through logically and not emotionally: The heart of the severe weather season is for the most part six to eight weeks long. Say you average four chase days per week during that time (average: maybe more in the peak, maybe less at the edges), which equates to 32 opportunities. I think this is pretty optimistic, especially if you start discounting some of the marginal and out of range days. Add a few days in March/April and/or the fall, and let's say you're at 40 days. Then I back out the two week chase vacation I take anyway, using the same average of four chase days per week (likely to be more during the peak period I take vacation) and the *incremental* chasing opportunity living out there is back to 32 days. Would I want to choose where I live solely based upon doing something less than 10% of the year, even though it is the thing I love the most? There are a ton of other considerations as to how I spend my other 333 days... Unfortunately, chasing is not like surfing or skiing, where you can live somewhere and do it almost every day, or at least every weekend, for a good portion of the year. Chasing just seems too infrequent and capricious to be the primary factor in deciding where to live.

My job as partner in a CPA firm would make it difficult to chase every setup on short notice, as would family obligations, even if I did live on the Plains. So I would miss quite a few chase opportunities anyway.

But like I said, I could just be trying to convince myself because I simply don't have the option. Many of the other considerations on where to live are driven by family and job. If I were a single man and a free bird (or when I am retired and the kids are grown), I might very well make a different decision. I might decide that however infrequent the chase opportunities are, they are still greater than I have today in Pennsylvania, and in the "free man" scenario I would not be giving up anything in exchange for them. Then again, if I were a free bird AND independently wealthy, I think I would still rather take an extended six or eight week Plains vacation rather than move there permanently.

When I do fantasize about living on the Plains, I often think the Denver area would be ideal. (I know that is not really the Plains, just within driving distance of the Plains...) It is a long drive into many parts of the Alley, but doable, and lots of opportunities in eastern Colorado. Plus lots to do outside of chasing.

Like Dan, I also think if I lived on the Plains I would miss the extended road trip vacation element. There is something about immersing oneself in the rhythm of a chase trip for two weeks straight... It is like entering another world... I think going back and forth between that magical world and the "real" world within the same day, or back to back days, would take away a lot of the magic and enjoyment of the experience...


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
 
May 18, 2012
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Gaines, MI
In the end, I chose not to go the Great Plains, but to move to the St. Louis metro.

We both love the St. Louis area (me for the things you mentioned Dan - all of them, Holly for St. Charles) A move for us from the Detroit area, I feel, is still not out of the question. Both my wife and I started new jobs with GM last year, but I don't think that would hold us back, especially once Holly gets a taste of chasing this Spring out there. I have no issues leaving this area behind. As much as I love family and friends here, I'd much rather be in the real "midwest".
 
Oct 7, 2014
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Hays, KS
Never really thought about the chasing west thing as living in western kansas most of my chases take me east...then further east as the storms progress. Then, the long haul back home. Living out east and driving to target then the storms trek back in direction of home would be a huge bonus!! I'm big on picking targets along the dryline even when the bigger target is the triple-point or frontal, so a move a little further south sets me up nicely for that. I am looking at a transfer with work to Moore, OK and as most of the chases I really want are central ks to northern tx, this move is optimal for me.
 

Francis

EF1
Jan 18, 2013
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Winnipeg, Manitoba
nzpchasers.com
Well here is a different point of view of the question. I live in Manitoba in the Canadian Prairies and have lived on the east coast of Canada for most of my life. I moved to the prairies to be closer to severe weather and to study here, so yes I did move to get closer to chasing. However, I don't think I would move to the states like Oklahoma or something unless I was offered a job there because I really enjoy the Canadian Prairies. There is no chaser traffic here, meeting a fellow chaser is very rare and most of the time you know the chaser. Setups don't occur as often up here but the landscape is absolutely stunning. I love living here because during May and most of June I just head further south into the plains and chase there and when the season progresses I follow it up to North Dakota/prairies and I chase from home more than half of the storm season so this is really awesome as I get to chase the whole season basically and I get to chase the setups up here that nobody chases. It's cool to have videos/photography from the states and the other half of the season from the Canadian Prairies.
 
Apr 3, 2010
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Shreveport, LA
I've actually got a move planned with storm chasing a pretty big motivating factor. It's not the only thing that's bringing me to the plains, but I must say.. it's the main one. I do like the road trip factor, but with my move being to Norman, that road trip feel will still be there for northern plains chases, and since I chase dixie alley, it will now be there for those chases as well.
 
Jan 18, 2015
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Tucson, AZ
I'd move in a heartbeat. Actually if I could I would right now. I'm here in AZ at the moment trying to at least get the general classes for college done. My fiance has family here we're staying with so we can save up money for once
Once I get these 60 credits out of the way I'll be heading either to Florida (can chase hurricanes, Florida thunderstorms, and attempt to chase in louisiana, Arkansas area as well, or Oklahoma