Storm Chase Vacations

Discussion in 'Advanced weather & chasing' started by Michael Wilkinson, Nov 10, 2017.

  1. Michael Wilkinson

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    I need to put in a vacation request at work for next year. I'd like to chase in Oklahoma. What should I consider when picking dates this far in advance? Are there things to consider that are not immediately obvious to a beginner? I've only chased a few times and my education only consists of SkyWarn training and listening to pidcasts. Thanks.
     
  2. Warren Faidley

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    I'm sure a lot of chasers will chime in on this, but you will need some additional experience before heading out alone. I believe there is a list here on ST for finding chase partners. My suggestion would be to find someone with genuine experience and offer to spit the costs of chasing. It might be hard to pick one geographical location if you want to chase and actually see something worthy.
     
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  3. Mark Blue

    Staff Member

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    Sometime in May. Usually mid to late May, but even then it can light up before and after that without much warning, say 3 days out or so. Our prolific OK chasers can expand on that and add more insight, but in general May is your month (climatologically speaking).
     
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  4. Bill Hark

    Bill Hark EF5

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    I would also suggest May but as Warren said earlier, I'd recommend going with someone who has experience. If you have several days off, you should broaden your chase area to also include parts of Texas and Kansas. Another option would be going with a reputable tour group.
     
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  5. Devin Pitts

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    I'd say mid to late May is a pretty solid bet for scheduling a chasecation. Will also agree with others that you should try to find a partner to chase with, if just for your first season of chasing. Also be aware that even though you have a specific state in mind for chasing, expect to be in several different states within a very short period of time while on chasecation.
     
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  6. Jonathan Beeson

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    I went out in mid-late May last year but due to scheduling conflicts, I'll be going out more late-May to perhaps early June next year.

    My biggest advice is don't tie yourself down to just Oklahoma, especially since it's a chasecation for you. My group I'm in has a pretty good balance of experience and youth, and we chased from the I-35 corridor all the way to SE New Mexico. Winding up that far west never crossed my mind when I first headed out from my home in Alabama, but hey, gotta go where the storms are.

    Just for posterity's sake, on my chasecation this past May, our original intention when departing North Alabama was to hang around Wichita ahead of the 5/18 event, but we got suckered out towards Woodward/Enid before going down to North Central Texas the next day. After a 2 day lull in activity, we wound up out in the Panhandle and near Roswell for our 3rd and final chase of the trip.

    Also, don't get so hung up on trying to see a tornado that you neglect the days that aren't as favorable. Squall lines, LP Supercells, and post-sunset lightning producers can all provide some amazing shots. Don't get flustered and give up if you don't see a photogenic tornado. I've been on 7 total chases (Counting local ones and splitting my chasecation into 3 separate chases) and I've only seen one tornado. However, I've seen great storm structure on 5 of my 7 chases, and I've only had one blue-sky bust. Tornadoes are great, but they're not everything and a high risk day is by far one of the most stressful chases.

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  7. Todd Lemery

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    Go mid to late May as others have said. The thing you have to understand is that unless you are too stubborn for reason, you’re gonna be chasing in at least Texas and Kansas too. You’ll be putting on hundreds of miles each day even if you trying to keep your chasing “local” you have to be where the storms are and that usually translates to miles.
    You’re also going to get tired. Late nights and early days to get in position add up. You’ll be tempted to pass on a “slight” day at some point. Don’t. As long as you are there, you might as well chase every reasonable setup you can. Some of the best twisties come on slight days and you will regret passing on days like that by the time you get to this time of year. Suck it up while you are there and you won’t regret it.
    As long as i’m at it, i’ll Throw out the advice to stick to paved roads. I vow it every year and don’t follow my advice every year. It’s too tempting at times to look at the map and seeing a county road going right where you want as opposed to a paved road a couple of miles further. More times than not, the paved road will get you where you want to be, quicker than the shortcut secondary road. Roads in the southern plains always look better on a map than in real life. I can’t count how many times I’ve taken the “shortcut” only to see a vehicle that was behind me parked alongside the road later on after i’ve worked my way through the “short cut”
     
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  8. JamesCaruso

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    First I'm going to echo those who advise not chasing alone. If you need help asking about when to chase, and think you can limit yourself to one state, clearly you need more overall knowledge in order to chase safely.

    On to your question. I like the second half of May but I tend to think of the three week period of mid May through the first week of June as having pretty much equal opportunities for success. Usually my trips start and end on a weekend to maximize available time, so that dictates the exact dates. If I'm already home before June has even begun, I always feel like it's too early to call it a season. For me the ideal (assuming I only have two weeks) is a trip that starts around May 19 or 20 so that I can include the first few days of June, up until around the 4th or 5th. Be prepared for possible disappointment in any week, even if it's a statistical peak climatologically speaking. You're always going to miss stuff before and after, because the season is simply longer than most of us out-of-towners can take a chase vacation.

    Todd raises great points about staying on paved roads. But there's always a calculus, I mean if the next paved road is 10 or 15 miles away, I'm using the dirt road. There's a certain feeling of adventure somehow too, it adds to the experience in my opinion and can be a quieter and more picturesque viewing location. But after ending a chase in a ditch one year, I will never do it if the road is wet or has a chance to become wet, and I wouldn't do it without an SUV.

    You cannot limit your territory to one state. Why would you, if you're on a chase vacation? And even if you wanted to pick just one state, don't pick Oklahoma, there's no place worse for encountering a circus of chasers on the road.

    I agree with the spirit of what Todd said, you're out there to chase, so do what you have to do and don't squander opportunities. But at least for me personally, there is still a calculus there, I always weigh the length of the drive against the probability of success (success meaning supercells, not necessarily tornados). I mean there's got to be some sort of reasonable cost benefit analysis, I'm not going to drive from Kansas to South Dakota for a marginal opportunity, especially if it's a one-and-done and I'm going to have to drive all the way back down to Kansas the next day.


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  9. Kevin R Burgess

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    All I can add is "WOW" !
    Where did that come from ?
     
  10. Jeff House

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    May 15-31 offers the best odds of forecastable, chasable, cooperative events. Consider surrounding states. If you are taking a vacation, not a local chase, do not compromise on targets.

    Earlier in May has booked big years like 2003. June has dazzled with excellent tornadoes. However, June chasing can be quite spread out day-to-day. Early May is subject to some of the April problems, though less so. May 15-31 offers the best chance of a broad trough sitting out West, ejecting pieces of energy over a steady warm sector in the central/southern Plains for a few days. Boundaries from the prior day often offer nice targets.

    Other chasers have slightly different opinions on timing, and with valid reasoning. Best option is a floating vacation request. Let your manager know in May. Oh yeah don't chase alone. You need one more person with a floating vacation and/or who lives out there.

    Also I believe we have another thread going where Dan R offers detailed statistics on the timing and location matter. Overrated Chase areas in Introductory Weather and Chasing also discusses timing.
     
    #10 Jeff House, Nov 13, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
  11. James Wilson

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    Last ten days of May are the best IMHO.

    Oklahoma? Try a larger box to chase in ... I have WAY more tornadoes in KS and CO then Oklahoma overall but KS is golden in May.
     
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  12. Jon Strebler

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    I always plan my vacation for the two weeks leading into Memorial Day weekend. If you want the best odds, go with that timeframe. Also, don't limit yourself to Oklahoma because you'll need to cover much more territory to have a successful chase vacation. Personally, most of my favorite chases have been in Kansas.
     

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