Storm chasing and the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

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This map shows rates of confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population by county in the United States. As others have pointed out, it is the RATE that is related to the probability of your getting exposed by any given person you come in contact with. Note that it is pretty high in a number of places where people frequently chase. The Panhandles, southwest KS, parts of the eastern plains of CO and NM, and a sizable part of NE, IA, and IL. OTOH, quite low in parts of northwest KS, western NE and SD, and the plains of MT. If I were doing any overnight chasing, which I am not, I would be avoiding any lodging in the darker areas of the map. Problem is, that is probably hard to do, because a lot of the darker counties are more urban counties like those where Amarillo, Dodge City, etc. are located, which is also where most of the hotels are located.

County COVID map 50520.jpg

Here is a link to a news article that has a clickable and daily-updated map where you can check current data for any county, showing the county rates compared to state and national rates:

 
UPDATE:
Just wanted to jump back in here and give a small update regarding my daughter. But first, I would like to thank everyone for the kind words, the texts, messages, phone calls etc... Alex certainly appreciated the wonderful gestures. So thank you all.

As of today, 5/7/2020 she is basically back to 100%. She was able to get outside and plant some flowers and the like enjoying the sunshine. I will be able to see here FINALLY today!!!!

A little bit more about what we’ve gone through as a family, and her symptoms (that oddly enough she is still dealing with a little bit)

It has been one of the worst emotion roller coaster rides we have faced as a family. The up’s and down’s...her feeling fine one day thinking everything is good and by that evening or the next day, she would run a fever again or just feel like complete shit. So strange after 28+ days. They gave her another dose of ivermectin and an additional Z-pack. I’m not a doctor but this “second round” seemed to be what helped push her though and really get to feeling better.
One symptom she is still dealing with though is the issue with the bruising/dots or whatever they are on her feet. Neither her Doctor nor mine can understand this and have no answers for us. But they are slowly going away.

She gave three negative tests - one on Monday, one on Tuesday, and one earlier today. All came back negative. I might add that they were the swabs FWIW.
So thankful she is feeling better!

On a personal note, my employer pulled the plug and we are unfortunately back in the field (with limits) but I’m afraid that may change as they have lifted many of the orders throughout many of the states. I went out the in the last severe we had locally and it felt almost strange to be out. Some other chasers pulled up and got out to chat...I only rolled the window down half way (and had my mask on as they held out there hand for me to shake it.To whomever you are (if you are on this forum - please understand that I wasn’t being rude. I just couldn’t shake your hand as I mentioned.
I left as soon as other chasers started congregating.

First of all, this is so strange not being on tour or even having to be out covering the weather and not feel really comfortable. I continually Wear my mask and gloves if out of my vehicle - especially getting gas or whatever. I’ve also instructed Alex to do the same (I know we are told herd immunity after you get it, but I just don’t know what to believe) So all of us are taking whatever precautions we can. Hell, I brought a can of Lysol and sprayed my shoes before I get in the vehicle. I’m wiping down everything with our hospital wipes and utilizing GermX when not able to wash my hands. Again, trying to do whatever we can even at home.

I suspect it will slowly be requested that I go further and further to cover WX since I’ve got no tours running. This concerns me. so I’m just trying to stay as safe as I possibly know how given current situation.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I’m trying to stay somewhat unplugged so I will probably won’t be on here much and will probably come and go. That’s what I’m doing with social. We’ve even stopped watching local or national news simply because it was too much.
That said, thank you all for the kind words. Alex and our entire family appreciate them very much.

Should you see me out in the field, please don’t think I’m being rude if I don’t greet you or maybe not even speak to you.Im not being a dick, I’m just trying to do my job and not to bring crap home to my wife and twins.

Thanks again.
-Lanny
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,098
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Aside from objectively assessing the risk of Covid itself, I would like to hear more about the actual situation on the ground in the Alley, in the context of logistics - i.e., are a lot of hotels closed? What about restaurants, are they open for sit down? Takeout only? Or not at all? Have they reduced their hours due to lower demand? It’s hard enough finding a place open after chasing, I am imagining how it would be this year if restaurants are cutting their hours. Do I want to subsist for a week or two only on takeout or straight-out-of-the-bag groceries? I’ve had nights where my only dinner was tuna out of a can on top of crackers in the back of the SUV, and I don’t want to be doing that every night; I‘m not that “hard core,” and it’s supposed to be a vacation. What‘s there going to be to do on down days? Past trips have included several down evenings exploring favorite bars and restaurants of Bricktown in OKC and Old Town in Wichita, are those going to be open?

i would appreciate any on the ground intelligence... I know there hasn’t been much chasing activity, but if you live on the Plains can you share what’s going on in your local area and how it is expected to evolve by Memorial Day?
 
Sep 7, 2013
635
462
21
Strasburg, CO
Aside from objectively assessing the risk of Covid itself, I would like to hear more about the actual situation on the ground in the Alley, in the context of logistics - i.e., are a lot of hotels closed? What about restaurants, are they open for sit down? Takeout only? Or not at all? Have they reduced their hours due to lower demand? It’s hard enough finding a place open after chasing, I am imagining how it would be this year if restaurants are cutting their hours. Do I want to subsist for a week or two only on takeout or straight-out-of-the-bag groceries? I’ve had nights where my only dinner was tuna out of a can on top of crackers in the back of the SUV, and I don’t want to be doing that every night; I‘m not that “hard core,” and it’s supposed to be a vacation. What‘s there going to be to do on down days? Past trips have included several down evenings exploring favorite bars and restaurants of Bricktown in OKC and Old Town in Wichita, are those going to be open?

i would appreciate any on the ground intelligence... I know there hasn’t been much chasing activity, but if you live on the Plains can you share what’s going on in your local area and how it is expected to evolve by Memorial Day?
Perhaps instead of thinking about it like I have to eat canned tuna on crackers and approach it like a camping trip. Small butane stoves are available and with the right equipment, you can make yourself a nice homecooked meal wherever you end up. Beyond having an actual campfire, it's so easy to find a random pull off in the middle of nowhere where you can "set up camp". Just keep the camera out on its tripod, so if anyone stops and asks, just say you're "photographing X celestial event and it takes a while to get a full exposure" or something like that.

While granted, I havent been out yet this year and I really only intend on doing local chases in 2020, I've had this camp/chase idea in my head for a while. The problem is only finding the right places to settle down for the evening. In all my local chases, I can count dozens of places where I could likely be just fine, but skirting a grey area of legality. There are also a few pinpointed places on my list of BLM and Nat. Park areas, but even those are in question right now.

Obviously I have the advantage of living on the border of the alley, so I can do day chases. Just trying to offer some options.
 

Mark Blue

Owner
Staff member
Feb 19, 2007
3,081
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Colorado
Goodness sakes @Lanny Dean. Don’t apologize for the raw emotions you feel as a father! I’m not too crazy about the F word but if I were in your shoes I’d be saying the same thing. It’s ridiculous that the hospital had plenty of room yet they kept putting off what needed to be done. Sending virtual hugs your way...
 
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Shawn Strader

Enthusiast
Feb 25, 2015
2
4
1
37
Oklahoma
Have any stormchasers or spotters been threatened verbally or physically attacked due to being out chasing while your state is under a stay at home order due to COVID-19?
 
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Jun 28, 2007
304
126
11
Machesney Park, IL
Eyeing a possible southern plains chase next Wednesday and Thursday if the potential holds up and I don’t see a lot of change in my approach if I take the trip. I always pack my own food in a cooler, very basic and simple, a pre-made sandwich for each day in a ziplock baggie inside Tupperware. The only change regarding meals would be skipping the hotel breakfast before the ride home since such a thing will not likely be offered.

As for accommodations I considered the motel option with exterior entries but I’m not a fan of that type of lodging and the nature of many of that type being cheaper and/or privately owned raises concerns for cleanliness, sanitation and bedbug infestations. Those potential issues are of little concern at my usual choices of either Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn. I also have greater confidence that the check-in protocol at either would be one which minimizes the risk of infection and other than using an elevator I think that’s the most likely point of contagion. As for the room I’ll personally disinfect and the vast majority of hotels in these chains use wall unit AC/heat/fan so there should be no in room exposure to a shared HVAC system. The only appreciable risk not present in motel style lodgings would be the hallways but the amount of time spent there would be minimal and I’ll take the chance that a quick walk through won’t expose me to the disease. Also, I find it less likely due to cost that either chain would be a choice for those needing quarantine or the state using either for housing the homeless. So overall I think my usual choice of accommodation is still the best as the risk of contagion versus a motel is negligible and I can have confidence that I’ll have a clean, comfortable and relatively safe place to stay.

As for the chase itself other than disinfecting and sanitizing there really is no need to alter anything, I chase solo and like to enjoy my storm in as much solitude as possible. Here’s hoping the potential for next week is realized and there’s chasing to be done!
 
@Marc R. O'Leary as someone who does a fair amount of overlanding, a small camp stove is pretty easy to work with. I know there are some $20 ones at Walmart, but I believe they're butane only, and cannot work with the 1lb propane cans that are the easiest to pick up at any sporting goods department. So I would definitely recommend spending the extra $40 or so (most I see start in the $60 range) to get the ones capable of running propane. If you have a 1500W inverter or greater (I have a 2000W in my big rig), you can also run an Instant Pot or Air Fryer. If you need coffee (unless you're doing it old school), and are using inverters to run your cooking and coffee making, make sure you do one at a time. With that said, it's pretty easy to make coffee on a camp stove too. Just a little more labor intensive than the coffee pot.

Another thing to consider if you're going to camp, is make sure your sleeping bag is rated for however far the temp is likely to drop. It's not uncommon after a frontal passage for temps to drop into the 40s in some areas.

For those thinking of camping to avoid potential exposure points at hotels (very understandable right now), those are just a few things to keep in mind from a cooking and comfort standpoint.
 
Aug 19, 2005
248
55
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Atlanta, GA
Two points/questions. One thing I would be worried about is, where to go to the bathroom, especially for women and us guys having to do, er, a #2? I would not trust public facilities of any kind, especially since I have read that flushing without a lid can spread germs everywhere, and COVID does live in poop.

Second, what about picking a rural small town (preferably in a county that shows no cases or a very low incidence) and looking for an AirBnB type base camp? That would allay fears of staying in a motel and could be very useful for those chasers that do not live in the Alley. Thoughts?
 

JL Gacke

EF0
Dec 9, 2015
18
16
1
Loveland, CO
I haven't been out yet (stuck in front range CO). I've been packing almost all my food for years, freeze dried, canned and an iso-propyl stove. Running my Jeep Cherokee for most of 15+ years with one seat and a deck extension which allows me to stretch out comfortably. Not everyone's cup of tea and I try and set up a tent when possible. Personally I'm out for the chase so creature comforts take a back seat. Bathrooms are as near as lonely field roads or wooded windrows (watch out for rattlesnakes). Have slept in some awful places; Walmart parking lot, rest stops and of course there's always that issue of intruders. But then I've had many positive stays at out of the way lakes, campgrounds, field roads, abandoned farmsteads and airports in KS, NE, WY, CO, OK. One instance between Canadian and Pampa just pulled over at a turnout, boiled a quick cup of water and 10 minutes later ate a delicious & healthy hot meal. Saves money and is a good time to get out and stretch. Then back to the chase.

Figure I've already been self-isolating in a manner though will keep an even lower profile this season and watch the state and county restrictions. I think out of respect for small town isolation, I'll just avoid em other than a quick stop for gas.
I've been doing research on a book that includes accounts from the 1918 flu pandemic and all too often it was the postman that brought the flu to the isolated farmsteads. Just something to think about.
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,098
926
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
Two points/questions. One thing I would be worried about is, where to go to the bathroom, especially for women and us guys having to do, er, a #2? I would not trust public facilities of any kind, especially since I have read that flushing without a lid can spread germs everywhere, and COVID does live in poop.

Second, what about picking a rural small town (preferably in a county that shows no cases or a very low incidence) and looking for an AirBnB type base camp? That would allay fears of staying in a motel and could be very useful for those chasers that do not live in the Alley. Thoughts?
Personally I wouldn’t be as worried about using the bathroom; #1 is obviously not an issue for us guys on the road, and I usually take care of my other business before I hit the road 😜😏

As far as AirBnB, it certainly lowers risk to stay at one place for, say, two weeks instead of 14 different ones, and it’s a lot easier to not have to wipe down a different place every night. The downside is it will obviously limit your chase range and require a lot more driving overall. I also imagine there might be fewer people willing to rent their homes, I’m not sure; I thought I heard AirBnB had done a big layoff, not sure if that’s due to lack of supply or just lack of demand. I’m actually not all that familiar with their business model, who is responsible for cleaning the place before a guest arrives, the homeowner or an AirBnB service? If the former, I wouldn’t be all that confident it was properly cleaned, and either way I would want to bring my own linens - this is not a COVID specific concern, I have that concern even renting a beach or lake house, we always bring our own linens and re-clean everything. Either way, AirBnB does not provide any daily cleaning do they? You would need to make sure you have access to a laundry and everything. It’s more expensive, but if I was going to have one base of operations I would prefer an extended stay hotel, like a Marriott Residence Inn or something like that. Maybe they have some good deals this year since nobody is traveling.

(BTW Matt it’s great to see you active on ST! Not sure if you remember me but I used to chase with Marty Feely’s tours way back in 1996-1998, we used to run into you all the time. Started on my own in 1999 but ran into you a couple times from then on also. In fact I remember in 2001 we were at some chaser get together at somebody’s house and you advised for the next day getting “up against the mountains” and we ended up seeing the Trinidad CO tornado, so thanks again for that!)
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,098
926
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
I haven't been out yet (stuck in front range CO). I've been packing almost all my food for years, freeze dried, canned and an iso-propyl stove. Running my Jeep Cherokee for most of 15+ years with one seat and a deck extension which allows me to stretch out comfortably. Not everyone's cup of tea and I try and set up a tent when possible. Personally I'm out for the chase so creature comforts take a back seat. Bathrooms are as near as lonely field roads or wooded windrows (watch out for rattlesnakes). Have slept in some awful places; Walmart parking lot, rest stops and of course there's always that issue of intruders. But then I've had many positive stays at out of the way lakes, campgrounds, field roads, abandoned farmsteads and airports in KS, NE, WY, CO, OK. One instance between Canadian and Pampa just pulled over at a turnout, boiled a quick cup of water and 10 minutes later ate a delicious & healthy hot meal. Saves money and is a good time to get out and stretch. Then back to the chase.

Figure I've already been self-isolating in a manner though will keep an even lower profile this season and watch the state and county restrictions. I think out of respect for small town isolation, I'll just avoid em other than a quick stop for gas.
I've been doing research on a book that includes accounts from the 1918 flu pandemic and all too often it was the postman that brought the flu to the isolated farmsteads. Just something to think about.
I appreciate your perspective and also @Marc R. O'Leary 's similar enjoyment of camping out. But as you say, not everybody’s cup of tea, and definitely not mine. I didn’t grow up doing any camping, it just wasn’t part of what my parents did or exposed me to; none of my friends were into it either. I didn’t start camping until I was an adult and had a son in Cub Scouts. Sleeping in the car just wouldn’t be a vacation to me, at the end of each grueling chase day I always look forward to a good meal, a beer or cocktail, a shower and a comfortable bed. I guess I’m not as hardcore as some, but I don’t have that same attitude that all I care about is chasing, I like to enjoy other aspects of the vacation too (although of course chasing is the priority, otherwise I would just go to an island resort or hang out in Key West, but there’s only so much discomfort and inconvenience I am willing to put up with, probably less than most). Also not sure how safe staying in a Walmart parking lot would be, seems to me with this shutdown putting 33 million people out of work there could be some desperate people out there...
 
Jun 28, 2007
304
126
11
Machesney Park, IL
Upcoming chase trip looks to be the most affordable in years, gas is cheap and the hotels I use have ample rooms available at a substantial discount. Two Holiday Inn Express hotels I use are down from around $130 to $90 and two Hampton Inn hotels I frequent are down from $140 to as low as $87. It’s a small sample size but based on that I’m not worried about getting rooms and they should be cheap. If the chaser hordes swarm the plains as expected a number hotels are going to get much-needed business.
 
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One thing about hotels, enjoy the reduced prices. Once this ends, I can guarantee you the prices will skyrocket like they did after the 2008 stock market crash recovery and when fracking started. The airlines will also start gouging once the numbers get to a specific level.
 

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
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Macomb, IL
www.tornadoguys.com
I have not heard of anyone running into legal issues while chasing either. Most states don't have the manpower to try and police individual behavior, though that doesn't mean we shouldn't take precautions, from an ethical standpoint, to try to make sure we don't become vectors.

As of right now you're more likely to run into a problem if you're gathering in a hoarde of people more than anything else, as enforcement efforts appear to be targeted towards large gatherings and businesses who are defying orders to stay closed.
 
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Jun 1, 2008
533
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
Kansas is re-opening Phase 1 this week. Kansas was/is the slowest most cautious state of the central/southern Plains. Looking at both the State level and Johnson County (cautious) guidance, I believe food restaurants are already open at reduced capacity. May 18th Phase 2 drinks only bars are allowed to open on the Ad Astra Plan. It's subject to change, but I doubt they will. Haven't seen any other state change.

Oklahoma and Texas are as open or more open than Kansas. Police I believe do not enforce Essential Travel unless another infraction is committed; so, it's like how seat belt laws started. Motels remain open, mainly for essential business travel. Really doubt they ask at check-in. On previous business (or leisure) trips I've never been asked the purpose of my stay. I have no idea how breakfast buffets are impacted though. Really miss a breakfast buffet while I look at data, lol!

Not going to spray links here; but, one can Google the Kansas Health Dept. Ad Astra Plan. Also Johnson County Health Dept.
 

James K

EF3
Mar 26, 2019
273
102
6
Colorado
JamesCaruso said:
To chase, or not to chase... that is the question...” For all of us experienced chasers, yes. But imagine picking this year as your first time?!?
I'd kinda planned/hoped that this year would be my 1st time. Still could be I guess...depending on how I feel about going out/if the restrictions are lifted in time/and ofcourse what weather mother nature sends this way.

Lanny Dean said:
Just wanted to jump back in here and give a small update regarding my daughter.
I'm glad to hear that she is doing better now. But damn what an awful experience all around.
 
Aug 27, 2009
185
81
11
It is interesting to read about what's going on in the US as I mostly have been following the situation over the news. I won't be chasing this season due to the pandemic and mainly because the borders are closed from people coming in from EU. I live in Sweden

For me personally, I have suffered mostly from not being able to chase this season. I stay at home with my family, go shopping as little as possible, hardly meet any friends and only outside if I do, I work a lot in the garden and hope for any type of thunderstorm to come my way. I am already looking into the 2021 season to keep myself sane :) Man, even without a quarantine life is just so incredibly boring without hardly ever leaving the house, without social gatherings, without football (soccer) to watch and without spinny clouds to chase! All work, and no play...

Hope you guys get a great 2nd part of May and June to chase! I am glad to hear that chasing is at least pretty close to normal with no closed state borders etc.

@LannyDean: I am so glad she is feeling better!
 
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J.W. King

Enthusiast
Feb 7, 2020
4
2
1
Little Rock Arkansas
I have not heard of anyone running into legal issues while chasing either. Most states don't have the manpower to try and police individual behavior, though that doesn't mean we shouldn't take precautions, from an ethical standpoint, to try to make sure we don't become vectors.

As of right now you're more likely to run into a problem if you're gathering in a hoarde of people more than anything else, as enforcement efforts appear to be targeted towards large gatherings and businesses who are defying orders to stay closed.
During the last outbreak, the group of mesos east of Tulsa down to OKC on May 3rd, I was trailed by a state cop on the Muskogee turnpike; I was pretty sure he was interested in me because of my CT plates. He slowed just behind me in the hammer lane enough to let me know he was checking me out, then observed me carefully as he passed. I drive a restored 1985 Chevy van, and so stand out a bit. He undoubtedly saw my dashcam as he passed, then drove on. If my CT plates didn't interest him, I figure nothing short of a traffic violation would. But OK is not Texas, where self-quarantining is supposed to be the rule if you are from CT. I live in Little Rock in the winter and carry my change of address verification as well as some official mail with my new address proving my AR winter residency since January, so I am not "newly arrived." Whether this will prove useful, I hope to never find out. I might tomorrow in Texas. As to 'day chasing,' I've had three this year and have discovered the ultimate joy of driving back through squall lines at night. I can only say this; never again. I've reluctantly punched cores (mostly in my salad days in the nineties) and have never been so scared or seen such potential for a weather-caused wreck as when driving through a squall line at night. They last forever, whip me with seventy mile an hour gusts, and the only way to see is by lightning. Night chasing ( I'm not referring to lightning photography) is a bad enough idea, this is just as bad. I carry camp gear and will use it, albeit reluctantly. I like some comfort after chasing. I was surprised at the loose attitude of Missouri, though. No restrictions, no problem with hotels, etc. I was shocked at the lack of masks and gloves, though. Even Mickey D and the old folks at the Wal Mart were without them. Missouri is definitely a country to itself.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
1,098
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
I'd kinda planned/hoped that this year would be my 1st time. Still could be I guess...depending on how I feel about going out/if the restrictions are lifted in time/and ofcourse what weather mother nature sends this way.
Yes but you live in CO and (I assume) would just be doing an out-and-back day chase. My comment was about someone that was actually looking to do a chase tour vacation; I thought this was an odd year to choose *that* for the first time.
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,098
926
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
Kansas is re-opening Phase 1 this week. Kansas was/is the slowest most cautious state of the central/southern Plains. Looking at both the State level and Johnson County (cautious) guidance, I believe food restaurants are already open at reduced capacity. May 18th Phase 2 drinks only bars are allowed to open on the Ad Astra Plan. It's subject to change, but I doubt they will. Haven't seen any other state change.

Oklahoma and Texas are as open or more open than Kansas. Police I believe do not enforce Essential Travel unless another infraction is committed; so, it's like how seat belt laws started. Motels remain open, mainly for essential business travel. Really doubt they ask at check-in. On previous business (or leisure) trips I've never been asked the purpose of my stay. I have no idea how breakfast buffets are impacted though. Really miss a breakfast buffet while I look at data, lol!

Not going to spray links here; but, one can Google the Kansas Health Dept. Ad Astra Plan. Also Johnson County Health Dept.
I thought I read somewhere that Texas restaurants are still required to be at no more than 25% capacity, and I don't believe bars have opened there yet. I also heard third-hand that Oklahoma restaurants (don't know if it's all or just certain areas / certain restaurants) are closing at 6pm. I haven't looked into the Kansas Ad Astra Plan in detail, but as Jeff noted they are the slowest and most cautious of the Plains states to lift restrictions, so I would imagine restaurant operations remain far from normal there. But all of this is changing so don't take my word for anything, everyone owes it to themselves to do their due diligence - not just at a state level but even for specific regions/counties within a state, as I imagine there may be differences (such as here in Pennsylvania, where restrictions have begun to be lifted in the northwestern and central regions of the state, but not here in the southeastern / Greater Philadelphia region until at least June 4). But it sure does over-complicate things this year in making decisions about a chase vacation, and could even affect the selection of individual chase targets, if a good meal and an adult beverage at the end of the day is important to you. Just a lot to research and figure out.
 
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Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
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Oct 7, 2008
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www.meteor.iastate.edu
Staff note
Everyone posting here is reminded that this thread is strictly about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting storm chasing. For many weeks we had a parallel thread about the more generic aspects of the pandemic, but we had to close it after things repeatedly got political and heated. While this thread has been worse at times in the distant past and has been a bit better lately, there has been a noticeable pattern of folks trying to bleed the topics of that thread over to this one. Even if a post itself does not contain inflammatory or objectionable content or language, such posts are "off-topic" for this thread and will be edited/deleted.

If you wish to discuss the broader aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are welcome to join the conversation on Discord or post to your own social media and discuss there. This is a storm chasing forum and a storm chasing thread. Keep the content pertinent, please.