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

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Jul 5, 2009
1,098
926
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
One of the main reasons I didn't take a chase vacation was because of the logistics (figured a lot of restaurants and bars would be closed, limited capacity, or takeout only) and the overall weird, dystopian "feel" of everything. From @Jesse Risley 's post it sounds like maybe that needn't have been as much of a concern; probably a perspective created by the fact that I am in the Philadelphia area where most all restrictions are still in place and only beginning to be eased (but far from "reopened") this Friday. Also didn't want to deal with cleaning a hotel room every night after getting in late; didn't even think of just using Lysol as @JeremyS did, I was thinking I would have to wipe everything down. Hard to find either Lysol or wipes these days anyway, at least around here. Anyway, other factors were work and not wanting to make my family's life even more difficult after they have already dealt with 11 weeks of lockdown. My earlier TLDR post is somewhere above if you care to read it. It took me a while to find peace with missing this season but obviously it has gotten much easier given how bad the season has been.
 
Mar 5, 2010
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Cascade, CO
So I will jump in with my experience. So I did go out two weeks ago. I left Colorado and spent 3 days chasing in OK, KS, and TX. My only interactions with people would have been gas pumps. I wore my mask and used a disposable glove to fuel up. I packed a cooler of food and beverages, and have a twin mattress in my car. Websites like www.freecampsites.net offer really good options for sleeping. Both nights I found dispersed camping and literally was the only car for miles. The bathroom is the tricky part for all of us. I will admit that I did use the side of the road for the easier part of that. Hey isnt that why we chase on dirt roads anyways? For the "more difficult" part I found a few parks that still had their bathrooms open or actually found a portajohn. Both of them looked like they hadnt been used in days if not weeks. Made me feel a tad better.

So yea its a different chase year for me, normally I chase and then off to the Hampton Inn....maybe next year!
 
Jun 1, 2008
533
473
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
I'd recommend disposable gloves, or at least a paper towel, to pump gas. Still use hand sanitizer after (before a real soap and water wash).

Some recommend wiping down fast food or delivery containers. Hot food inside should be safe. We get a lot of take-out locally just to support restaurants. Hotels, motels and masks are covered above. Masks are mainly for the other people, not the wearer, in case of asymptomatic carry. I use one grocery shopping or standing in line for take-out, nothing else really (still WFH).

I just want to chime in about pumping gas with protection. It's such a shared surface. Otherwise, don't lick doorknobs and it should be OK.
 
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Bobby Little

Supporter
Mar 18, 2013
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eagle, michigan
Ive been using good leather clean gloves. After touching things i just go out and rub my gloves several times against the grass. I really dont think you have to do anymore than that. Viruses cant live on most things long ( i know..they found it on surfaces after so many days and hours) but really 99% of the time they cant.Just like when you touch things without sanitizing..all you have to do is rub your hands togather till they get hot. That has been proven to work most times. So really i dont think people should get too worked up...just common sense.
 
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Jun 14, 2009
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Brooklyn, NY
I'm planning to head out next week. My car is too small to sleep in and I don't like to deal with camping late at night after a long day and potentially downstream of storms. Someone here mentioned airbnb, which of course usually isn't practical with last minute booking/planning. But this year, to minimize interactions, I'm thinking of getting a place as a base in Kansas and using it as a base and chasing out from there, maybe getting a hotel occasionally if I end up in western SD or something. I've been looking around Salina or Hays in the middle of the SPC general probabilities and on good highway intersections. Places are cheap and I could afford something better than I usually get even if I only am there for a couple days. I want a place where I have the whole thing. Any suggestions for towns/places around there? Also it would be nice if there was other (socially distanced) stuff to do in that area in case there's no storms.
 
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Jun 1, 2008
533
473
11
Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
Much as I'd like to promote my home state Kansas, this late in the season Nebraska might be a more central base. Omaha is good but a little far for Front Range action. Grand Island is farther west, and sizable enough to find an adult beverage after the chase.

Farther north Sioux City, Iowa is closer to the Upper Midwest. Then Sioux Falls, SD is even farther north if it looks like action will keep that far north. I think Sioux Falls is a nicer town, but it's hedging pretty far north.
 
Jun 14, 2009
80
37
11
Brooklyn, NY
Much as I'd like to promote my home state Kansas, this late in the season Nebraska might be a more central base. Omaha is good but a little far for Front Range action. Grand Island is farther west, and sizable enough to find an adult beverage after the chase. Farther north Sioux City, Iowa is closer to the Upper Midwest. Then Sioux Falls, SD is even farther north if it looks like action will keep that far north. I think Sioux Falls is a nicer town, but it's hedging pretty far north.
Thanks! I guess I'm always wishcasting for Kansas (my first real tornado was Rozel). But you're right. I think what I'll do is head out that way and then look around and maybe pick a place for a few days based on what's going on. With the current situation, sadly, there's tons of amazing places open.

John
 
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Mar 16, 2004
119
27
11
New Jersey
I'm planning to head out next week. My car is too small to sleep in and I don't like to deal with camping late at night after a long day and potentially downstream of storms. Someone here mentioned airbnb, which of course usually isn't practical with last minute booking/planning. But this year, to minimize interactions, I'm thinking of getting a place as a base in Kansas and using it as a base and chasing out from there, maybe getting a hotel occasionally if I end up in western SD or something. I've been looking around Salina or Hays in the middle of the SPC general probabilities and on good highway intersections. Places are cheap and I could afford something better than I usually get even if I only am there for a couple days. I want a place where I have the whole thing. Any suggestions for towns/places around there? Also it would be nice if there was other (socially distanced) stuff to do in that area in case there's no storms.
Interesting article on hotels vs AirBnBs. The article is not chasing specific, but it does have application to your chasing plans as you described them:


Sean
 
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Jun 19, 2005
871
125
6
New Mexico
New Mexico has a 14 day quarantine now in effect. Although enforcement is currently almost non-existent. Just FYI, if in the rare chance any late season chasers end up in NM.
 
Despite all the issues, it would appear that we all got through the COVID spring and early summer of 2020 without any major issues. I have not heard of any chasers getting sick from travel-related ventures. Obviously, the bust season may have played a part. Now I have to figure out a way to cover the hurricane season. There is no way I will fly. I've heard numerous horror stories from friends about flights. I might have to limit my tropical intercepts to the Gulf, where I can drive to in 2-3 days.
 
I have not heard of any issues involving travel among chasers either, but it is still possible. I saw a LOT of chasers June 26 on the storm near Colorado Springs. Most surprising thing was seeing three tour vans that appeared to involve at least two different companies, though I am not sure which ones. Two were unmarked and the third was decorated with the name of a tour company, but I don't recall which one and not one I was familiar with in any case. I would NOT want to ride all day in a closed van with people from everywhere, but to each their own, I guess. Though I had some thought of out-and-back in one day, I did end up staying in a motel as that seemed like the less unsafe option relative to driving home at night through areas with high populations of deer, elk, and other big game. Outdoor exit to the room, sanitized all surfaces, individual AC, etc., so probably about as safe as motels can be. I was a little surprised at the number of travelers in general, some hotels full, and packed bars and restaurants - before Colorado closed the bars again. But I got all my food from drive-thrus.
 
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May 18, 2013
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Chasing in TX in May I encountered 2 packed tour vans in Baylor Co (I think). Not a mask in sight. Don't know what company it was. I wish I knew. They blew thru a T intersection on a dirt road and almost hit me.
 
As my good wife the attorney reminds me, the tour groups run a great risk of liability if someone contracted COVID while in their care. No release will exempt you from stupidity during a known pandemic. My hat's off to those who acted responsible and cancelled tours. It's not just people getting sick on the tours, but those would could be exposed down the line, like older people and medical workers. There are good "van" tour groups, but there seems to be a growing number of very aggressive, reckless groups. It's just a matter of time before you see one of those ads on TV..... "Have you or a loved one been injured during a storm chasing vacation......." The clock is ticking once more.
 

Mark Blue

Owner
Staff member
Feb 19, 2007
3,081
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Colorado
It probably wouldn't hurt for the person traveling to keep a meticulous journal of times, dates, activities and so forth. Otherwise it would be very difficult to reconstruct the timeline several months after the fact. Although ballpark at best, the latest spike around some states' Memorial Day fun in the sun and the peak times for the protests would put the time from exposure until getting sick at around 3-4 weeks. I imagine if we snooped around we could find some statistics for that but it would be a hard case to prove. That's why attorneys make the big bucks!
 
Sep 5, 2019
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Newtown, PA
My hat's off to those who acted responsible and cancelled tours.
During one of my tours, someone in my van had a slight cold. By the end of the week, I was so congested I could hardly breathe. Fortunately, it was only a cold & nothing more than an inconvenience, but it doesn't require a medical degree to recognize how easy it is to spread germs when you're cooped up in a van with 6 or 7 strangers for a week.
 
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How would that be proven? Can you sue Delta Airlines if you get COVID on your trip to Florida? Can you sue Hertz if you get COVID on your drive to Oklahoma? That seems like a stretch.
I agree, but it's the way the legal system works. If multiple people became infected during a tour, it would not be very hard to prove that someone from the group infected everyone else. In addition, a tour operator is "well aware" of the dangers posed by closed quarters traveling, people flying in from outside locations, asymptomatic presentation risks, and the dangers of hotel infections, but they decided to operate in such a hazardous environment, especially if they did not offer alternatives like rescheduling or refunds. Again, I'm the messenger here and there are a TON of lawsuits being filed for similar complaints.
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,098
926
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
I agree, but it's the way the legal system works. If multiple people became infected during a tour, it would not be very hard to prove that someone from the group infected everyone else. In addition, a tour operator is "well aware" of the dangers posed by closed quarters traveling, people flying in from outside locations, asymptomatic presentation risks, and the dangers of hotel infections, but they decided to operate in such a hazardous environment, especially if they did not offer alternatives like rescheduling or refunds. Again, I'm the messenger here and there are a TON of lawsuits being filed for similar complaints.
Whatever happened to individual responsibility? If a person goes on a tour, knowing they are going to be cooped up with people in a van more hours than not, and is willing to take the risk, they should bear the consequences without recourse against the tour operator. As long as the tour operator did not make any false claims around being able to guarantee participants’ health and safety. If nobody is willing to take the risk, the tour won’t operate because they can’t be profitable. But if people are willing to take the risk, it’s on them. I mean for crying out loud, we‘re talking about an activity with inherent risks of its own from driving and the weather. Seems absurd for somebody to sue the tour operator because they got sick. Workplaces have this liability issue, but that’s a different story because an employer is requiring an employee to come to the office. But nobody is requiring anybody to take a storm chasing vacation .
 
Again, I agree. The problem becomes more of a legal reality when the tour companies do not offer refunds or rescheduling and people have to make the decision to go or lose thousands of dollars. The tour companies also put themselves in legal jeopardy if they give any appearance of being able to chase "safely" during a pandemic. People could claim for example: "I expected everyone to be wearing a mask," I expected to stay in safer hotels," "One of the people in the group was sick and no one did anything about it," "They did not supply masks or take everyone's temperature twice a day," "They lodged in a city that was known to be an outbreak region," etc., etc. When you run a company, you TAKE the responsibility for the people you are serving. Period.
 
Sep 5, 2019
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Newtown, PA
Warren's correct and raises the possibility of negligence, recklessness or misrepresentation by a tour operator, which could be actionable. Also, there's a significant difference between COVID and the usual risks associated with storm chasing. Unlike tornadoes, flying debris, road hazards, etc., a COVID infection picked up on tour can harm and even kill people *outside* the tour group, generating a whole new level of potential legal liability.
 
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Sep 5, 2019
20
96
1
Newtown, PA
Can't a tour operator run a red light and kill people outside of the tour group?
Absolutely, but the COVID risk strikes me as distinctive in the sense that an infection contracted in a tour van during a serious global pandemic has the potential to spread far beyond the tour group and cause illness & even death to people in other parts of the country & world after the tour's over. If my van runs a red light, people in the vehicle we hit could be hurt or killed. However, there's zero chance that people in contact with me after the tour will be injured or killed by that collision. Similarly, when my tour group was hit by a tornado last year, there was no chance that people around me after the tour would be hurt or killed by the tornado. I'm thinking like a lawyer here (occupational hazard), but that's the distinction I'm making that elevates COVID to a different level of risk & potential liability for tour operators.
 

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
7,226
776
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Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
I get it - but I just don't get how that would result in a lawsuit... Locally we have a restaurant where an infected worker stayed on the job for over a week (even apparently after knowing he/she was positive) and started an outbreak that has hit more than 100 people. I just don't see what legal standing any of them would have against the restaurant.
 
May 18, 2013
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As someone who has been sued in a frivolous lawsuit, let me shed some light on civil cases. First, anyone can sue for any reason (and often the complaint lists conflicting reasons for the suit or no reasons at all - they don't have to litigate the case in the filing). Second, just because you file a civil complaint, doesn't mean you have a chance of winning. Third, wining is not always the objective of the person filing the complaint. Civil cases take a lot of time and money to litigate. Often the plaintiff is trying to get a settlement - especially when an insurance company is involved. It is a math problem for the insurance company. When: cost of defending the lawsuit + (potential liability * probability of losing) >= cost of defending the lawsuit they settle (regardless of what the person being sued wants). Even with no insurance involved, some defendants get tired of writing big checks to their attorneys and settle to stop the bleeding. Finally, even if a suit is frivolous you can't recover any of cost of defending yourself in many states (Texas is one of them).

As for the chase tours and COVID-19, I would suspect that tours require waivers of liability that insulate them from legal responsibility for acts of negligence (i.e., lack of reasonable care); however, waivers can’t always protect a business against gross negligence. I suspect that it would be hard for a plaintiff to win a case by claiming a tour operator was grossly negligent by operating during COVID-19 - after all Uber and public transit are operating and restaurants are open all with the government's blessing. Having said that, unlike criminal cases which are decided "beyond a reasonable doubt", civil cases are decided on "preponderance of the evidence". "Preponderance of the evidence" is a misunderstood term. While it does mean that there is a greater than 50% chance that a proposition is true, a defendant can be found partially liable by a "preponderance of the evidence". Put another way, if a jury is 51% sure you are 10% liable - you are out money.
 
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