Wall Street Journal Article on Storm Chasing Tours

Jun 16, 2015
Oklahoma City, OK
This was a mildly interesting article, but for most chasers, there wasn't anything new or groundbreaking discussed.

I think that safety is a legitimate concern with storm chase tours, but it seems as if most are actually pretty responsible. Whether it's avoiding getting to close to a storm or being cautious otherwise, I have not heard of many issues. The article even references some attendees saying that they felt their tour group was being overly cautious.

The only issue I've had with some tour groups is that I've seen their vehicles parked on main roads with "tourists" taking photos in the middle of the road. I'm not sure how much control the guides have over this, but I have witnessed (as others have) on multiple occasions, tour vehicles parked on the road and there are people running back and forth across the road in traffic. An easy solution would be to just wait to pull off until the next dirt road, so there's less high speed traffic, but I'm not here to lecture the tour guides on how to run their business.

Again, I've encountered many tour groups in my years of chasing and issues are fairly infrequent. The article is actually fairly balanced, weighing at least some of the pros and cons of the chase business. The only thing I would have liked to have heard discussed more would be the educational background of the storm chase tours. It's not all just about flashy vans driving into bad storms, I know for a fact that at least some of these groups have meteorologists and other scientists on board. How big of a role do they play? Do most tour groups have at least one meteorologist helping run the show, or are they generally just storm chasers who are more self-taught through years of experience? How many have both?
Jul 5, 2009
Newtown, Pennsylvania
I agree with all of your points Quincy, and in retrospect the article barely scratched the surface. I would have expected more depth in a WSJ article, including some of the possible topics you mentioned.

The most interesting and “fun” part for me is the comment section. There are the usual comments about people who chase storms being stupid, crazy, idiots, may need to be licensed/regulated, etc. If you care to check out the comments you’ll see three I wrote; who knows, there could be more by the time you read this [emoji57]
Mar 8, 2016
Bloomington, IL
Speaking of tour groups, I did run into this on last Friday in western Kansas:

It was at least on a side road and not a main road and I get that herding tourists can be like herding cats sometimes, but this was a bit much.
Feb 20, 2005
Lincoln, NE
When I was in college obtaining my meteorology degree, I worked for a storm chasing tour company. I was a tourist/passenger in 2001 and then came back as a forecaster/driver from 2002 to 2006. The tours definitely helped me both on a personal and professional level. It allowed me to meet people from all over the country and the world (I would say 60 to 70 percent of the tourists were from abroad) and I still converse on occasion with some of those individuals today. On a professional level, being a forecaster really put my skills to the test on a daily basis and I think that helped me become a better meteorologist eventually down the road.

The biggest thing that I always advocated was safety. I preached "head on a swivel." Be aware of your surroundings. There were close calls and none of them were related to the storms. Some examples include pulling off some rural road and a guest happened to hear a "rattle" (rattlesnake was maybe 10 feet away or so from the van) and a van almost went off the road because the driver fell asleep. The concept of safety for me in terms of storm chasing isn't exactly black and white. I told guests that storms are inherently dangerous and we are taking risks being out there in such close proximity to them. The only thing we could do is control what we were capable of controlling. Wear the seat belts, watch the speed (i.e. obey the laws), don't stand in the middle of a busy road, etc. Let's face it the basics of trying to be safe isn't exactly rocket science and I was very upfront with guests about that.

I think the majority of tours are safe for the most part and I think some of them you can get quite the education from. As far as the WSJ article goes, there are always going to be individuals who think of storm chasers as lunatics, crazy rednecks, etc. Not the first time we've heard those words and it won't be the last. This is my passion so I really don't care what others think.
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The only thing that really concerns me much about tour groups is this: several times when I thought there was too much CG lightning to be outside, I have seen tour groups with people outside taking pictures and video. I do worry that sooner or later someone will get struck. But when it comes to lightning, I will admit that I am pretty cautious and often stay in the car when others are out.
Jul 5, 2009
Newtown, Pennsylvania
I have seen tour groups in the middle of the road too, as pictured above. There are always problematic chasers that do this, but obviously with the tour groups it’s worse because of the sheer number of people milling about in the road. It also seems ridiculous to me that the tour companies would allow that; it seems like a pretty basic “rule” of safety and courtesy to set forth to their customers.