Brett, thanks for the kind words of encouragement and commiseration. Not to go OT but I, too, am very interested in the psychology of chase decision-making, including viewing it as a microcosm of life and translating approaches and lessons-learned to other areas of life. Right now I am reading a book called "Thinking in Bets: Making Decisions When You Don't Have All The Facts," by Annie Duke. As I read it and think through its application, storm chasing often comes to mind. What's particularly of interest is the role of luck and uncertainty. Interesting to think of the extent to which chasing outcomes can be chalked up to luck and uncertainty. Interesting to think of whether the "chaos" of meteorology means that there is truly "luck" involved, or if that's really "uncertainty." I'm not through the book yet but I believe "uncertainty" includes missing information that is both unknown and unknowable. We can improve our knowledge to reduce the unknown, but not the unknowable. The book also gets into the role of beliefs, biases, and "resulting," which is judging decisions based on the outcome, which causes us to beat ourselves up for no reason when we make a decision based on probabilities and the less-likely - but non-zero probability - outcome occurs. When I finish the book, I was thinking I might expand on these concepts and write a post with some insights from the book and how they relate to chasing....
...@JamesCaruso, it sounds like you've had a pretty rough time of it in recent years. While I generally enjoyed my chase experiences for the first 2/3 of this decade, I've been right there with you since 2017. The thing I keep coming back to is how seemingly improbable a priori some of these nightmare personal stretches are, including my current stretch. Thinking back to the sequence of dozens (hundreds?) of unfortunate events, instances of bad luck, and poor decisions that have put me in as big a hole as I'm in for this most recent three-year stretch, it practically begs for a superstitious explanation. When you try as hard and as often as we do, one would assume random chance would get you better outcomes than this. Is our decision-making really that bad? The psychology of chase decision-making is a fascinating topic that could probably fill dissertations, if it were of any commercial or societal value!
This is a subtle but interesting point for those of us living in the Alley. Sometimes, in the midst of an active late-season period with many days of opportunity, I start feeling sorry for myself relative to chasecationers. Of course, it's irrational, because I could hypothetically just choose to allocate my chase days into going after everything for a 2-3 week block instead of being choosy throughout the year. Regardless, some chasecationers would probably find the experience of chasing as a local interesting, if they've never done it. Unless you're 5+ hours from home at the end of the day, there's this kind of default assumption that you might as well go home instead of getting a room, even if it's late. That, in turn, can sometimes lead you to make a stupid decision to call the chase off early on marginal-looking setups. On the rare occasions that I'm chasing 8+ hours away and it's already established that I'll need to get a room after the chase, it's amazing how freeing that feels, in terms of removing pressure to call things off as early as possible.I miss epic moments mostly due to the urge to get home after a certain point, and I literally had to make a personal commitment around 2015 to chase until dark because I was missing out on really good stuff. Living in OK affords me the opportunity to be home for most chases, but this can be a double edged sword in many ways. Part of it is laziness, part is being tired after being in the car for 8 hours or more straight, part of it is an internal doubt that anything cool is going to happen and I act on it.
To be fair, you had to be in the tornado to see it really. Lucio was the only other vehicle I saw in the cage that day, and then we got screwed by the power lines and trees falling on a road and cutting us off. That storm was HP af and PWAT values were >2 on the 00Z DVN that day. The storm motion and speed didn't help either.June 22, 2015: Was within two miles of a rain-wrapped EF2 as it formed south of Amboy, IL and struck the Woodhaven Lakes campground west of Sublette, but saw nothing but a wall of rain. I was uneasy about getting into the "Bear's Cage" of a tornadic HP and took my escape route (US 52) southeast to stay ahead of and eventually drop south of the action area. Had I just stayed put the tornado would have passed just to my west and I would have had a much clearer view. I don't really regret this one as it was a conscious decision made in the name of safety, but it still stings knowing how close I was to a much better shot, even though this tornado was not particularly photogenic especially compared to the previous two events.
Do everything you can to stay way ahead of the storm. You're done as soon as you get in the conga line. I know that's an obvious answer, but it was easy to stay ahead that day. And the view was fine from the northeast.May 20, 2019: Parked on US 62 between Duke and Gould, OK; poised to intercept the eventual Mangum supercell just as it began to look good on radar. Waited until I was sure the base must have crossed the highway to my west, unable to make out any features in the murky haze (in retrospect, the tornado actually hadn't started yet). Just as I was about to pull back onto 62 to head east back to Duke and north on OK-34 which would have taken me right to Mangum, I was met by a solid string of headlights coming east. I had to go west all the way to Gould just to find an opening to spin a uie and join the conga line, which put me hopelessly behind as it moved no more than 35-40 MPH with the person in front of me frequently coming to a near-stop to take pictures with their phone out the driver's window.
That was a beautiful text, Shane!Back when I started, I dedicated my life to chasing. Really. I sacrificed everything to be able to chase, because I had nothing. In reality, a person as broke as I was/am should never have even started chasing. But I found my life's dream, so I grabbed that son-of-a-bitch with both hands and strangled it. I lived my life this way for several years, missing out on life events, developing/nurturing friendships, and destroying relationships. I regret none of it.
As I got older and became involved in a serious relationship that was obviously starting to become a "lifelong" type deal, around 2012, I started to do something I had never done prior during the storm chasing portion of my life: I started considering other people. I started to concern myself with how my chasing gambles and sacrifices would affect Bridget, who initially came out to be with me TO start chasing. But once we realized we were "in it" for life, that changed things. My 24/7 on-fire chasing passion could really send our normal, daily life into a tailspin, reaping the repercussions of my "caution to the wind" attitude about putting "normal life" on hold to chase. I started to see the stresses it was putting her under because, at the end of the day, she was always a Mom to two boys first, before she was ever a storm chaser.
So chasing, for the first time in my life since I began, stopped being my #1 priority. I could easily have stayed with the lifestyle and kept sacrificing everything myself, because chasing is all I want, still, at almost 48 years old. It's all I've ever wanted, and it will always be. But finding a balance is a responsibility I thrust on myself when I involved another person in my life, and because of that I've had to try and figure a way to channel/harness my chasing passion so that I don't let it override my daily life responsibilities. The problem for me is that, that way of thinking has become natural, and hence, it became a built-in excuse to pass on setups that were "too far away" or "too much of a longshot" or "in bad terrain."
The "secret" to my success during the years when I was killing it was simple: all I did was focus on chasing. Not sitting around taking forecast classes or reading textbooks, just thinking about chasing 24/7. It consumed me, and there was no room for anything else. The more I learned, the less I thought about things beyond the basic forecast/chase strategy. I was almost automatic, like each chase was scripted before I left the house, with a Plan B,C & D should Plan A go wonky. It didn't always mean success, but it guaranteed a focus on every chase that was the maximum effort I was capable of giving. That's as good as you can be.
My issue for the past several years has been that lack of focus, the inability to "turn off" real life concerns/problems/worries while out chasing. Letting those things creep into the back of my mind until they start to influence my decisions; let's not go so far, I have to work tomorrow....this is a huge gamble and we don't have enough money to chase that seemingly sure-thing setup four days from now. The kinds of things chasers who have responsibilities must worry about. The knowledge that regardless of what happens, unless you die tonight, you WILL wake up tomorrow and have to deal with the consequences of the next day.
So my struggle since 2012 more or less has been trying to find balance, more to the point, trying to figure out a way to maximize the few opportunities we get. Chasing 4-6 times a year wouldn't be an issue if we could nail 3-4 of those days. But when they ALL go to garbage, that's soul crushing. In fact the new analogy I've been using is, these endless, wasted seasons of nothing to show and little opportunity kill my horcruxes. If I started with seven, I've got about 2-3 left maybe.
I need chasing. I need tornadoes. I need it to validate myself. I don't mind saying that out loud, in fact I'll shout it from the rooftop. "Passion Twist Video" isn't just a clever brand name. "Passion" is the first word because it means something. I have to find ways to get tornadoes in my viewfinder again. I have to find ways to better ourselves personally/financially so that the odds of goal #1 are better and better. But mostly what I know is, I will never stop fighting that battle, until the day I stop drawing breath. Shane Adams is goddamned storm chaser. That's who I am. That's why I exist. All this other stuff is just the penalty for existing. Working, paying bills, holidays with family....all the stuff we all have to do because we're alive. But that's not living. Being out on the open road, smelling tornado fuel on a stiff southerly breeze, and watching that low, rotating base just west of you. THAT'S living. And that's what I'm chasing 'til the end of my days.
A rather obvious recommendation, but you should definitely do some solo chasing. Your knowledge and experience gains will be significantly boosted, as you'll be humbled even more by your successes and failures (because each one will be uniquely yours). And if/when you do manage to nail a tornado while alone, the ecstasy will also be enhanced. It will just be you and nature out there. No need to have someone to celebrate with...you'll have that moment to yourself for the rest of your life...something no one can take away from you.As I typically only have 1-3 weeks of chasing I have never tried chasing by myself. I have never really wanted to invest the time (and lose a season or two) in order to go by myself.
I fully agree! (I also agree with Christoffer about @Shane Adams writing a great piece above). I also have to travel over to the US from Europe (the UK) to follow my dream - and it was always a dream from a young age, but seemed a million miles away for many years.A rather obvious recommendation, but you should definitely do some solo chasing. Your knowledge and experience gains will be significantly boosted, as you'll be humbled even more by your successes and failures (because each one will be uniquely yours). And if/when you do manage to nail a tornado while alone, the ecstasy will also be enhanced. It will just be you and nature out there. No need to have someone to celebrate with...you'll have that moment to yourself for the rest of your life...something no one can take away from you.