Why did I miss the tornado?

Jul 5, 2009
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...@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!
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.
 

Todd Lemery

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Jun 2, 2014
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This is in response to @JamesCaruso in the thread YOUR top ten chase days [thread now moved here and antecedent comment is above]. James got me to thinking about why I missed certain chase days. The one thing that I noticed about my misses is that a lot of them could have been different if I just would have put in more effort. I’ve talked myself out of driving an extra couple of hours more than once knowing, but convincing myself otherwise, that the prospects for tornadoes would be just as good.

I missed the Moore tornadoes and El Reno because I was chasing secondary targets that would give me an easier drive back home the following day. I justify it in mind that there really isn’t a big difference in odds between the targets even though I knew better. Inevitably, I end up reading the storm reports about the tornadoes from the comfort of quiet skies and a bowl of guilt flakes. Deep down I know that I was just too lazy to drive the extra mile.

I’m curious if anyone else has thought about why they’ve missed out on different storms. It’s a lot more fun explaining how you beat the crowds and nailed the storm of the year with almost nobody around than to explain how come you were one of the three storm chasers in the world who were watching a glorified rain shower while everyone else was shooting the best storm pics of their lives.

What’s the big reason why you missed out?
 
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Jun 26, 2009
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It seems to change why i missed out each time for me, sometimes new mistakes and sometimes learning the wrong lesson from previous mistakes(also known as every setup is different)...

The Moore(2013) F5 i missed while watching a barely tornado down on the storm in Bray, OK.
I honestly thought the atmosphere was better down there that day as it seemed in my mind that the southern convection would limit the storms to the north, but also had no desire to be waiting for a storm in OKC metro, so that could have shaded my decision.

I did make El Reno, partly because of the being just two weeks after Moore, i decided to ingore the OKC metro fear. Mostly it was because that boundary and pool of CAPE made for a very concentrated two or three county highest probability target in my mind. It seemed if you werent going to be in Calumet(give or take a county), you weren't going to see the show. Plus it was the end of a really long week of setups, and I had driven all the way past Tulsa the night before thinking I was going to head home. That forecast made me backtrack across the state in the wrong direction and sit in that heat all afternoon waiting. So, if i was going to be out there still, I was bound and determined to be in THE BEST spot climatically, regardless of OKC metro troubles or distance. Glad I was persistent enough to be there, but it was terrifying.

I missed Bowdle (2010) while sitting just a county or so south in Redfield because, if I remember right, I thought the front forcing was going to mess that first cell up, and that the open warm sector was about to pop... oops. I mananged to get up there in time to see the elephant trunk after the wedge and the spinups around Roscoe and Ipswitch.

I missed the Dodge City(2016) tornadofest, but got a great but not epic show a couple counties north near Scott City. That one was I couldn't wait around while first cell is already popping on a huge day mentality. I was also worried the open warm sector was going to have convection interferance issues. So, partly learned from the Bowdle mistake above, i went to check out that first big storm popping before the sector went crazy. I'm not entirely bothered by this one, as I saw four tornadoes and one of my best. 12 would have been more fun, but hey, not my worst bust and I'm pretty sure only a handful of folks were up there with me, instead of the full horde.


I missed the first 45 minutes of Chapman/Bennington II(2016) because I felt burned by the 'first storm on the boundary' mentality of the Dodge City/Scott City decision the day before. So, I bought into the HRRR showing a beast down by Independence, KS. It was only because the updraft of that orphan HRRR cell died quickly and the wedge stuck around for so long, that I did get up to Chapman in time to see the last half of the show.
 
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Sep 25, 2006
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I missed the Deer Trail, CO tornado in 2010 because I didn't want to drive the extra hour to the storm. I had already driven from Minneapolis to northeast CO but turned around when my storm went to crap instead of pushing south the extra hour, which would have put me on the storm in time to see the tornado. I've missed other good storms/tornadoes for similar reasons but can't think of the specifics off the top of my head.

I missed the McCook tornadoes back in May because I felt work was too busy to take time off to go chasing. In hindsight I wish I would have gone because work is important but so is doing what you love.

The biggest miss I had was the Litchfield, MN tornado in 2016. It wasn't a prolific tornado but it was the way I missed that kills me. I stopped to grab gas about 5 miles east of where the tornado touched down. The tornado hadn't touched down yet but by the structure of the storm you could tell it was close, even from my position. I filled up on gas and went to start the car to get closer to the storm. Somehow I managed to get the car into valet mode when I got out to get gas. This mode prevented me from turning the car on and it took me 20 minutes of frantically looking through the manual and online to figure out what was going on. By the time I figured it out the storm was well to my north and I had to play catch up just to get back on it. In the process of all of this the tornado happened near Litchfield, maybe 5 miles to my west. Despite being close enough to see the tornado, the trees surrounding my location prevented me from seeing it and I wasn't able to catch up to the storm in time to see the other tornadoes the storm produced. One of the dumbest and most frustrating situations I've had in chasing.

Edit: I should probably also throw in the Wayne, Nebraska tornado on 10/4/13. I managed to get a distant glimpse of it but it could have been much better. I got on the storm after it produced an initial brief/weak tornado prior to the Wayne tornado. It was in between these cycles that I got on the storm. At the time, it wasn't clear where the new action would be and the storm didn't look all that great visually so I wasn't sure the best way to approach it. I incorrectly stuck to the south end of the storm and continued west on highway 275, where I quickly ran into single lane construction traffic. Not long after I got through this traffic I realized I needed to get back east to get to highway 15 north towards Wayne, which meant sitting in the single lane traffic a second time. I honestly can't remember at this point if I chose to sit in the traffic again or take my chances on the crappy dirt roads to avoid the construction zone. Either way, I was way behind where I needed to be in order to get a good view of the tornado. The hills of northeast Nebraska didn't help my cause at all either. Like I said, I did get a very brief and distant view of the wedge, but at the time I didn't even realize I was seeing the tornado. Only looking back at the short video I took did I realize I did actually briefly see it. The part that stings the most is if I had taken highway 15 towards Wayne from the start I would have avoided this situation entirely. Having said that, this was the first time I had come across fresh, significant tornado damage.
 
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This is a great question and I think I have the answer.

Why miss a tornado.....?

1: Technology overload. Although technology is great, it can also have a negative effect on success. It can make you a "lazy" forecaster. It can also generate overconfidence, causing delays in departing = missing the storm. In the "day" before laptop data and onboard radar, I would spend hours pouring over NWS data and drawing / revising complex maps every hour. We had one shot at picking a location. The concomitant patience often resulted in targeting the right storm or region. Now days, it's too easy to read a few forecasts, look at upper air data and take a peak at surface conditions while driving. This is especially true on those days when there are multiple targets over a very large area.

2: Crowds. This is both a conscious and subconscious issue that "could" determine where you chase. Unfortunately, many of the obvious target, "big" days now involve massive traffic jams. I can think of many exciting ways to kick the bucket, but being trapped on a crowded road as a mile-wide EF5 bears down is not one of them. Now that multiple chasers / public have died and been seriously injured , the reality cannot be ignored. Anyone who has watched spotter ID's in conjunction with nearby death shear knows this will eventually happen. It could have certainly happened in El Reno. This is NOT going to go way.

3: Location, location. location. If you live in the Alley, like OKC you have a home turf advantage. This includes the occasional sneak attack storm. Chasers living outside the region have a great disadvantage as they have to schedule their vacations around a specific period.

4: No fly zones. I no longer chase anywhere near the OKC metro. Nor do I chase HP's. Chasers who do this will likely see less tornadoes.

So there are multiple reasons to seemingly miss specific events. Don't worry about it. Chase for fun and avoid the crowds. I would also suggest not measuring your success (or not) by a tornado count. Of all the tornadoes listed in the decade thread, I would say 90% were obvious targets if you looked over the data carefully and had the motivation to pursue them.
 
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.

Every once in a while I miss a good tornado because of poor decision making...Mangum this year comes to mind, as well as Elmer a few years ago. But, most of what I miss is self inflicted because I like the comforts of home...probably a little more than I should when it comes to chasing.
 
Jul 1, 2014
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I moved to Kanas from Wisconsin in part to be closer to the action. On May 28, I missed the Linwood, KS EF4 even though I was home 20 minutes away from its start. I had come home from work and my 18 year old son had driven 12 hours and surprised me with dinner. It was a great dinner, but was pretty painful to watch on TV. However it was not as painful as missing Chapman because one of our chase partners needed to fly home to water his grass.
 
Jan 14, 2011
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Most of my big misses in the past decade happened because I downplayed the potential and chose not to chase (Pilger, Moore, Katie/Wynnewood). Some of that is due to me not having unlimited resources and days off to chase and therefore having to be selective. Other days, I just picked the wrong target when more than one of seemingly equal potential was available. The latter reason plagued my 2019 Plains trips (aside from May 17). I missed Tescott in 2018 for a personal safety check against driving sleep-deprived. I couldn't get to sleep early enough the night before and was facing a 16+ hour day (drive plus chase) to make it there.

On most of my "chose the wrong target" days in recent years, I felt my decision making was sound even after a post mortem evaluation. I have reached a point in my chasing where I'm fairly committed to the fundamentals - they've resulted in a good deal of success, in most seasons anyway. Those setups that deviate from the norm or have a more challenging configuration are more the luck of the draw - the next similar setup could easily see the inverse outcome happen if one or two subtle ingredients is different. I'm not saying there is nothing to be learned from them, but I feel like radically deviating from the fundamentals because of some outliers is likely to burn me in the future.
 
Jan 7, 2006
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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.
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.
 
One thing I left off the list was motivation. With so many tornadoes to see on social media (live and afterwards) along with no real way to market pics and footage, you really have to be motivated to spend time and money going after slight risks. The "reward" factor has dropped substantially over the last 10 years. I think chasers who enjoy the "overall" essence of chasing, e.g., travel, hobby photography, meeting friends and just being "out there," have a much better time than those who "must" see a twister.
 
Mar 30, 2008
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Like 90% of my 'misses' can be blamed on 2 things: Responsibility or Distractions. Responsibility in either work or other commitments or problems in the past with reliable transportation (try getting a rental car in OKC after a big hail storm...) or how to get there in time, needing a second driver because I need to sleep from time to time, etc.

Distractions are things like June 12, 2017 having the transmission go out so I needed to pick people up from the airport, drop my car off at the transmission shop, get a rental, take someone to the hospital, pick him back up, drop the person I picked up from the airport with another chaser.... yea. Chapman day I had 2 flat tires to take care of from DDC day and was distracted by an issue that arose with someone who was with me. It was 4pm and we were in Derby, KS when I had fixed tires and a chance to start looking at stuff and at that point, Wichita seemed alright and we had bubbling convection.. oops.

The last 10% seems to be laziness or fucking up. Couple of days I could have scored big but sat home and was lazy or didn't even realize there was a setup. And Laziness comes in when it looks like 4-5 hours away, maybe some veer backing around 700mb, moisture issues, timing, blah blah blah and I end up not going and it over produces. I'm still about 95% right on a lot of those days I choose to skip.
 

Jeff Duda

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Oct 7, 2008
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Prior to 2019, my number one reason for missing tornadoes, by far, was ultimately financial. I was in college from 2003-2016 (grad school from 2009-2016), and despite having a partner during most of that time, I struggled to make ends meet financially almost constantly. As Brett alluded to above with the freedom of knowing you can bunk down in a location near where the chase ended...I never really felt that kind of freedom. Gas was cheap enough to justify driving home if I was less than 300-400 miles from home at the end of a chase. Therefore, I had a tendency to avoid regions that were "outside my leash area", so to speak (generally a 300-400-mile-radius circle around Norman), even if the environment was better for supercells/tornadoes than my area. That, or I would tend to give up on chases a bit early so that I could get home at 2 AM rather than 4 AM. Occasionally I would push these limits, and I would always pay for it, oftentimes with little extra to show for it. Also, I pretty much never chased in the same region two days in a row, so that increased my tendency to always drive back home after a chase.

Number two reason: after 13 April 2012 I became fearful of leaving Norman to chase anywhere *but upstream of Norman* on any day in which Norman was in any substantial threat of severe weather, which restricted the domain I felt comfortable chasing. I called it The Rule. The Rule ended up being in effect on quite a few chases that I might have otherwise preferred an alternate target (e.g., NW OK or SC KS instead of SW OK). And thus I missed a few events because of that, too.

Things changed for me starting in 2018, which turned out to be a bit of a lucky transition year. I had started a new job and had little PTO, but I never really saw an event where I wanted to chase more than a few hours from my new home in Denver anyway. Otherwise a new restriction would have likely played more of a role:

In 2019 my biggest restriction has become responsibility. I adopted a dog in late 2017 and am his sole keeper. I generally do not have any friends who live nearby and don't know any neighbors well enough, so I cannot leave him by himself for more than 8-12 hours, which has become a new "leash" for me. If I know a big chase day is coming in advance I will try to find him a sitter or board him, but that only happened once in 2019, and it was a huge bust (the entire setup busted, really).

This may all be about to change in the next year or so, though. I found myself in a new long-term relationship this year, and the gf and I are pretty much planning on moving in next summer after our current leases expire. That won't help me for the 2020 chase season, but after 2020 I'll have someone else who can look after my dog while I'm gone on longer trips. I have also started saving up a lot of PTO and my financial situation is gradually improving.

By 2021 or so I will be fairly unrestricted as to when or where I can chase.
 
Jun 28, 2007
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I just reviewed my history and wow, I’ve missed a bunch. I’ve actually missed more than I’ve seen, thanks OP for bringing me down that memory lane. How much greater would my chasing experience to date be if I had succeeded on those failed opportunities? It really does hurt to think about it, especially given how close I came on many events. Some of the reasons are correctable mistakes on my part, some are a result of erring on the side of caution (no regrets there) and some are just a natural consequence of executing a chase (e.g. tornado happens when repositioning). A common reason is just not giving myself enough time to reach the target. Navigation mistakes have cost me and so has poor data analysis and forecasting. There have been times when I had to drive home the next day and I didn’t want to turn 600 miles into 800 miles. Other times I’ve had tunnel vision and stayed on a storm too long and missed epic tornadoes on nearby storms. Missed a bunch of nighttime stuff because usually I’m not comfortable enough with the situation or I don’t think the payoff is worth it. Indecision has cost me as has being too aggressive on fast moving storms. But by far the biggest reason I’ve missed the most tornadoes is…because it’s Iowa.
 
From my perspective (as a chasecationer who comes over for ~2.5 week from the UK each year) at least some tornadoes have been missed due to indecision...somehow being between 2 developing areas of storms, and not committing and going for at least one of them!

In more recent years, a desire to try the less-obvious target has caused frustration - Dodge City, 2016, being one! Although I think, to be blunt, I just lost situational awareness of the decent boundary, and decided (during the haul north from N TX) to target an area of the eastern TX Panhandle, as it was nearer. Saw a nice LP storm - didn't see xx number of tornadoes! The following day was also a miss, being suckered SE of Wichita, having eyed up Salina as being the place to head to! Needless to say, I sharpened my senses again after that, and ensured I looked more closely (again) at boundaries, etc.
 
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Oct 10, 2004
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My entire chase career is nothing but a series of painful "how I missed the tornado" stories:

June 16, 2014: Missed the Stanton-Pilger-Wakefield four-EF4 show by about 45 minutes due to a combination of "sleeping in" (it was the first day of my vacation and I work a 3AM-noon shift) and leaving an hour later than I'd planned, then panicking at the sight of midmorning convection over my original target area of Sioux City during a data check, retargeting to Omaha (which, to be fair, had an epic forecast sounding as well), and making a navigational error which took me even farther out of my way. Had any one of those things not happened, I could have at least caught part of the Wakefield tornado. As it was, I reached the storm as it shrunk into a photogenic LP, produced a last-gasp bird fart near Hubbard, and rapidly weakened as it ran into the air stabilized by that morning convection I had been worried about.

April 9, 2015: Sat in Forreston, IL (about 30 miles northwest of Rochelle as the crow flies) until about 5 PM, then gave up and went home, arriving just in time to watch the debris ball on radar. Again a combination of factors/excuses. The setup didn't appear high-end enough with enough lead time for me to justify taking days off, so I was tired from working 3AM-noon that day and faced the prospect of doing the same the next day (so if I stayed chasing till, say, 8 PM and got home at 9:30, I'd get less than 4 1/2 hours of sleep); the fact that my car's CHECK ENGINE light had come on during the drive down, I didn't know what the problem was but didn't want it dying on me in the path of a tornado or hail core; and general pessimism about the setup (I had chased another northern Illinois warm front setup the previous April that busted, and the day seemed to be playing out exactly as the scoffers had predicted, with a small window for tornadoes in Iowa quickly closing as storms lined out along the cold front).

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.

March 15, 2016: Glimpsed in the after-sunset lightning flashes a large cone funnel hanging down below the tree line to my northwest from Hanna City, IL (confirmed by survey as an EF2 tornado). However, instead of staying put and shooting it (bird in the hand and all that), my chase partner and I opted to blast east to stay ahead of the storm. We never saw it again in the darkness.

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.

Honorable mentions for missing the tornado(es), or at least a chance at seeing the tornado(es) by not chasing: February 28, 2017: Because it was BLOODY FEBRUARY in the upper Midwest, it had been something like 25 degrees with snow and freezing rain in Madison like three days before. December 1, 2018 because apparently the previous didn't teach me not to dismiss deep cool season setups north of Dixie Alley on sight. May 24, 2019: Kalona-Iowa City, IA because Iowa ALWAYS performs on the days it's not supposed to, and vice versa. EVERY other cell that day failed to become sustained long enough to produce.
 
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Mar 30, 2008
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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.
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.

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.
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.
 
Sep 29, 2011
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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.
 
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I only count them as misses if I actually chase. There were some big days I chose not to chase, but I rarely regret that choice, because in every case I can think of, I had a good reason not to. If the Campo tornado had happened any other day, I would have chased, as I was in NM and thought that somewhere around northeast NM or southeast CO looked like a good target that day. And the tornadoes near Campo occurred off and on for so long that I almost could have driven there from Santa Fe when the first warning was issued and seen at least some of the best one. But we had tickets to a Crosby, Stills, and Nash concert that day in ABQ, and it was an experience I will never forget - as they performed outdoors, the Sandia Mountains behind them were brilliantly illuminated by the setting sun. And though I did not know it at the time, that turned out to be my last chance to see them, since they stopped touring within a year or so later. Another time, when I was department chair, I had committed to go to graduation at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on what turned out to be a great chase day in northeast MO, a couple hours drive away. But I knew that if I wanted my colleagues to attend graduation when they said they would, I needed to set an example. Photogenic tornadoes occurred, but I was in a packed gym listening to boring graduation speeches. And although I chased in OK the day before both the Moore tornado and the El Reno tornado in 2013, I had told my wife I would be home the next day and when I say that I nearly always stick to it. Not that I really regret missing either of those; I think chasing either would have been more frightening/upsetting and potentially dangerous than enjoyable. And there was the time I chased a southern Illinois storm for 2 or 3 hours and broke off from it a half hour before it finally produced a tornado, because I needed to get home for my daughter's birthday celebration. I don't count any of those as misses, any more than any other day I did not chase and there was a tornado. And I don't regret any of them.

So what DO I count as a miss? When I chase, there are tornadoes I could have seen, but I miss them because of either a bad forecast or because of bad choices in the heat of the chase. And I would say I have missed a lot more because of the latter than the former. Usually I can get myself to a place where I have a decent shot at seeing a tornado, but many times I have missed because of bad road choices or poor chase strategies. In some cases, over-reacting to mess-ups the last time I chased. And the most frustrating ones at the times I have been on the right storm but then somehow manage to miss the tornado or tornadoes. For example, on that day before the 2013 Moore tornado, I was on a storm near I-35 right at the border of KS and OK. The storm dropped a nice rope tornado that, if you were in the right place, was rather photogenic. But somehow, though I was on the storm the entire time that tornado occurred, I managed never to see it. On April 19, 2011, I was on the storm that produced a photogenic tornado near Litchfield, IL, but chased it too aggressively into the flood plain of the Illinois River and ended up without a good east route once the storm was near me, and got overrun by the core then behind the storm with no view when it dropped the tornado. If I had just driven 30 miles up I-55 from home and waited, I would have had a great view of the tornado. And I could cite a number of other, similar cases to these. Road choices and chase strategies that make or break a chase. Fortunately, I have done it right enough times to see some really nice tornadoes, but it still drives me nuts when I target the right area, pick the right storm, and then find a way to mess it up. To me, those are the real misses.
 
Aug 27, 2009
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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.
That was a beautiful text, Shane!

We all share much of that passion and we all have our own limitations - mine mainly being living in Sweden. Nowadays I have a family with two small kids and going chasing is getting increasingly more difficult and I was both surprised and incredibly happy that we could figure out a solution so I could go chasing once again. This makes my whole year! Before, I didn't start getting excited until maybe a month before but nowadays I start anticipating the trip already in January. I have felt for many years now that this year is probably gonna be my last for a while, but I have always managed.

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. Still, things have worked out fine as I have been able to with tours and chase partners. If there has ever been a missed tornado, it has thus never really been my fault (as well as the opposite) which brings the bets down for both good and bad. Misses tend to disappear in my memory, thankfully, and although I have had a few painful ones with Chapman 2016 being on top there has mostly been about either missing out on a "normal" tornado or completely missing it. I am glad I never had to suffer through misses like the ones you are mentioning - like having car issues 5 miles away from a tornado.

The one tornado that often comes to mind though is Simla, CO. We were chasing in Wyoming the day before and went for the north central KS target (afair it was because of insane CAPE) but had a lift bust. Had we stayed in the area we probably would have seen Simla. Still, I was chasing with people who didn't adher to the same rules of safety as I to put it mildly. I was kind of glad not seeing tornadoes during that chase, but that's a whole different story.
 

Jeff Duda

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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.
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.
 
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.
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.

Chasing on your own terms brings risk and reward - yes, you can miss stuff (the risk) which more experience and/or more decision makers you might not have - but, then again, everyone has misses, including the tours. So why not miss on your own terms? The wins sure make up for it!
 
Aug 27, 2009
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You are off course right and I would love to chase solo in the future, or at least with someone of equal knowledge as I know this would increase my knowledge a whole lot having to be the one making the final decisions etc. The first reason I haven't done so is that I have my tour review website for which I want to cover as many tour companies as possible on a first-hand basis (I have tried 8 different tours so far and a have very in-depth knowledge in what they do and how they do it). The second reason is that I have also had so much fun chasing with my friends David and Alex (and David also have the perfect chase vehicle). The third, most important, reason is that I have never wanted to gamble one season and possibly fail miserably after waiting a whole year for tornado season.

Nowadays, it's not really an option either as I will only be chasing for 7 days. But, I will go solo one day when I have more time to chase again.
 
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Christoffer, I don’t think you would really have to gamble a season. You have probably picked up way more than you realize over the years, and would probably surprise yourself with relatively good results.

My own first season was 1999, and that was after three years on tours. I caught the Basset NE tornado that year. I’m sure I missed stuff then too (and definitely have missed many things since), but now it’s 20 years later so who cares? If you bite the bullet sooner rather than later, before you know it you will have many years of chasing behind you and will be glad you got the first year gamble over with when you did. You don’t want to look back with regret that you could have been chasing yourself for the past however-many years.

You could also split the difference, basically chasing on your own but maybe confirming your forecast against someone else’s, or getting some nowcasting assistance, etc.

I can definitely second what Jeff and Paul said. I want to live and die by my own decisions, for better or for worse. Over the years I have refused to even chase with good friends who were more experienced, just because I didn’t want to just end up mindlessly following them. My chase partner has always been the same guy who just isn’t as into the forecasting; he is certainly a help in the field making decisions, looking at radar, navigating, etc., but the forecast decisions are basically mine, which is the way I like it.