2003 vs 2004

Mike Hollingshead

If knowning what you know now, which year would you rather chase again and why? Which year was a better tornado producer(close right now by stats/reports)? Which was the better year to be a chaser in? I feel there should be one answer for these but who knows. Do you think anything in the past would be better then which ever of these two years you decide on? And, do you think that year will be topped anytime soon? Perhaps an easier way to do this is to simply ask for some thoughts on the two years in regards to there significance. Thoughts?

I would have much rather chased in 2004. True, 2003 probably had more tornado producing storms, but those storms were also moving really fast and for the most part (excluding 6/24/03) weren't really that photogenic, at least the storms I saw that year. This year, I got to see a lot of things that I had wanted to see in my 5 year chasing career....slow cyclic high contrast tornado producing storms. Not to mention I got to see my 1st wedge, and an anticyclonic tornado. All in all, if I had to pick a year and do it again, I wouldn't mess with 2003.

Well I had a much better year in 2004 since I couldn't really chase much in 2003. I missed all the big events in 2003. So, if I could repeat experiences...then it's all 2004. However, I would love to have another shot at 2003 and all those days I missed.
Well, being how I couldn't chase at all in 2003, and things had turned off during the week that I would have chased during 2003, and 2004 gave me a 3 PDS week and 10 tornados - I would have to say 2004. :eek:
Tornadoes in 2003: 2
Tornadoes in 2004: 4
(my personal stats)

2003 had plenty of good chases... the problem was they were almost always moving way too fast. I saw a super brief tornado on May 5th and another possible tornado on August 1st.

2003 had alot of work obligations for me, which prevented me from getting out and seeing more. But 2004 has been a good year for me with plenty of Sups! :D
I basically missed all of 2003 save for a few good days, but I know if I'd have missed this year I would've probably shot myself. 2003 was a great year if you could chase everything in a two-week period. It basically racked up the majority of its numbers over 10 days, which included (mainly) east-of-I-35 outbreaks. The one great day I had last year involved a lone cyclic supercell, which moved at a crawl over open country. Atypical of 2003. But the rule in 2004.

This year was the first time that all three magic ingredients came together for me, in eight years of chasing:

1 - A great pattern (basically a great storm year)
2 - Being able to chase many of the major events
3 - Having a decent amount of savvy/experience to create situations where I could be successful with the opportunities I had

My 2004 was what my 1999 could've been had I not been so inexperienced that year. I saw a lot of tornadoes in 1999, but my lack of experience kept me from fully taking advantage of every opportunity I had. This year, I pounced on every potential big day, this time armed with invaluable experience, which helped me to better prepare for and "manage" the chases as they went along. The only tornadoes I really missed out on (on days that I chased) were not of my own doing; we were robbed of the twlight tornado banaza May 12 in Harper County, KS by a police roadblock.

(edit: I somehow forgot about May 22 and May 24, so scratch previous statement)


2004 was the year I've been waiting for, a year in which I could prove to myself how much I've improved as a chaser. I felt more on my game this year than any other. There were obviously very easy days to forecast, but I think there were some days when we turned water into wine. This season has given me a satisfaction I'd never had prior. I will always treasure the 2004 season.

Look at me, talking like it's over or something.....
I'd rather chase 2004 than 2003....but I'd rather chase in any other year I've chased than 2003. For those of us south of I-70 and west of I-35 the season started very late and ended very early - there really wasn't much to chase before May 1 or after May 15. Then there was the whole speed and visibility issue. There was also virtually no fall season whatsoever. At least in 2001 and 2002 there was good stuff to chase this far south in June and again in September/October.
2004 hands down.

In the spring of 2003, I was resolved to chase every big setup that came to the Plains. And mostly, I did. 14,000 miles, four round trips to the Great Plains from WV. I saw no tornadoes. I got one or two lightning slides and only a few minutes of usable video. The reason? No room for error in 2003. I was so close several times, but one mistake in 2003, and the action is suddenly 100 miles away from you and no catching up was possible. The one perfect chase day was of course June 24, and I would have jumped on the road for that one too in a heartbeat if I'd seen it coming even slightly. I had the means and the resolve, but once it was evident it was going to be a good setup, it was too late to make it to SD.

2003 also didn't hand out consolation prizes to the busting chaser (lightning, storm structure). In 2003, when you went home empty-handed, you went home *empty handed*. By contrast, 2001 was a year when I saw no tornadoes, but consider one of my best chase experiences ever. 2001 was filled with so many other good catches that the lack of tornadoes almost went unnoticed. 2004 gave out tornadoes on the good days and consolation prizes on the bad ones - for instance, June 10 and May 23 didn't give me tornadoes but put on some memorable shows to take back home. But in 2003, I came home from the Plains four times wondering why I went - I had nearly nothing to show for all my effort.

2004 is a year that proves that chasing is all about keeping at it. The good years will come only through the bad ones. And it's worth it!
I would have rather chased 2003, despite all these votes for 2004. Especially that week in early May 2003 where it was a constant barrage of outbreaks. May 4th - 9th was just insane. Of course I only chased on May 4th because May 4th - 9th also correlated to finals week at OU. It is true that the storms were moving much faster on those days, which meant you had to be on the ball. Awesome shear in 2003.

I don't know if it's just that people have more recent memories of 2004 that are good, but even with some success in 2004, I would still have rather chased in 2003, hands down.

My choice is 2003, but no disrespect to 04, they were both awesome years.
Oh heck, I hope 2005 is even better. No, I hope it is worse, so I can finish my schooling. My advisor hopes so too.

This year I budgeted for up to two round trips to the Plains with no more than 10 vacation days total. This being the season it was, I made three round trips totalling nearly a month, and spent more than twice my budget. I have mixed feelings about what I want 2005 to be like as it remains to be seen whether my chase funds can recover this winter.
2003 had some of the most exciting chases ever for me ... and for pure adrenaline rush, I'd probably go with it ... but 2004 was just magic. I could only truly chase for one week solid this year, but during that week I caught 20 photogenic tornadoes. Can't beat it -
I want another amazing year in 2005, because I've yet to put two great seasons back-to-back. In the Big Picture of all things, it's mostly luck on any day, but having two great years in a row is a show of consistency that I greatly want to acheive.
For me, 2004 was (roughly) twice as good as 2003 in terms of number of tornadoes...I saw 11 tornadoes in 2003, and I have seen 24 this year. Really, if you had told me in January that I would see 24 tornadoes in the spring, I wouldn't have believed it. And the chases were pretty darn easy too, for the most part (except for 5/29 when it was anyone's guess)...just go to whatever E-W boundary happened to be in play.

Road closures were a bit of a problem for me this year (causing me to miss the latter part of the 5/12 event and preventing me from getting as close as I wanted to the Mulvane tornado of 6/12)...so, this year does leave a little to be desired. Beyond that, a fantastic year.