2006 Chase Tour roundup

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Dec 4, 2003
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I figured I'd take a gander at who's operating this year.

Storm Chasing Tours
These folks come in at the top of a Google search. It's run by Todd Thorn, who is no stranger to the Denver chase conventions, and includes Kevin Harned, Michael Forrester, Peter Wharton, John Larew, Sean O'Neill, Sean Newman, Roger Coulam, Glenn Geise, Jeremy R. Bower. They list a number of media credentials.

Silver Lining Tours
Run by Dr. David Gold and Roger Hill, and Bill Gargan, and Terry Hill, who are well-known, active chase veterans. Also includes Brian Barnes, Dr. Rick Toracinta, Alister Chapman.

Tempest Tours
Tempest Tours is the child of Martin Lisius, the founder of TESSA, the producer of several excellent chase documentaries from 10-15 years ago, and who has carved his niche in North Texas severe weather. Many of the names listed reads like a Who's Who of quality chasing, and puts Martin in the ranks of a class act: William T. Reid, Brian Morganti, Dr. Charles Doswell, Jennifer Salato, Bob Conzemius, Kinney Adams, Chris Gullikson, Erin Brown, Blake Naftel, Keith B. Brown, and Scott Weberpal.

Western Winds Tours
Operated by veterans of Ball State University, the guides are listed as Dr. David Arnold, who has a meteorology faculty background at Ball State University, and Nathan Hitchens, a GRA. Their ads have rotated on our Google ads slot.

TRADD Storm Chasing Tours
This chase tour has had a checkered background among Stormtrack members due to the promotion of unverifiable photos in past years. It's run out of the Abilene area. Guides are listed as Terry Buck, listed as having 25+ years of chasing but without further specifics, and Foster Crane, whose expert in technology is higlighted.

StormTours.com
Also known as the Twister Sisters, Peggy Willenberg and Melanie Metz Trockman are well known within chase circles.

Cyclone Tours
Since it's run by Jim Leonard, almost a pioneer chaser himself and highly regarded by the community, this is a definite quality act. Also includes Mike Theiss, Olivier Staiger and Brad Riley, two of whom I know to be excellent and active chasers.

Thunderbolt Tours
This is run by individuals whose credentials in Australian chasing are superb: Jimmy Deguara, David Croan, Michael Bath, and Brad Hannon.

Cloud 9 Tours
Charles Edwards was a longtime chase partner of Jim Leonard and he is a quality chaser who is native to the Norman area. I don't know his associate John Guyton, but he is listed as a retired firefighter.

Tornado Express
This operation is run by Mike MacGown, Alan Shoemaker, Paul Wetzl, Justin Miles, and Steve Marshall, the key people who are former (or current) media weathercasters. I don't know any of the folks personally.

Tornado Safari
Run by Stephen Levine, who is a longtime chaser who goes back to the 1980s era of Stormtrack, and is known for his spiritual approach to chasing. This sounds like a very unique, if not interesting alternative to the competition.

Windswept Chase Tours
Operated by Dean Cosgrove, a chase veteran with a large collection of chase DVDs that he sells online.

I am out of time but I'll edit this some more later. Please feel free to add omissions, comments, and so forth; please avoid mudslinging unless you can cite your source. Also feel free to add mystery and fly-by-night tours: I'm sure they're out there, and might make for some interesting examples of what to avoid!

Tim
 
I've never gone on a tour and don't endorse any particular one, but the prices are actually reasonable if you really consider it.

If you don't have all the gear and forecasting knowledge, a tour could actually save you money and give you a good chance of actually seeing something worthwhile. If you are new to chasing or just haven't mastered the art of forecasting, a reputable tour company with a proven track record will give you a far greater chance of seeing a tornado in 2 weeks that you probably could in a month chasing on your own.

2 weeks of chasing with a tour is the same or even less expensive than chasing for 3 weeks or more on your own. In 2004 my 1-month chase vacation cost me almost $3,000 in gas and hotels alone. In 2005 my costs were over $2,000 for a 3-week trip, and that's after splitting costs with passengers for most of the trip. Not to mention wear and tear on the car and endless driving.
 
Originally posted by Andrea Griffa

Chris, are you sure that price includes also the motel cost?

LOL - ohhhhhhhhhh yeah.

No disrespect intended, but you'd have to be an absolute tool to pay those prices just to ride in a van for ten days.
 
Ron Gravelle, a chaser from Canada, also offers personalized tours and guided storm chases (where you follow the group).
http://stormchasing.ca/index.html
I've chased with Ron and he is a good forecaster. Ron is also safe and has been chasing for many years.

With regards to Shane's and some others comments, I think think tours are worth it. Yes, they are expensive but they are reasonable when compared to the costs of car rental, hotels etc especially for those who live far away from Tornado Alley. My costs for two weeks on my own equal or exceed many of the tours. More importantly, you pay for expertise. That helps with success rate and safety. There is also the fun factor of being with a group of like-minded wether enthusiasts. I chased with Cloud 9 in 1997 to learn how to chase.
http://www.harkphoto.com/storm.html#1997

Chase tours are like deep sea fishing excursions, hunting or fishing guides in the Rockies and photo safaris in Africa. All can be expensive and dangerous activities with a low success rate if done on ones own for the first time. Thes activities are routinely done with a guide or captain and often in groups.

Some great tours have been listed earlier in this thread and I highly recommend them to the many folks on Stormtrack who are interested in chasing and are not sure how to start or would like to experience severe weather relatively safely with other people who share their interest.

Bill Hark
 
Originally posted by Shane Adams+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Shane Adams)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-Andrea Griffa

Chris, are you sure that price includes also the motel cost?

LOL - ohhhhhhhhhh yeah.

No disrespect intended, but you'd have to be an absolute tool to pay those prices just to ride in a van for ten days.[/b]

Yeah ok the price is always very high, I completely agree, Shane; but if you think that you should take away the cost of motel, it's better than if you couldn't. Staying in motel 6 for 10 days, if you share the room with a chase partner, could cost about 250-300 dollars...So better than nothing.
Anyway there's a thing to say: chase alone, without no one that says you where to go, is another planet and you get a different satisfaction, no doubt about it.
 
According to those web sites, hotels are included in the price of the vast majority of the tours.

I can see Shane's point - if you already live in the Plains and are already chasing semi-regularly, it might seem kind of silly to take a tour when you're already there and can chase virtually the entire season when you want.

For a new chaser coming over from overseas or someone in the states who just wants to see what it's like, a tour is by far going to be the best way to go as opposed to trying it yourself. Either way you're going to spend thousands of dollars, and as Bill said with a tour you're paying for the expertise that will give you the better chances of seeing what you came to see. In that case your money is better spent on the tour.

If I was a sharp forecaster, heck I'd be running a tour. I know for a fact I could fill my car or maybe even a van with people just from my hometown and surrounding areas. I think it would be easy to find people willing to go. I mean look at all the tours' web sites - they're all almost always sold out many months in advance of chase season. If people paid me $1,000-$1,500 each, I'd have my long vacation paid for and maybe a little left over. But, like I said, I'd have to be confident I could consistently nail targets by myself - something I'm just not that skilled at yet. Of course the insurance and liability would be a pain to deal with but obviously it can be done.
 
Originally posted by Dan Robinson
According to those web sites, hotels are included in the price of the vast majority of the tours.

I can see Shane's point - if you already live in the Plains and are already chasing semi-regularly, it might seem kind of silly to take a tour when you're already there and can chase virtually the entire season when you want.

For a new chaser coming over from overseas or someone in the states who just wants to see what it's like, a tour is by far going to be the best way to go as opposed to trying it yourself. Either way you're going to spend thousands of dollars, and as Bill said with a tour you're paying for the expertise that will give you the better chances of seeing what you came to see. In that case your money is better spent on the tour.

If I was a sharp forecaster, heck I'd be running a tour. I know for a fact I could fill my car or maybe even a van with people just from my hometown and surrounding areas. I think it would be easy to find people willing to go. I mean look at all the tours' web sites - they're all almost always sold out many months in advance of chase season. If people paid me $1,000-$1,500 each, I'd have my long vacation paid for and maybe a little left over. But, like I said, I'd have to be confident I could consistently nail targets by myself - something I'm just not that skilled at yet. Of course the insurance and liability would be a pain to deal with but obviously it can be done.

Coming from Italy, Dan, I've thought a lot to these things...As to me the best thing to do is to go in tornado alley with at least 5 friends and share expensives..This thinking has to be made if you already have bought the necessary softwere to chase; in that way you could enjoy the liberty of chasing by yourself.
 
The point I was making was, regardless of where you live, if you spend thousands to take a chase tour and the cost of lodging isn't included in the price, you'd be foolhearty. As it is, for a person who wants nothing but to see a tornado, it's probably the best way to go. (Hotels are included in the price of the reputable tours).
 
Can't forget to mention Warren Faidley's personalized tour services, donating a portion of profits to charity:

http://www.stormchaser.com/chaseadventure.html

There are others out there offering one-on-one personal chasing services (I just can't remember who they are attm).

Finally, let's put in a plug for the one that started it all, even though they are now disbanded. Whirlwind Tours began operating sometime around 1992 operated by longtime chaser veteran and photographer Marty Feely. He operated for about 8 seasons before hanging his hat. For more on Marty's current whereabouts:

http://www.joewhirlwind.com/

It was Marty's operation that inspired the first group of tour operations (Cloud 9, Silver Lining, Tempest). It is these three operations that I would give my highest recommentation to - all operated by long-time verteran expert storm chasers that have a provable track record. In other words, they have been well known in the veteran storm chaser community for nearly 2 decades and more.
 
I'm sorry but I'm going to have to disagree here, assuming that we are talking about a "budding" chaser learning the ropes. I'll agree if you know what your doing then why would you go on a tour.

But, if you've never been chasing, you know very little about forecasting, you have no 'friends' who want to go with you, and you want to see what it's like without having a tornado crawl up your backside or get run over by a yahoo your best bet is to go on a tour. Take the opportunity to see what the "guides" are doing...ask questions.

Also let's not forget...when was the last time more than few Stormtrack members publically posted that they were willing to take a COMPLETE and total novice with them as a "rider" (assuming they share expenses). Let me just say that's few and far between, and often for good reason...so don't think I'm pointing fingers.

Thus for many of us newbs the only way to "break into" chasing is to go it alone spending a similar amount of money our first year...or go on a tour and learn some basics.

Let me be upfront and say I'm going on a tour this year (CoD) so I have a jadded opinion right now, but I fully intend to treat this as an educational experience and not as a tourist. Part of the reason I picked CoD as compared to another "tour" group.

There couldn't be anything more assinine than to wake up one morning and decide you are going to get in your car and start "chasing" a storm. If $1500 will save my wife from having to collect on a death benefit or me spending 5 years wandering the plains by myself looking for a storm it's money well spent.


Sorry for the thread hijack Tim :shock:
 
Originally posted by Tyler Allison+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Tyler Allison)</div>
Sorry for the thread hijack Tim :shock:[/b]

I apologize too Tim, because I'm about to hijack it some more...


<!--QuoteBegin-Tyler Allison


There couldn't be anything more assinine than to wake up one morning and decide you are going to get in your car and start "chasing" a storm. If $1500 will save my wife from having to collect on a death benefit or me spending 5 years wandering the plains by myself looking for a storm it's money well spent.

I couldn't disagree more with that statement. I think it's a horribly unhealthy practice to openly disuade any wouldbe independent, new chasers from getting out there and just doing it. I understand that not everyone is cut out to do things on their own from the start, or aren't dedicated enough to want to get out on their own, but the above quote isn't implying "I", it's implying "anyone".

What's good for you isn't necessarily good for everyone. That's why I don't actively tell people how to chase. I only offer my opinion if I'm asked. I don't post the tired, decade old links by Moller, Doswell, and Edwards about chasing ethics and safety on my website - it's everywhere out there, people know. I think often times many forget to realize that, 20, 30, even 50 years ago, when the veterans of today (that so many new chasers are automatically ushered to) were newbies themselves, they had no mentors, no tutors, no veterans to mirror.

And they turned out just fine.
 
I will agree with Shane's comments... Remember, I'm not dissing the idea of tours, I'm just saying...

In my personal opinion, you have a greater chance at seeing a tornado by going out youself, on your first season, with >$2,000 in your pocket to go on -- then you would with SOME of the tour companies. Learn something about forecasting, save up a couple grand, and go! If you went yourself, and you have a car that gets good MPG, $2K is gonna last you a solid three weeks on the plains. You can easily get a motel with WI-FI available for $60/night (about $1200 in 3 weeks) and one without it for $40 (such as many Motel 6s). It will be pretty hard to chase for 3 entire weeks and not come back with at least ONE photogenic storm or tornado, in my opinion.

I get lots of emails from non-chasers wanting to learn more. Many of them mention tour groups... I most certainly don't discourage the idea of tour groups, but I do mention the fact that if they had the time and the ambition, learn something about forecasting and go out yourself. Once again, not discouraging tour groups... I am just saying (quite a number of the tour groups listed above are ran by veteran and very expierenced chasers).

Originally posted by Tyler Allison
There couldn't be anything more assinine than to wake up one morning and decide you are going to get in your car and start "chasing" a storm. If $1500 will save my wife from having to collect on a death benefit or me spending 5 years wandering the plains by myself looking for a storm it's money well spent.

Tyler, with all do respect... I highly doubt it would take you 5 years to find a good supercell and tornado, or that you would die. You have a greater chance at dying from a wild deer coming up to attack you while setting up your tripod then you would getting hurt by the storm (given you stay in your car). I would personally guarantee any newbie, that if they read http://www.theweatherprediction.com for just 20 minuites/day for several monthes, then go out themselves for a few weeks... They'd come back with something very nice. They would also have the benefit of feeling they got that storm themselves (even when chasing with a chase partner, you both share the success).

Heck, in the 2-3ish years I chased severe storms in the Great Lakes with my Father, between 13-15 years old, I got several VERY photogenic supercells and a few tornadoes.
 
I would venture to guess that most people who sign up for those tours have no real plans on chasing on their own. Most probably are out for the thrill and to see a real tornado before they die or have a cool vacation. Hell I don't know.
I am not sure how this thread became what it has out of what it was but I am not surprised it did.

If you are a do it yourselfer read up and do it yourself. However, the best experience I have had was chasing with my bros (as a team so to speak) these past two years. Although that looks to be dying I will take those experiences with me in 2006 and apply them just the same. I guess what I am getting at is if you are serious about really chasing don't chase alone, get a partner even if the partner is a rookie also. IMO, you will find that to be a very quick way to share ideas, theories, and also build close friendships along the way.

Mick
 
I have gone with Charles and Cloud 9 Tours for 3 years and going for a 4th. I love going with them. John Guyton is a firefighter from Maryland and he is a great driver and is very knowledgeable about storms. I have found going on these tours have help me learn more about the weather than books and computer programs have because you are learning about them first hand. They do cost, but for an unexperienced chaser it was and still is really worth it. As an extra bonus you meet people from all over the world and become really good friends and have fun.
 
Originally posted by nickgrillo

Tyler, with all do respect...

No disrespect taken. I value peoples diverse opinions and chasers tend to be the independant type :) Nothing wrong with that.

You have a greater chance at dying from a wild deer coming up to attack you while setting up your tripod then you would getting hurt by the storm (given you stay in your car).

ahahah...not a good analogy since I totalled my car not 12 months ago by hitting a deer ;) but I understand your point.
 
If you have the money to spare I think it is an excellent idea. I just dont want to fork out the big money for something I can do on my own. I knew absolutely nothing about chasing storms and the dynamics behind storms and what it takes for them to develop. However, after just two years of chasing with not much more than wifi, a cell phone, and a weather radio I have much more knowledge about chasing enough to venture out on my own and yet confident enough that I will see something. I am glad I spent the last two years learning as much on my own as I can. Now if I want to take a two week chasing vacation I can do it on my own instead of paying an arm and a leg.
 
Originally posted by Tyler Allison
There couldn't be anything more assinine than to wake up one morning and decide you are going to get in your car and start "chasing" a storm. If $1500 will save my wife from having to collect on a death benefit or me spending 5 years wandering the plains by myself looking for a storm it's money well spent.

:p Well I'd just have to say that is pretty much how I started except it was afternoon - not morning. The tornado warning came over the tv screen at my house in Colorado Springs, CO back in about '93 and I just thought..."Hmm..., I love storms but have never seen a tornado. What the hell. I wonder what this is all about? Maybe I should follow this warning and see what I can see!" The rest is history.

Another thought....what if I had chosen to not follow on that day? Wonder how my life would have been different?
 
now while Im not interested in a tour as such - Id be happy to PAY for a fisrt class now caster that would:

1. notify me of any nuances in a particular county, ex: road conditions, ect.
2. keep me updated on last minute doppler changes
3. track me and give me guidance

Since I travel alone its tough to keep track all the equiupment that I bring - Id like to have a lil more time setting up with my cameras and a little less time waiting for a download that may never happen on my laptop. Its interesting that someone hasn't capitalized on a NOW casting business amist all these chase tours.
Kinda looking for a really good met/chaser that would like to maybe make some spare cash. PM me if anyone is interested. Dont know what $$ is fair, anyone have thoughts on this? It would save you gas$$$ to say the least, right?
Im not too proud to say "a lil help please would be great" as men typically dont ask for directions, right?
(thanks to the 3 stormtrack volunteers that got me to 6/9/05! - I owe you guys)
-----moderators if this is off topic move it or delete it please, thanks-----
 
I don't like or want to chase alone. Apart from the usual safety and productivity concerns, the experience is just something I like to share. If you don't happen to have an experienced chase partner, tours are a good way to get experience and have company. For a more personalized and involved experience, a few of those on your list offer their services as guides.

I've personally toured with Cloud 9, Silver Lining, and with Dean Cosgrove. All are thoroughly expert and offer a safe (as safe as possible, anyway) and productive chase experience.
 
I don't think an individual with no experience or background can pop in his car one morning with fifteen bills in the wallet and stand a better chance at success than a tour. Solo chasing for the newest newbie *might* be more fun or satisfying, but more productive in terms of storms and tornadoes? I don't see how. And I think the potential for those intangibles in those first few seasons is up for debate also.

Every tour operator listed above, even the ones known for blatant dishonesty or incompetence, have a better chance for success than a brand new chaser without any experience or study. All the tours have internet connections, the SPC URL, Wx-Worx---whatever it takes to maybe luck into a storm. And the first-class operators? Those guides are some of the most dedicated chasers around. I don't think that in 1996, I stood a better chance at seeing a tornado than Bill Reid. Looking back, it's a miracle I even found Oklahoma from North Texas. :wink:

There's a dozen mornings each May or June where tour guests are milling around the lobby of whatever Super 8 I'm in, sifting through petrified bagels and acid coffee. They look like they're having a great time, like they're excited about the day's prospects. On a tour, a future independent chaser could concentrate on the sky rather than the road, ask questions about choices the guides are making, study the morning forecast process, and begin to see himself doing these things either next spring or next week. Many independent chasers started by taking a tour, right? Dave Lewison comes to mind; he lived far from Chase Alley and rode with Cloud 9.

Do I wish I'd done it that way? I don't know. I don't mind the way I started. But it seems obvious that tours could be more productive, educational, and enjoyable than going solo right off the bat.
 
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