Chasing alone---Mistake?

This year will be my first year I actually try to set out in chase. One problem-I don't have a chase partner. I'm thinking to myself that this would not come highly recommended from the more experienced chasers out there, but I don't want to pass up any chase opportunities this year if they come along. Would this be a mistake on my part?
It all depends on your skill level, how well you understand storm structures, driving skills, etc...
Chasing can be very dangerous, especially when many chasers and local citizens converge on one particular cell.
Traffic can be a nightmare and if it is raining hard you have to take extra precautions. Look out for traffic hazards.

With that said, I almost always chase alone. It started off with just spotting in 1988 and grew from there.
Always have someone you can check in with while chasing that can give you current data and knows your position.
A cell phone is a must when you chase alone.
Have emergency gear (first aid, clothes, etc..) with you and make sure your vehicle is in as good shape as possible.
The best thing for you to do if you chase alone is to meet up with other chasers and convoy with them (IF they don't mind - ask first!). Once you chase a while then you will feel more confident in what you are doing and won't have as many worries.
I too chase alone sometimes b/c dont always have a chase partner but not always with the best prepardness, which is why im saving up for a Baron mobile radar or something of that sort. I always keep a cell phone with me and have a good base spotting me.
Well it is rather hard to get seriously injured chasing given you stay in the car.
I wouldn't let not having a partner stop you for one minute, but that's a personal opinion. I'm a solo chaser, nine years, 10 states later, not too many scary situations to report, although there have been exceptions, mainly due to human interference and being female (a few run-ins, men who wanted to cause trouble/got chased last year), but that's just one of the hazards to deal with so I have to extra pay attention. It's just like wildlife photography, same thing, you have to watch what's going on.

Solo chasing is my method because of two reasons: I travel long distances at a time, and move from point to point rapidly while shooting.

I'll take a reporter once in awhile but honestly, less photography gets done on those chases, but it is still enjoyable, just a different kind of experience.

Best situation for me in the Plains - just Kansas & I, we get a lot done. I'm half obsessed with Kansas anyway and love to spend time there in the open. In the desert, I chase alone too. It is quiet, I can concentrate, and go home at 4 o'clock in the morning, whenever the storms decide they are finished for the night and I have done my day's (or night's) work worth of shooting.

Once or twice I have teamed for a chase in the Plains or in a caravan, far less gets done in a caravan, but it is fun when good friends are about in their vehicles too as you head toward a storm.

I have brought a friend maybe 5 times or so in the desert, pretty much all good experiences but impossible to coordinate during Monsoon so again, solo chasing is far more productive for me. I learned my lesson, back in 1997 I took some people one night, and my passengers did some really unsafe things and I was so concerned about their safety that it ruined the chase. It is very rare that I have passengers these days.
Anything can be dangerous. Go into the ocean, you might get eaten by a shark. Go bouldering, you might fall and crack your skull. Go swimming, some large man might jump off the diving board onto your head and you'll sink to the bottom of the pool and drown.

Thing is, if you know what you're doing, you can be safe in pretty much any situation, storm chasing included.

Well it is rather hard to get seriously injured chasing given you stay in the car.

And I couldn't agree more...

I have been seriously chasing since 2003... I got into my first golfball hail storm in August 2003 (and again in May 2004) and into my first baseball hail storm in 2005 (Hill City, KS monster)... I was chasing with Dan Robinson that day and I believe he got a few small dents from the incident. Now, hail can be VERY bad (please don't misunderstand me there) but it takes a pretty damn good stone to break your windshield (although would imagine a golfball accompanied by extreme straight-line winds can do some damage).

I cannot tell you how many linear storms I've gotten right into (with the highlight being nearly 100MPH microburst winds in metro Detroit on 5-23-2004) in the past few years. The bottom line is, it is very, very hard for a storm to hurt you when you are in your car. People who have chased a lot of storms will likely tell you this.

Lightning is about the most dangerous threat to you when outside of your car. A storm may exhibit very little lightning, and boom... Instant CG (this happened to me on 9-22-05 in southcentral MI and again on 6-12-05 from the Jayton supercell). If you can chase by yourself, go for it... Just make sure you know what your doing around severe storms (understand storm structure) and learn as much as possible about forecasting (so you can make your own forecasts). Remember that I am not telling you it's okay to drive into storms... I am just merely saying that after chasing dozens upon dozens of severe storms (over 100 I imagine) that it isn't that dangerous if you know what your doing... Just study and chase (and then expierence will follow).
My thoughts, be safe, be smart, and you can roam the Plains alone all you want. My first years were that way, and I learned a lot about myself as a road warrior and chaser in those years. I still chase alone from time-to-time, but I'm usually always in a caravan or chasing with a shotgun friend. I don't think its a mistake at all to chase alone. Just be smart and know what's going on. And besides, I'm sure you'll run into friends out there and end up with someone ultimately. You'll be fine!
Pretty much agree w/ everything that's been said. I started off chasing by myself (for the most part, though I had a few chases in the first several years during which I had a chase partner), and it worked fine for me. You do need to be the right type of person however... If you crave attention or people, spendings hours upon hours in the car by yourself day after day won't be exciting. That is a good reason, however, to get to know folks and get a ham radio license -- socialization can sometimes be tough to come by during some periods. Personally, I enjoy solo chases. It's always nice (and usually quite beneficial) to chase with one or two other people, particularly if you're all pretty much on the same playing field in terms of experience and knowledge, and if you have a similar chase philosophy/style. While I don't mind long chases (multi-state), it's almost always nice to have someone else to talk to, etc.
I've chased tens of thousands of miles alone and can say it's much better when you have company. It is much safer to have someone watching the laptop and the sky so I can focus on driving. And chasing with just one passenger cuts your costs in half.

But, I love to have a solo chase or two on the Plains taking in the solitude with a good CD playing.
I have no issues chasing alone, although usually I chase with freinds. A) The company is nice and we have a good time regardless of the catch and B) gas costs!

Putting 2 others in my car decreases my gas costs by 66%... that's substantial.

One aspect no one has really hit on here is decision making when chasing alone. I fully agree the cost differential of having a chase partner is very attractive, but there are other costs. Having a chase partner for the sole purpose of splitting expenses is kind of like having a roommate. You share the same space but have totally different ideas. If you are the only one in the vehicle, you get to call the shots on when and where to target but most importantly, once you are on a storm. If I make good decisions and have a great chase, there is nothing better. But if I make a poor choice and get cored, stuck, etc., I only have myself to blame.

The best choice is probably to convoy (with permission of course). That gives the most hands on experience to the drving portion (which is the most dangerous in a convoy) while someone with more experience can be responsible for positioning, navigating etc. So, for the first couple of years, save up the bucks for gas, know how to be self-sufficient on a chase, then look for a partner with equal skills to split the costs.

Just my $.008 ($.02 of opinion based on $2.25 per gallon).
Originally posted by Dan Robinson
I've chased tens of thousands of miles alone and can say it's much better when you have company. It is much safer to have someone watching the laptop and the sky so I can focus on driving. And chasing with just one passenger cuts your costs in half.

But, I love to have a solo chase or two on the Plains taking in the solitude with a good CD playing.

I completely agree with Dan...Besides there're some moments in storm chasing when it could happen that, because of many reasons, you don't understand nothing more...You are under the hail, heavy rain, or who knows near a rainy tornado(but you don't see nothing),radar doesn't work, and in that moment you feel lost and you don't know what to do; so two or more brains that work could be better than one.
Originally posted by Chris Lott
This year will be my first year I actually try to set out in chase. One problem-I don't have a chase partner. I'm thinking to myself that this would not come highly recommended from the more experienced chasers out there, but I don't want to pass up any chase opportunities this year if they come along. Would this be a mistake on my part?

Absolutely not. A lot of the misconception surrounding the "dangers" of chasing alone hinge on today's chasers relying on technology so heavily; we need a navigator, we need a camera guy, we need a driver, we need someone on the radio, blah blah blah. Chasing isn't a team sport by default.

Whether someone chases alone or with others is decided by one basic method: choice. Chasing alone can be more challenging personally, but it's no more dangerous than a convoy of three or four vehicles full of people who are focusing more on the radios than they are the road. There are pros and cons to each, but neither is above the other. It's personal preference. Myself, I enjoy both immensely.
I would recommend a partner if you can find one, but I wouldn't skip chasing if you can't. When I started chasing, a friend accompanied me who was only marginally interested in severe weather. He had attended Skywarn, but what he really liked was driving. This was great since it afforded me time to observe the sky uninterrupted; then I compared notes with other chasers when I got home.

I didn't own a camera---any kind of camera--- or a laptop in those days and I didn't have other 'tasks' to attend besides staring out the window. I'm convinced that was beneficial. I had an amateur radio, however, from Day 1. I'm glad too. In later chase convoys, I learned a ton by asking questions and listening to QSOs on 2 meters.

Buy some videos about structure, like Stormwatch or MikeH's Storm Structure 101 to give you a basic idea about anatomy. Storms usually don't look like their idealized diagrams, but over time, your experience will blend the knowledge. Go to a Skywarn session---it sounds like you already probably plan on this since you've mentioned local hams in previous posts. Carry a First Aid kit and a cell phone. Don't get out of your car in a CG barrage. You'll be fine.
I chased solo for years and never had any problems (well, except for the night I drove into a flash flood :oops: ). You just have to study, study and study...make sure you understand storm structure so you don't get yourself in a problematic situation. Skywarn class is a good start, the videos Amos mentioned are also excellent resources, as is The Art of Storm Chasing (shameless plug for Tim V here :wink: ). Read everything you can get your hands on...another plug for Tim V...Storm Chasing Handbook is a good start. The only equipment I ever take is my cell phone, CB radio which has NWR, cameras and maps...once I leave the house, I'm working totally visual. I may have a nowcaster on standby for radar updates...sometimes I call them, sometimes I don't...pretty much depends on the storms that day. Learn to listen to your instincts on a storm, too. If the gut feeling is to back it. If the gut feeling is get your a** moving, do it. Sometimes, just ain't nothing like just being out amongst nature...busts included.
Of course having a partner or convoying has it's extra pair (or more) of eyes...somebody sharing gas expenses and the experiences of the day. I never had partners until I came out on the Plains, and it does make for a different experience. However, choose your partner carefully. A good partner can make for good days, even when the weather doesn't, just like the wrong partner can make your life miserable even with the best storm.
Just use good common sense, follow saftey rules and traffic laws, and we'll see you out there!!!
Thanks for the plug Amos!

I should add a bit more to what I think on this. I thought it was more about safety than anything else but now see maybe more was wondered about.

One main reason I love chasing alone is you are your only restriction all day long. If you are slow to the show you have yourself to blame. If you want to drive to the tornado and throw a bottle into it, you can do that.

The other big thing is the tendancy to simply talk too much when around others. I can think of several instances of this costing me. Not only does it end up making me slow to move with the storm but I also find myself recording less of the event because I'm with others talking. Recording the event is really important to me and I know how I am around others so I try to keep numbers to a minimum.

Also when chasing alone you can simply park your car like you want and clamp the window clamp to your window without worrying about the view the person in the other seat is getting.
IMO one of the single largest advantages to having someone else along is being able to share the driving on long trips. Let's face it, it's exhausting. Many states are trying to enact laws now for drowsy driving making it a criminal offense akin to DUI. :shock:

I have had great experiences both alone and with others. I have also had some well known horrible experiences both alone and with others. Both has it's advantages and disadvantages.

The advise the others are giving is right about knowing what your doing before going it alone. Just like anything else, jumping in alone without some knowledge and/or experience, and your gonna have problems, some could be life threatening. That said, this IS mother nature we are chasing, and to that end often does things we didn't quite expect, so even with experience you can have troubles. But experience/knowledge will help you mitigate those when they come up.

Unlike the old days, now there is a HUGE WEALTH of information on the Internet (both on ST and elsewhere) on storm chasing and severe weather. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone going out unarmed with some knowlege about it. You can spend months on end reading about severe weather on the internet. Most of us do just that during the winter months. Whether it be dissecting old chase days, brushing up on forecasting, reading some of the lastest theories, whatever.

I personally have gotten VERY PICKY about anyone I take along, for well known reasons. When chasing locally for the TV station, I like to take someone from the station along, preferably one of the wx dept. interns. It's good learning for them and there is so much to do, it makes my job much easier.

For regular chasing, I tend to only now take a few select people that I have either chased with before, know really well, or have carefully screened to my satisfaction.

I will say this, when contemplating taking someone with you, especially if you haven't spent extended time with them before.....give them a trial run or two on short local chases. Longer distance chasing means being cooped up in a small area for extended periods of time with someone that can test even the greatest patience and tolerance. Make sure you can stand that person for an extended period of time. Even the smallest habits can really get on your nerves after 13 hours in a car. If they are going to claw at the dash and scream like a cheerleader every time a CG hits nearby, it probably isn't going to be too enjoyable of a chase for you.

My main chase partner Graham Butler and I have gotten in to some pretty heated arguements on chases, even got mad at each other, but we have gotten so good chasing together and become such good friends that it blows over really quick and it's back to business shortly. We make a GREAT team on a chase, complimenting each other very well. What he misses I catch, and vise-versa. What equipment I forget, he's there to remind me. It's a good tag team and things usually run very smoothly.

IMO, to be able to thoroughly enjoy chasing with someone else, you really have to find someone you can develop that sort of relationship with.

And the best single piece of advise I can give you on chasing with a partner? Skip the Allsups burritos! :mrgreen:
As has been stated already, I wouldn't NOT chase if you can't find a partner, but it is nice to help juggle the stuff in the vehicle, eg. mapping, taping, camera, etc. BUT, make sure you are compatible with the person you decide to chase with. Nothing sucks more than missing a tornado because you got outvoted and were stuck following someone elses forecast... So, I can't see any huge lean one way or the other.

I wouldn't lose any sleep over not having a chase partner. I prefer chasing alone and do it almost exclusively. I think it is more peaceful and it forces you to learn faster IMO.
I also think chasing alone is more dangerous. More times than I care to admit, I've almost taken out a barbed wire fence (at a T in the road) because I had my face burried in a map. Once your on a storm, you have to juggle shooting video, navigating, driving, and keeping an eye on the storm. Having a partner will lighten the work load, but it also has a lot of downsides.
If I were you, I would get out there this spring, partner or not. Try chasing with a partner when you get a chance and figure out which works best for you.
Thanks for all of your replies, they have been very helpful. I'm thinking about contacting a local meteorologist/chaser, Lon Curtis, to see if he might do some nowcasting for me on days I decide to go chase. Anyway, thanks everyone and maybe I will meet some of you out on the plains. I am itching for spring! :D
Originally posted by Chris Lott
I'm thinking about contacting a local meteorologist/chaser, Lon Curtis, to see if he might do some nowcasting for me on days I decide to go chase.

Tell him I said "hey" :D
Well basically im going to agree with many others STUDY YOUR BUTT OFF, on what to look for, safety and all the other issues basically have general knowledge, i should be more experienced in stormchasing, but i have my whole life to learn many new things, i have the basics down and i pretty much most of the time play catch up with a storm, its nice to have at least one other person with you, while your filming or driving the other giving you map routes so you dont get lost, though if you are by yourself you have to be very cautious of what your doing and again dont speed , im sure alot of us do but it sucks when you get caught cops just love us chaser's , anyways have fun, have a good time, have general knowledge/advanced and riding solo or with a partner has benefits either way...
Attending SKYWARN classes, watching instructional videos, and reading internet websites are all great. But to learn how to chase you have to chase. None of the former matter if you don't attempt the latter. There is no curriculum for chasing, it's a learn-as-you-go activity. No one is going to be great out of the box, because no one is born with the experience of chasing. Education is great, but experience has no substitute.

When I knew nothing except that I wanted to see tornadoes, I went by feel. When my arse started taking a bite out of the seat, I knew I needed to back off. It's the basic instinct we all have - survival. Your senses will tell you when something's not right. Fortunately for us all, supercells are designed to warn us of impending dangers; layers of rain, heavy rain, hail, big hail, OH MY GOD hail, and finally - uh oh.

Approaching a tornadic or severe storm from the wrong position will usually allow for the "use" of this structure of alarms, i.e., you start getting into hail and you know you are getting into iffy territory. Any other approach vector will_usually_give you a visual into the buisness end of the storm. The educational resources mentioned in previous posts will arm you with the knowledge you need to recognize these situations in the field. Getting out there and seeing them, then having to make decisions on what to do with/about them, that gets you experience.

Knowing the storm schematically is only half the battle. Learning what to do with the beast once you've cornered it is the other. And these are complicated animals, as the most experienced chasers still come home with cuts and bruises some days.
Solo or no solo...I just like to chase when I can. I've had some great chases with my best friends Jeff and Kathryn Piotrowski, and Rich and Ryan Thies...but I have also had a few gems that I've been solo on (May 3rd 1999 to name a big one). I would certainly prefer to have a chase partner or two/three because of the fatigue factor of driving, especially post chase. My toughest chase solo was June 12th this past year. I left at 6am and chased up until dark, and then drove back to Tulsa. I did not sleep but an hour and then I had to go to work. Honestly I can say it was worth just being out there...even though I was a little late in getting to the Jayton tornadoes. Chase partners are also beneficial for bouncing ideas off of...and affirm the rationale you are off to a certain target or are throwing in the towel on the chase (like that happens very often).