Do you core punch?

Do you core punch?

  • Yes

    Votes: 28 25.0%
  • No

    Votes: 18 16.1%
  • Sometimes

    Votes: 66 58.9%

  • Total voters

Mike Hollingshead

For whatever reason this question popped into my head today. It seems like it has been awhile since it's been talked about on here. So, do you core punch?

I'm often all for it, out of boredom, but there can be times where it just doesn't sound like a great plan of action. 90% of the time I do, it is just from boredom, on a storm that really only poses a hail threat and not so much tornado(often looking right at the storm from the east and just driving right into it to see what she's got).

The times I won't do it is when a meso wraps a bunch of hail(or just heavy precip) around and I'm on the west side trying to get east...if it's blocking the entire view(May 22, 2004 I would not drive east through the back of that thing...and I sooooo wanted to be east of it). It seems I'm not so worried coming from the north and punching south ahead of something, even if there are moments of anxiety while doing so. That almost seems backwards since one would think it'd be a bit safer trying to inch in from the west. Maybe it is because the view seems a bit better, not so heavily obscured, while punching south(some increase in contrast looking south instead of east into a heavy core).

Now that I think about it, I backed out of the north to south option on the May 29, 2004 supercell near Belleville KS. Several things were not working out right then and something just said, back off and let it go. I guess paranoia can get the better of you at times. I was all for it till my gps quit and I stopped to get it working, then the cell phone wouldn't work while trying to tell Randy what my plan was. Kept second guessing the first idea and getting more and more upset at things not working and said screw it and started driving back home.

I can think of a couple west to east punches. One was on May 10, 2003 in ne MO on what became a tornadic storm. I think this might be another reason I don't care to punch west to east much anymore. In that direction you are most often moving more with the storm, so you'll spend more time in the core. That storm was trucking and was coming up from the sw, and it seemed to take forever for me to get out of the core. I guess this is why punching north to south seems more enticing than west to east...if you really want to do it. I guess in a sense it's not much different than standing outside in lightning. Odds are bad anything bad will happen, but much better than if you don't. So I guess it comes down to what is worth what to who.

Maybe a good thread would be, what bad thing happened to you by core punching.
I sometimes core punch if the hail isn't too big. I will not destroy my car just to see a tornado. It just isn't worth it to me.
Core punching is a sometimes situation....and is depending on where I am chasing. I would be more apt to core punch a typical Missouri or Illinois supercell than a S.Plains supercell. Most of the times good sound chasing judgements can keep you from having to commit to blasting through the mean vault to get to the spot where the tornado could be viewed.
Touchy topic - by 'core' I assume to mean the area of heavy precip in a supercell. In that case, yes. If by 'core' you mean the large hail, then no, never. Core punching is the result of not being in a good position to start with - therefore it is not something I plan for. I do it only with Threatnet and only when necessary - that is, when it means the difference between missing or catching tornadoes. As Jason said, no hail damage is worth the tornado. If you destroy your car you will miss it anyway.

If I'm on the west side the hook (a very bad position that hopefully I can avoid in the first place), with radar in the car, it is possible to skirt around to the north of the large hail (on the north and west of the meso) assuming the closest east option is to the north. That saves you from having to lose time by going south of the storm to an east road, then back north. That's a lot of ground to cover. Hill City in '05 was an example of this, taking the north option and squeezing just north of the biggest hail to get ahead. That move got us five tornadoes - not punching would have got us 1 (low-contrast).

If you're north and a little east of the storm, plunging in southbound (to come out east of the meso) is fairly easy as long as you have radar. I've done this many times and avoided the hail. The key is timing - knowing where the meso is before you do it and making sure you have plenty of room to break through ahead of the hook. If it is going to be close, I still will do it (who wouldn't if there are tornadoes on the other side), but be on a hair trigger to turn around if I start seeing baseballs bouncing around. If you think it will be close, keep going east to gain ground on the storm until you know you'll have room to drop south.

Again, ThreatNet meso markers and storm tracks are very helpful in showing where the worst stuff is relative to you (remember to take into account the 5-10 minute data stream delay).

If I know there is a good chance I won't make it, I'll just let the storm cross the road and regroup after it passes. If you're going into a supercell's blinding precip, there is always risk of hail, but for the most part it is the area north and west of the meso you don't want to be.
Last edited by a moderator:
Yep we do!!! Sometimes that's all Ya get from the storm.
Given of course there isn't a rain wrapped tornado lurking somewhere about....
It's like speeding. You shouldn't have to do it much if you had planned properly. There's different degrees of recklessness attendant to it. It can have very serious consequences all out of proportion to the benefit. Almost everyone will do it sometimes. It's easy to let it slip into becoming too much the rule rather than the exception. Do it much and you will very likely get tagged eventually.
Depends on a lot of things, road network i.e. assuming I'm heading S, are there any good E route options to escape on, svr wx reports i.e. high winds, large hail, how bad it looks, visibility, traffic, cell size and speed, can I safely beat the meso. Radar helps, but only if it's up to date. I try to avoid it as much as possible.
I voted for "sometimes" - obviously - as I don't have anything against it to play in medium-sized hail, but if the storm is overly HP and known or suspected to be tornadic - well......that's a different kettle of fish.

But to discuss this more we need to qualify the question "do you core punch?". Are we talking about punching cores (i.e. largest area of preip. in the storm that is separated from the area of rotation should there be one), or are we talking about punching hooks (i.e. area of precipitation directly adjacent to area of strongest rotation where meso has wrapped precip. around itself)??? As I see it - people here seem to be using the two terms interchangeably.

When I think core punch's picking my way through the hail and the misty rain curtains to get to the promised land. Amen to avoiding the HP blobs. To me there is nothing more dangerous than going baseball hail...heavy misty rain...and then TORNADO !!!!! :eek:
I'll only do it as an absolute last resort, as I've got too much respect for my vehicle (and my own personal safety) to make it commonplace. I hate to drive where the visibility hovers at around zero, and where rain and hail usually end up between the rubber and the road.

Not having the guidance of streaming weather data in the chase car is a good reason to err on the side of caution, unless I can visually confirm a punch can be done safely.

If I have current radar and a reasonable idea I'm not going to run through a tornado, I have no problems with going through a core. I built my chase vehicle entirely for chasing. That's it's purpose, and as such, I know it's subject to some damage from time to time. I accept that as part of it's purpose so it's not a concern for me as long as it's damage that isn't going to cause damage to ME. I do try to avoid anything baseball and larger though, just because I don't want to be taken out of a chase for a day or three trying to get glass replaced.
I dont like doing it, but we have core punched a few times. A couple times on purpose, couple on accident. On the night of May 22, 2005 a storm developed near Wichita so we went out to take lightning pictures. As we were nearin the storm, other storms began firing all around us. We got into hail on three occasions trying to get back to Wichita. The largest we got was the size of a baseball. The dent is still on the side of our chase vehicle. I dont like core punching though. If it's not necessary, I tend not to do it. It's one of the times I can get nervous while chasing.
It totally depends on the situation. I won't with HPs though. (Would you punch this? I won't)
The hail on it appeared large, visibility was poor, and it was warned on as imbedded tornado.

Sometimes you don't know how big the hail is until you're in it, as well. I did punch this little green one to get near the meso.
Hail was tennis ball and was scary for a minute. The plus side was that there was plenty of sunlight underneath the meso, showing all the details. I could see everything.

As a photographer though, sometimes further back is actually better so you can get the structure. A safer position could yield a better photo anyway.

So I vote for "sometimes" and will add "but usually not".
Last edited by a moderator:
It's like speeding. You shouldn't have to do it much if you had planned properly. There's different degrees of recklessness attendant to it. It can have very serious consequences all out of proportion to the benefit. Almost everyone will do it sometimes. It's easy to let it slip into becoming too much the rule rather than the exception. Do it much and you will very likely get tagged eventually.

Well said.

Like most of you, I voted for sometimes but I am more cautious/knowledgeable than I used to be. I have had a couple of unpleasant core punching/grazing experiences, but it has been a few years. Both instances were due to the lack of proper consideration of the road networks and storm movement. My worst and most memorable core punch experience was on I-80 west of Sydney in June 1999. The problem started because I was west, trying to get east. I thought that I could get in front of the storm before it crossed the interstate, moving SE. I was wrong. Tennis balls followed by torrential rain brought traffic to a stand still and left me right on the edge of the core all during a tornado warning. It seemed to last forever, and scared the crap out of me at the time.

The other experience was in late July 2000 on a NW flow day in Kiowa County, just east of Eads. A solitary supercell, the only storm in town, had developed earlier in the day up in Yuma County and was moving slowly south-southeast. I got off of work in time to head east from Pueblo for an intercept. I was sitting in Tribune waiting for the storm to come to me, but it turned right and was moving due south. I headed back to the west on CO96, watching a very large and low wall cloud, just to the north of Eads. I went west quickly, hoping that I could reach US287 and get south ahead of the storm. The problem was that I was basically racing the storm to the intersection of US287 and CO96, and the storm got there first. I just caught the edge of the core about a mile from the intersection, but I was nailed by tennis balls. My windshield cracked slightly (I expected worse) but held. I had to turn back east (quickly) and get the only other decent south option before CO385, which was the poorly paved road that goes to May Valley, Culp, then Lamar. That turned out to be a pretty good choice, a choice that I should have made initially. I was able to parallel this beautifully structured tornado-warned storm from the east as it moved south, until I let it go around dusk. It produced a brief tornado north of McClave and several funnels, but the hail was the big story from that storm. CSP reported the large, low hanging wall cloud along 287 as a “large tornado” about the time that I was having the problem with the hail. Luckily for me, that was not the case. Yeah, so I am more cautious and a bit wiser than I was then. I try not to race storms anymore, especially when there is a lack of roads; it just isn’t worth it to me.
I voted sometimes. I have only had to core punch 3-5 times since I started chasing and everytime I took the gamble it has payed off. Of course, I only do it if im out of position and need to relocate to a better location near the storm and I dont endorse it. The most exciting core punch I ever did was on June 12th, 2004 in between Mulvane and Derby in SC KS. Me and my roomates lived in S Wichita(What a summer that was ;) and we had to get to Mulvane so that we could get on the south side of the mesocyclone that was a mothership. The core was moderatley heavy at times mostly hail the size of golf balls and a few tennis ball size at most. I remember being able to see through the core the whole time and when we got to the N side of Mulvane we watched the first tornado form. Then as the first one died out we quickly drove through town and relocated about 2 1/2 miles south of town almost under the meso mind you, the coloring was wicked it was like orange everywhere and it lit up the belly of the meso and we watched the 2nd tornado form. Funny thing about that was we were on K-15 which runs NW-SE out of Wichita,Ks and the tornado was only about 1/4 of a mile away from the hwy about 1 mile away from us. We were parked behind a local TV crew filming the tornado and we watched as the tornado grew, but it wasn't really growing and it wasn't moving left to right across K-15 like it should have done so it dons on me hey this thing is coming right at us and as soon as I realize that the hedge row 1/4 mile away from us is being ripped out of the ground and we all freak out and bail down the hwy. The tornado crossed the hwy right where we were at. I watch out my window as the thing snapped trees and telephone poles like tooth pics... that changed the way I looked at life that day lol. We drove down K-15 and paralleld the tornado for about 7 miles before we stoped and watched it rope out. Later we drove E and watched the Rock,Ks tornado with the guys who used to run Had we not core punched that day we would have never experienced what happened that day so I just say be safe and play your cards right.
I agree, and qualify it with sometimes. I assume we are talking punching supercells... right? It totally depends on the storm, it's speed, road network, and the situation. The type of storm, and whether it is tornadic or developing in tornadic conditions is important. I'll punch smaller storms all day long. I'll risk quickly sneaking under an LP (even though they can be known for unseen large hail). Larger classic's and hp's give me pause. Often these are tornadic storms already, or they should be moving in conditions favorable to create tornadoes - otherwise I wouldn't be chasing. I prefer not to lose my windshield. It is a mess to cleanup, makes you have to repair, and drive slow, and can cost you the tornadoes. Oftentimes I core punch as I am overrun or had bad planning - it just happens sometimes. Very large destructive storms such as classic's and hp's can also potentially have serious microburst winds that could roll you if you aren't careful. IMO if they look really, really nasty on the outside sometimes they really are. I can't recall that I have punched a nasty HP near the hook on purpose. As Brian mentions and as I understand you can potentially go from bad visibility and heavy rain almost directly into the tornado. Usually there is some relief around this Bear's Cage area to give you a chance to see the tornado first, but I've heard that is not always the case. You can also come out directly in front of it and get slammed (i.e. from the west) real quick leaving you potentially not much in the way of road options.

Core punches (of the extreme variety) at night obviously would be even more dangerous. I've been caught in some of these types of cores at night out chasing...scary, not too much fun - well except after the fact and you come out intact.

Most of my punches would be from N/S on tornadic supercells to get into position. Dan mentions an intruiging strategy from the west. I've come in from the west, but usually just take it slow making sure everything is cool until I punch out. Things are a bit weird from this direction.

Often I punch from other directions to pass completely through storms such as E/W to get to a supercell to the west for instance. Sometimes I find out these less developed storms can be stronger and full of more wind than I expect.

Threatnet is nice, and does help to a degree, but I've seen it be grossly off timewise so that the storm position is far shifted in reality from what is showing on radar when you actually view the storm visually. You really have to be careful with Threatnet and give it even a margin of error over the 5 to 10 minutes Dan mentions. I'd say sometimes 15 to 20 minutes. I followed it one time at night with Gene approaching the front side of a tornadic line and I was headed home, and decided to believe it. I gave it a margin of error. I was going to drive N/S as the storm came in from the west. Turned out the meso and developing tornado was only within 1/4 mile by the time I passed to it's east and south - LOL! Fun to watch, and entertaining on the trip back, but also a bit unnerving.

In truth after years of trying to "chase" storms I learned to wait on them as much as possible. Try and forecast, plan and be in position. You can make much better time on dry roads. Often I will go around a storm to get in front if there are good roads and I can drive quickly. Getting stuck in a storm can really slow you down, but it is a judgement call based on the situation. In the right situation you can get plenty of magic from the right core punch and save a lot of time, particularly if you are going from storm to storm on an outbreak day and want to see which are producing best.
My answer:


Rain, hail, tornadoes, and cats.


(Mike H-I'm KIDDING on the last one..I married an animal lover, so I love cats, too. I also like ribeye steak, burgers, chicken, and pork roast)

Last edited by a moderator:
I answered yes. Coming from Denver, west to east, it seems I am always playing catch up from leaving home/work too late and having to approach the storm from the west.

If I can get out the night before and the storms are not moving too fast I'll try not to core-punch unless necessary. Of course, every storm/road network/situation is different and you have to adapt your strategy.

If it looks like the storm is not going to be tornadic I like to 'sample' the core by driving into it and seeing how large the hail is and then either get back east or find a car wash bay and let it come down hard! :)
I answered yes as well, mainly just on a few of the wimpier storms though, nothing to heavy. If there is very large hail then definitely not but sometimes the boredom factor comes into play as Mike stated.
I said No to this poll question. Honestly, if I've got no business being in a core, and if it's obvious to me that there's nothing good that can come of it, I'm perfectly fine with being a spectator and dodging it, if I can. I've been fortunate enough to have some decent luck on my chases over the past 5-6 years, and I've done it without one hail dent. I know it's a badge worn with honor to many on here. But personally, getting a hail beat-down is really not what I'm out there for. That being said.....I'll gladly watch everyone else's videos of baseball/softball hail!! :D

The two things I can stay out of the way of (the vast majority of the time) are TORs and hail. Lightning is the one that bugs me the most.
Last edited by a moderator:
The short answer is yes I do.

I can think of several situations where I wouldn’t core punch (after dark, speed burners, some HP’s) but for the most part I have no problem with it. You just have to know where you are at within the supercell (WXWorx helps) and understand your options. One of my favorite positions to shoot a tornado is from the north side looking south. Core punching often gets me to this favored position. My chase vehicle is a paid for 2000 Chevy S-10 with 100,000 miles and lots of dimples, so I am not that worried about damaging it. Although losing windows is something I try to avoid, S-10 windows are relatively inexpensive and available at most Chevy dealerships, so replacing them isn’t a big deal. Now that I think about it, it’s amazing that I haven’t lost I window since 2002.
I answered yes, just because I end up doing it out of necessity sometimes. It's easier to do up north where the roads are more plentiful and you've got more options.

I don't like hail. In fact, I hate it and it makes me feel vulnerable to the storm. So I avoid it if at all possible. Sometimes it isn't.

For me, worst case scenario happened this year with the Fillmore/Savannah, Missouri storm. Cored it to end up smack in front of a fast moving, mama jama tornado in the dark. While it was definitely one of the more exciting moments as rainbands surrounding the tornado were literally swirling around my vehicle, it's not one that I particularly want to re-live anytime soon either.
Back in 1993 and again in 1999, I was chasing for an OKC TV station on a storm in northern OK (both times near Enid). The meteorologist on the air advised me to head south to get a better view of an approaching tornado that had become rain-wrapped. I made the mistake of listening to that advice and going against my gut feeling - bad move!

Now keep in mind, this was back before the days of mobile internet, live radar / GPS, etc. - all I had were two-way radios and an old bag phone.

Going south into the core of that storm proved to be one of the worst situations I have ever been in. I lost every window I had on a 1992 Chevy Suburban. I had hail dents so bad, the truck was a total loss. I think Rocky remembers one of those times when he and I met up with each other, so he knows the amount of damage I'm talking about!

Unless it would involve a situation to avoid potential danger of being caught in the path of a tornado, I would not choose to core punch. There are just too many variables - you can't see, you could easily wreck, damage your vehicle, injure yourself (or worse), so to me - it's not worth it. There will be more tornadoes other days. If it's a core of significant or unknown intensity, I'll do my best to avoid it.
Last edited by a moderator:
I've answered sometimes, but I haven't been successful, in that I have never gotten to where I've wanted to be in time, by doing it. So, usually if I'm trying it, it's probably a sign I just didn't get to where I wanted to be in time. Probably why I try it sometimes, and not more often because it doesn’t seem to be all that helpful.