Does anyone "Night Chase"?

I know this is probably a dumb question, and many of you don't recommend it, but chasing is about living on the edge, right? I was just wondering if there are any balls to the wall I'm gettin a nader no matter what night chasers out there. I've seen setups that were night time setups, so do you go for it or take the safe route and stay at home? Just curious.
Don't know about the living on the edge part, but with live radar (WxWorx), I can't see why it's any different logistically than chasing during the day. As long as there is lightning you're in business. Without the radar, I'd be a little nervous - but probably not enough to not do it.




Storm chasing at night, no. Storm spotting, yes I've gone out spotting at night given that I know ithe storms movement and what is associated.
I'd say night chasing is fine as long as you know what's going on, and having current radar imagery helps immensely in this manner. I've had some successful post-sunset tornado intercepts, including the tornado north of Anthony, KS, on 5-12-04 (the pics of which Dan posted above). June 10th 2004 comes to mind immediately as well as a good nighttime chase (tornado near Red Cloud NE).

That said, I tend to be much more cautious about night chasing (for obvious reasons). There's usually a time when I say "screw it" and call the chase off, more often than not because I no longer feel comfortable / safe in the position. When I was blasted by the RFD on the 5-9-03 OKC supercell, I opted to take the safe route south and end the chase. Similarly, on the 4-21-05 chase (from se KS into sw MO), Gabe and I reached a point after which we no longer felt safe chasing the storm. In fact, we got chased BY the storm for a bit, all while it was tornado-warned and had very intense inflow. During this particular chase, we were driving south on a country road and had generally weak northerly winds, while the wx radio was harping on the tornadic portion of the supercell to our immediate southwest. We reach an intersection with another county road, at which time leaves and small twigs began to fall from the sky. As we turned east, we were blasted by very strong northeastly winds, and we could see a nice wallcloud to our immediate west. After this time, we were just doing whatever we could to get out of the way of this storm, and we eventually did. Just make sure you always leave yourself a safe route out of the storm's path, since things can creep up on you very quickly at night.
Most of time you'll chase at night without it being planned... There will be times where you follow your storm well afterdark... There will be times where you find your storms initiating at sunset OR afterdark.

My very first tornado (brief touchdown) was afterdark on 7-27-2002 in southcentral MI... Followed by another afterdark chase, barely missing the F2 in central MI on 8-21-2003. In 2004, I chased several times afterdark... Including an afterdark chase on 5-30-04. I targetted east of the dryline, but didn't leave early enough (target was IND) and missed the long-duration tornadic event that occured around KIND. I followed the supercell northeast just to the south of Anderson... Before the line to the west started to move into the area, with a broken cell off the line becoming supercellular and exhibiting very strong low-level rotation (many reports of rotating wall clouds from spotters over the HAM). A tornado touched down about a half mile north of me, right off I-69 near Anderson. It produced additional confirmed tornadoes both just to the west and east of I-69.

This past year (2005) I chased quite a few times afterdark... The first chase of the year ended up occuring way too late and both me and Kurt Hulst ended up chasing an HP supercell in northern MS well afterdark (a string of tornado reports were occuring all around us, but I guess we were asleep LOL). I also chased at night on 5-8-2005 (severe storms in southern OK), 5-10-2005 (NE mothership), 5-11-2005 (brief funnel near Garden City, KS, and a very unexpected chase) 5-12-2005 (followed the south plains convection up into Childress, where we all slept) and probably another 5-10 times. I just recently chased on 11-5-2005 in western IL, where a developing bow echo raced over me, and gave me a decent structure and sustained 60MPH winds (with higher gusts)...

On days like 5-10-2005, 8-21-2003 (large event in central/southern MI) and oodles of others, where a capping inversion will not weaken / lift won't arrive in your target area until sunset/afterdark -- you'll need to chase afterdark.
I have no problem with chasing at night and I usually don't have radar when I do. I chase in what I call my "comfort zone". That usually means backing off a couple of miles from where I would position myself during the day. If you can't see the tornado from there then you have no business being any closer in my opinion. You want a nice clear cut backlit tornado and not some rainwrapped piece of junk. Also, lightning frequency is a big factor in whether I choose to chase at night.

Some of my more memorable night chases have been on 5/22/04 3 tornadoes and 6/3/05 2 tornadoes. It all comes down to personal preference and putting yourself in a safe position because you never know what could be forming over the top of you when you are concentrating on the horizon. I don't believe it's balls to the wall at all if you position yourself properly and choose your chaseable storms wisely.
Once I am out chasing, I am in it for the duration. There have been a couple of times I ended up chasing until dawn the next morning. About the only time I give up because it's night is if things have gone to MCS and the lightning isn't worth it either. Of course that goes for daytime as well though.

I agree with the others, having some radar data (preferably your own unless your in near constant contact with a good nowcaster) is essential to not only intercepting anything tornadic and keeping yourself safe.

Every scud cloud out there can look like a tornado in the dark, so you have to be extra observant. Many of the features you depend on during the daylight, you won't be able to see them all and their relationships all at once with the lightning. Add to that the strobe light effect of the lightning, it can sometimes be difficult to discern things. Oh but when you do, as the pictures above show, to me provides even MORE satisfaction in some ways than a daylight intercept, just because it IS more difficult to get.

If the storm has had a tornadic history for an hour or two before sunset, and that trend is continuing, I personally would recommend giving it up if your not already in position. Again, unless you have onboard radar data.

Before the days of onboard radar data, my rule was, if I wan't in position before the sun went down, I gave up on it.
I don't chase at night per se, but when a storm is in the area, I'll go out and report on it as it moves into my local service area.

That's not to say I haven't. I did chase one into Joplin, Mo. from Ponca City. Storms didn't actually start up until they were almost in Missouri and we just kept on following them for a while.
I will only chase at night if I know the cloud bases are beneficially high enough to see the wall cloud or tornado. I don't have "on-board" radar with me usually and just rely on my past night experiences to guide me. The only troubles I have had at night were confusing tornado positions by what the NWS was indicating and what some radio/tv stations were "interpreting". This bad instance happened to me back on May 15, 2003 out near Sweetwater OK...a tornado magnet if there was one such place. Anyway, I knew I was approaching from a wrong way...from the north. I got through the golfball hail and was in that uneasy point of the inflow zone. It was getting pretty gusty and I could sense that something was near, but I heard 2 conflicting radar positions of the had it still back in Wheeler Co. Tx near Kelton...the radar report on the radio said it was on the TX/OK border. The hail kept falling...golfball with occasional tennis balls. I was under a overhang and out of the hail fortunately. The hail opened up into a pretty strong core and then ceased immediately. To my west I could see something very low when the lightning flashed. Then the roar started up. It got louder and louder and before long I could see what was definitely a wedge tornado coming right for me west side of Sweetwater. I made the decision to head east when all hell broke loose behind me to the west of town. First baseballs started coming down and then I could see many power flashes. My cellphone was getting no reception so I could not call anybody. I blasted east on Highway 6 and got out of there just in time. Later I had learned that this in fact was a 1/2 mile to mile wide was rated a F2. It passed very near where I had pulled over initially. It was close enough that it made me rethink my stand on night-time chasing. Now there has to be more certainty before I will vector into the meso zone at night. HP supercells are a definite no for me at night !!
I'll agree that HP supercells are a no-go for night chasing ... they're scary enough during the day. I'll chase/spot at night at times, if the lightning is good and the storm bases are clear. I will run from the storm if visibility is bad for any reason. Because of the position of home base for me, if I'm chasing in Kansas or Nebraska, then we're often forced to drive through some pretty nasty storms at night at times just to get back home after the good stuff during daylight. We've had some intense conditions as we do this, which isn't a lot of fun considering we've spent a full day on the road by this point and the adrenaline has been steadily pumping for hours already. I can't recommend night chasing for anyone who has not already well-familiar with day chasing and storm motion.
Good day,

I have done my share of night chases, many in Florida storms (harmless except for lightning), hurricanes, and supercells in the plains (now that's scary at night).

I always made sure I had RELIABLE radar updates (Barons WX Works is great for this) for night-time supercell chases, so I always knew where the "business end" of the storm was relative to me!


Above: May 20, 2004 on night-time LP in NE Colorado (Weld County) ... We were the only ones who captured this tornado backlit by lightning!

Sometimes night-chases can make you score, but with safety in mind!

Chris Collura - KG4PJN
Only at the end of a normal chase day. Usually when frustrated by what went on before (like a flat tire killing your daytime chase) and your determined to get something. Not really advised! Successful ocationally.

May 3, 1999, Near Peidmont, OK

with power flashes

I'm not a particularly huge fan of chasing at night, and normally I won't unless its a storm I'm already on at sunset. I've bailed on storms after dark simply because I don't feel secure; dirt roads after dark left me with a bad taste in my mouth and I try to avoid them. I do enjoy chasing lightning after dark, but tornatic storms must take me passed sunset as opposed to me catching up with one at dark, otherwise, I'll happily call it a night.
Yeah I night chase. Pretty much always have even though supposedly one of my original rules was that 'I would never night chase'. I will say this about it, that almost all of my hair raising potentially life threatening situations were at night. For me it's not that I am really fearless or 'balls to the wall' - well maybe sometimes :lol: but usually what happens is I am just so excited and intense into chasing that the day ends and I continue through the night. Originally this started out with no no radar and by myself in the vehicle but nowadays I usually have Threatnet or something similar which makes a big difference, but at the same time it can lull you into thinking you are safe. You have to remember that Threatnet is time delayed so the meso you see a safe distance away may really be on top of you. I've scared myself $hitless sometimes which I guess can actually be kind of fun :p - at least after the fact. Lots of times I have no intention to really night chase but the way it works is after you chase all day, you can quit, but the storms don't. Often they just blow up all around you and you are trapped.

Off the top of my head here are some cases (but many, many more):

1) Just south of Medicine Lodge, KS at night - no radar, fairly newbie, paper maps, alone drive into tornadic supercells and torrential rain. Several around me as I listen to NWS warnings and try to avoid tornadoes.

2) Missouri at night following tornadic thunderstorms as they develop around me - videotape of night torn nearby.

3) Hoisington F4 - just north east of town as the tornado leaves and approaches my position in the dark. I get smart and back away.

4) Chase toward Shreveport until dark and cross over into Louisianna - suddenly all storms that I was hoping for all day finally happen and form behind me and to my north and south. I race south as TVS's all around and tornado warnings/lightning inbound. I hole up in a town at a motel thinking I will have to take shelter there. At last moment tornado dissipates.

5) Sweetwater Tx - I take a wrong turn at night on the interstate after a daytime chase directly into the path of a supposed approaching tornado.

6) Oklahoma City at night - a few years ago. Follow tornado reports to NE of town and wait just south of the path and the underpass where other chasers were trapped. Caught in the atomized rain - a bit too close.

7) At night near Aspermont, Tx caught in tornadic inflow jet a few minutes later spot the tornado nearby.

8. Valentine, NE chase and night tornadoes.

9) Brady Night Run - A day chase ended near Paint Rock / San Angelo and I decide to investigate night warnings/reports as the tornado turns in my direction. Every location I race to east is reported on NWS radio as the location the tornado is now expected at. While experiencing power flashes, debris, and wind across the road I race east into darkness to try and get away.

10) Eastern OK, in hills at night I and Geoff Mackley go head on into a night tornado warning and at the last moment turn around as a tornado in the darkness appears to cross the road in front of us. As the wind hits our vehicle gets smacked by some piece of debris.

Here are some links:

I might mention also one time last year I was using Threatnet at night in northeast Tx and decided to drive close to the meso area of a storm. The display seemed to indicate I had plenty of room, but ends up I drove right under a wallcloud with a large (close to ground) developing funnel / potential tornado. That was spooky at night because it was too late to make other road choices. Had to just drive on and try and beat the area of rotation and hope it didn't mature right as I drove past it.

Basically chasing at night is challenging and potentially fraught with peril. Certainly it can be done, and many do. But if you are going to do it just make sure you understand thunderstorm dynamics and structure and know how to chase well during the day. It also helps to have good equipment including radar, and a partner along. Be aware of your position, road options, and what the storm is doing and can potentially do. It is better to chase at night when there is good visibility and cloud bases are high enough to see under and preferably when there is plenty of lightning for illumination.
PS: I might point out that inflow/rainfree base areas often do not have lightning and so there are times when it is impossible to see the tornado at night unless it hits a power transformer or something similar. You may get whacked without warning.

PSPS: Like I say I do it, but I always swear I am going to stop. Sometimes just too risky as you can tell by Brian's post. I think I should try and wean myself off of it to some degree, but like a moth to the flame I am often just drawn to the action. Even times when I've tried to break off and not chase at night on purpose because of the hazards I have been chased by tornadic storms. Sometimes it's fun. Hell, sometimes it's a blast! But sometimes you will wish you were somewhere else if you do it long enough.
Wow, some NOVELS written here. Anyone consider writing a book on this? :D

Night chasing is okay unless you're getting pounded by tennis ball size hail with 70-80 mph winds, and you just can't punch it through to the other side of where the tornado is being reported on the ground a mile in front of you. ;)

It's all about positioning IMO. I never have radar, GPS, and wx radio is a piece. On the road for 12 hours straight, your senses fail sometimes, and your awareness is heightened a little. Something tells you something is wrong and to pull the ripcord.

Like Jeff said, you're in BFE, winds picks up, you see an approaching wall, time to find a better spot or call it a day.

So maybe, maybe not, several factors come into play.
First off I never night chase. If it's getting close to the sun going down that's usually the end of the day for me. That's partly because I don't have WXWORX or anything similar. Mainly though it is because who knows what could go wrong and at night you'll have a less visibility and thus less ability to take proper actions for the situation. The only thing I do is take night shots for the lightning, but only from a good proximity to the storm. That's my personal preference.

Anyhow, I remember watching this video on the web where people were driving on a highway or interstate. Suddenly, the lights for the freeway cut out and this semi in front of them is overturned from what I believe was a tornado. Has anyone seen the video I'm talking about? I saw it once but forgot to right down the link. That video was just amazing.
Night chasing is okay unless you're getting pounded by tennis ball size hail with 70-80 mph winds, and you just can't punch it through to the other side of where the tornado is being reported on the ground a mile in front of you. ;)

I agree. I think what Brian described is probably beyond the comfort level of all us. Getting trapped under an overpass, or in a town with tornado approaching and no options is past the comfort level. However, with that said, these things can happen and do to the best of us. Those of you that think chasing isn't a risk...LOL - just do what Brian describes at night on a regular basis and you might have a different opinion. It's not a good feeling when you say "I'm screwed". :lol:
Anyhow, I remember watching this video on the web where people were driving on a highway or interstate. Suddenly, the lights for the freeway cut out and this semi in front of them is overturned from what I believe was a tornado. Has anyone seen the video I'm talking about? I saw it once but forgot to right down the link. That video was just amazing.

Hmm..that brings back a memory I forgot. I wonder if I log all these tornadoes on my list? Anyway, may not be the same event but once I was riding along with Geoff Mackley and the MESO crew as we drove into the darkness and storms. I finally got radar and warnings only to find we were in the current path of a tornado. We parked under an overpass and waited it out in intense wind (I don't know how strong). The tornado passed and a bit ahead were a couple of semi's blown over that we had watched drive on during the onslaught. I heard later it had passed like supposedly 140 yards away when they went back and looked for the damage path.

Another occasion (a couple of years ago) I was headed back from a chase in the Tx panhandle. Day of the Stratford tornado which I was just late for and missed. Heading back at night following the large intense tornadic squall line I headed through Shamrock (I believe) and along I40. Emergency vehicles were everywhere. For a while a tornado had travelled right down the road in the dark. People, chasers, families were oblivious. Cars were overturned, light poles smashed, etc. Not sure but perhaps that could have been the event you mention but I don't know if anyone got video of it. I think that was also the day a chaser waited too long and the tornado ran him over. He abandoned his vehicle and held on to a pole next to the overpass as the tornado proceeded to destroy a gas station across the street.

Yep - night chasing is interesting.... :lol:
Anyhow, I remember watching this video on the web where people were driving on a highway or interstate. Suddenly, the lights for the freeway cut out and this semi in front of them is overturned from what I believe was a tornado. Has anyone seen the video I'm talking about? I saw it once but forgot to right down the link. That video was just amazing.

I'm guessing that was Chris Collura's clip from Florida.
I know this question was probably directed more toward tornado chasers, but I’ll offer my 2 cents anyway. :wink:

I chase hurricanes, and I chase no matter what time of day. A hurricane landfall is such a rare occurrence (compared with a severe-weather outbreak) that I feel I have to chase them whenever they come. Also, I don’t live in a hurricane region, so I commit to the chase and fly to the threatened region well before it's clear what time the storm will be coming ashore.

That having been said, I do not like night chases. In a nutshell, they're a lot more dangerous and the footage is a lot less interesting. Since hurricanes don't usually have a lot of lightning (unlike tornadoes), you’re forced to film subject-matter close to street lamps in order to convey the experience. And with such constraints, the shots can have less variety. The sounds are just as dramatic, but you just can’t see a lot of what is happening.

I have done two "partial" night chases:

* Bret, 1999, TX-- the storm's brunt occurred in my location just around nightfall.
* Wilma, 2005, FL-- the sun rose during the eye, so the front side of the storm occurred at night and the back side during the day (check out my footage Fortunately the most dramatic weather with this one happened by daylight! :)
First off, that "living on the edge" stuff is what, in my opinion, has drawn all the yahoos to this endeavor and clogged up the roads during a chase. For the record, I'm not calling you a yahoo personally. Living on the edge is not what chasing should be about at all.
Yes, I've night chased. And on May 16th, '92 in Knox Co. Nebraska I almost drove right into a tornado. Ohhh, I came close. Thankfully, after seeing what I was doing, I hit the brakes....did a 180 (Bat-turn) and hauled butt up to the closest farmhouse light I could see....with the nader right on my tail. I knocked on the door, and when the two very very old folks inside failed to hear me.....I just barged right in screaming "tornado". We made it just downstairs into their celler as the nader went right by the farmhouse.
That night, and the few other times I've night-chased....was always at the tail end of my chase vacation...when I had little to show for the season...and I was desperate to get "something". It made me do what I normally wouldn't think of doing. And believe me, it took me out of my comfort zone in a big way.