Driving Long Distances to See Storms, Is it Worth It

If I lived in Nebraska, Kansas, or Oklahoma, the driving part would not be that big of a issue, but living in Michigan and having a father dependent on you is the big problem I have with driving long distances to see storms.

Why I often do not like to drive long distances these days:
-Besides being tired and being stuck in a car for hours, are the following:

-Interstates: Afterwhile, the same scenary, traffic and noise from the payment gets on my nerves. Metropolitan areas traffic can be a mess.

-US Highways: During the day can have a lot of traffic. Driving through towns can slow you down, if you are in a hurry, or being stuck behind slower traffic can be annoying.

-Metropolitan Areas/Suburbs: Besides the traffic, traffic ligts, stop signs, really gets on my nerves;

-Main Reason:
My Father: The last 5 years, I have more or less took care of my dad, The last 2 years, it was almost a 24/7 type of deal. My father is now in a senior assisted living facitlity. I live in the family home and have to sell the house, because my dad owes quite a bit of money to the bank. He no longer can drive, so I have to constantly run errands for him and take him places. I am not allowed to stay out long, and enjoy myself, because I still have to answer to my father and his house. I was in Iowa, last weekend, I would like to stay out in the Central Plains for a week, but I cannot because of my father, he guilts you in returning, saying I got to go here and I need this and so on. I have try to convince him to move to Kansas, Nebraska or Oklahoma, with no such luck, with the occasional maybe.

I can drive about 500-700 miles in a day, is my limit. But to venture out to the plains often means looking at the day 3 and then deciding if you want to drive all that ways and back to Michigan, Bottom line, is I always forced back to Michigan, because of my dad and his house, I am very tiired of this, and past up many opportunities to chase the plains because of my dad, Be so much nicer, if he and I were living in Lincoln NE or Norman OK,

How many miles from my town to various cities in the plains I listed below.

GRAND RAPIDS MICHIGAN TO:

KANSAS:
Total Est. Distance: 810.06 miles -Chanute KS
Total Est. Distance: 980.17 miles -Colby KS
Total Est. Distance: 1034.38 miles -Dodge City KS
Total Est. Distance: 939.33 miles -Great Bend KS
Total Est. Distance: 727.80 miles -Lawrence KS
Total Est. Distance: 862.96 miles -Salina KS
Total Est. Distance: 882.15 miles -Wichita KS

NEBRASKA:
Total Est. Distance: 779.12 miles -Grand Island NE
Total Est. Distance: 847.76 miles -Lexington NE
Total Est. Distance: 685.70 miles -Lincoln NE
Total Est. Distance: 914.83 miles -Mc Cook NE
Total Est. Distance: 719.19 miles -Norfolk NE
Total Est. Distance: 905.89 miles -North Platte NE
Total Est. Distance: 630.09 miles -Omaha NE
Total Est. Distance: 813.47 miles -O"Neill NE
Total Est. Distance: 1098.93 miles -Scottsbluff NE
Total Est. Distance: 924.45 miles -Valentine NE

OKLAHOMA:
Total Est. Distance: 1083.16 miles -Altus OK
Total Est. Distance: 1041.21 miles -Ardmore OK
Total Est. Distance: 964.01 miles -Norman OK
Total Est. Distance: 945.54 miles -Oklahoma City OK
Total Est. Distance: 933.44 miles -Ponca City OK
Total Est. Distance: 841.04 miles -Tulsa OK
Total Est. Distance: 1042.64 miles -Woodward OK

TEXAS:
Total Est. Distance: 1205.10 miles -Amarillo TX
Total Est. Distance: 1168.61 miles -Childress TX
Total Est. Distance: 1113.57 miles -Dallas TX
Total Est. Distance: 1325.03 miles -Lubbock TX
Total Est. Distance: 1438.67 miles -Midland TX

Mike
 
Mike I feel your pain - why not fly - its cheaper in the long run - this weekend will be a good time to take 3 days and hit the panhandles of texas and OK for example - and fly back....just a thought - and your caretaking would only be missed for 3 days NOT 6
 
Coming from Illinois, I am a regular distance chaser. Last weeks trip was 2200 miles round trip to CO/ KS. I'm resigned to the fact that to see supercells I have to go to them because I would wait a long time for the right conditions to come to me. Driving to a target does not bother me, what bothers me most is narrowing down a target while enroute. Decisions are made based on time to travel to target. I'm often leaving at the wee hours to drive to the plains based on the current forecast ,(models mind you). I often wonder if someone from say TX or OK would drive to Illinois for a "good event". Heck I drove to Michigan last year for a "good event" and even half way to Arkansas this spring. Have storms will travel.
I think everone can relate to the homestrings pulling you back when you are out. Whether it be family, job, "forgot to leave water for the dog"...oooops, the season comes once a year and take it if you can.
Jerry Funfsinn
 
Try living in New York!
At least in IL, you have the option to drive to a target area in W. OK/KS/NE and you could set out on the same day you chase (albeit in the wee early AM hours, which is rough). For me, that's pretty much impossible, as it takes a good 27 hours to get to central KS from here. Flying is pretty much the only way, but booking flights at the last minute can be very frustrating.

That's why I've been carefully reading long-range posts on here about the upcoming weekend. Might be possible to fly out for a 2-3 day chase. Airlines like JetBlue and Frontier will let me make last-minute reservations without a severe penalty (well, by "last minute" I'm talking 48 hours), but the only place I can really fly into is Denver. But, Denver's within striking distance of most of the western "Alley" with a reasonable 6 hour drive.

Anyone have any airlines or other methods they prefer for last-minute chasing? I'd be curious to hear from other long-distance chasers out there!
 
I live just south of Jackson, Ms and have made two trips this year. The first I left on May 10 in the afternoon and chased on May 11th in the NW Ks area and was a total bust and decided to head to the panhandles for May 12th. I cought an incredible tornado and returned home on May 13th and the total milage for the trip was 2688.

The second trip I made was last week. I left on Wed. evening and drove straight through the night and checked into a hotel in Dodge City, Ks at 2pm. Chased from south of Dodge City and drove to Goodland area and back arriving at 5am and sleeping until 7am. I woke up and got some breakfast and headed down to the Ok panhandles on Friday and ended up making my way into North Central Texas. After yet another bust drove to OKC to spend the night so I could either chase or go home depending on the models for Saturday. You can guess what I did! Left OKC and drove to Emporia, Ks. After sitting in Emporia realizing that my only storm to chase was going to be a tornadic storm north of Topeka I took off and ended up in Iowa. After the chase I returned home logging in at 3029 miles.

Was it worth it? The first trip was worth every penny, mile, hamburger and hail dent. The second was horrible and I wish I never went! The second trip could have been great if it wasn't for a wrong turn in Topeka and a closed road that I was going to take after the wrong turn. Then after finding yet another route there was a detour. So finally after finding an open road in route to a tornadic supercell I was pulled over because the cop wanted to know where the tornado was and missed everything. I spent four days, almost a thousand dollars and saw one quick night tornado from the tail end of a mcs. south of Goodland on June 3rd at about 1:20 Am. I never even got to see a sup.

I guess it just depends on how much you like to chase and how bad driving effects you. My girlfriend accuses me of being a truck driver in a former life, lol. Most of all it just depends on what you see when you get there that makes it either worth it or not.
 
Driving long distances to see storms, is it worth it? Not to me Mike.

Keep in mind that I'm a "to each their own" type of person, and this in no way praises or puts down chasers for their "marathon" drives. I personally have rarely driven more than 300 miles round trip on a chase. I just can't seem to justify it to myself. I think it's more financial than anything, but I also find my time away from work awfully precious.

If it's a sunny 80 degree day here in Manhattan and there's a high risk in SW Kansas, I'm just as happy going kayaking on a local river as I would be driving all the way out there to see a good storm. However, if I was already on my way home to Ness or to eastern Colorado I would be all over it as a detour!! I'd like to make some long-haul chases given the right travel partners, the right amount of time away from home and office, and the overflowing funds to do so, but the opportunities have not presented themselves yet.

Some would say that I have no passion for the hobby based on the above statements, and I don't really care, but they would be sorely wrong. Some have the mentality of "I'd skip three meals just to have the money to chase tomorrow", that's fine, it's just not for me.

I moved back to Kansas so that I would be in a good zone for severe weather and would have MANY opportunities to observe the wonders of Mother Nature. I have not been disappointed thus far with the opportunities in my backyard, but as someone mentioned in another post, you really can't go wrong with living anywhere near Republican County :)

It also helps that I make it back to Ness and the in-law's place in eastern Colorado quite a bit during the season. Those are two places that certainly provide their share of "opportunity chases"!!

For all those marathon chasers out there, enjoy it, have fun with it, and we'll see you in my backyard or along I-70 :wink:

Tim
 
I too live in Jackson and chase every chance I get. My job does not allow me to take a lot of time off and I don't get to go on most good chases. When I do, I have several obsticles in the way. First, the wife. Since I don't get much time off, she wants me to spend it with her when I do and doesn't really like me hitting the road. A typical trip for me is leaving on Monday afternoon...driving all day and night...getting close to the target area...getting a hotel to sleep in for a few hours...driving the rest of the way...Chasing and then turning around and driving back. If I'm lucky, I get to chase for a few days, but most of the time it's about two...

This year, I left last Wedenesay. This was the first chance I got to chase all year long...Drove from Jackson to Memphis. Met up with some chase buddies from Alabama. We left Memphis at 7pm..drove across Arkansas and made it to Ponca City around 2am and got a hotel and slept for 5 hours. Got up, looked at the data, headed west to DDC...Got there by 2PM, only to watch puffy cumulus and not TCU's...Finally a storm developed to the south, went tornadic in a hurry...By the time we made it...Yep, it crapped out. It turned out to be a cap bust day. I had to be back on Friday...SO we left around 8PM and I made it back to Jackson by 11am the next day. Whew...all that for nothing, but I'm sure there will be another trip like this at some point....Not to mention how much money it cost to go on a quick trip like this. It's still fun getting to spend time with friends I only get to see this one time of they year..
 
Mike, I feel for you and I wish you could get out more often. I think this is a very personal question, though. I left straight from work on Friday of last week and drove over 1500+ only to end up busting. It was expensive, it took my weekend from me, but I can't be too bitter about it. (I also can't bring myself to say it was worth it.) This weekend looks like another opportunity. Will I go? Maybe. You chase when you can and you don't when you can't. Being in a situation where you can't chase very far or often, I think you shoudl relish every chance you get? You have to be more judicious about when you go, but when you do go, enjoy it - no matter what happens. At the end of the day, whether the chase was worth it or not depends entirely on how you look at it.


Ben
 
Originally posted by Jerry Funfsinn
Have storms will travel.

Same here. Since there's rarely anything decent to see here around STL I have to travel quite a ways to get good storms. I think they're worth it.
 
Mike, I know what you mean. Michigan is beautiful and I love this state, but stormchasing country it isn't. Living here and dealing with the responsibilities of life can make it hard to get any decent and consistent field experience. My job permits me flexibility in theory and is generous with vacation time, but the reality of my work is such that it's hard for me to take time off. It would be even harder if I had a parent to care for, as you do. For you, moving to the Great Plains might be a viable solution, and if you pursue it, I wish you well. For me--well, I just have to do my best to manage with what I've got. That makes me more opportunistic than proactive, though I'm willing to log 700 miles if conditions look promising, and farther if I can break away for a 2- or 3-day excursion. A few weeks back my buddy and I racked up 1,800 miles in two days and came back emptyhanded. Two or three times a season of that is okay, but I just can't afford to do it regularly--it's a strain on the wallet and the nerves. But them's the breaks when you live outside the alley.
 
A few weeks back my buddy and I racked up 1,800 miles in two days and came back emptyhanded.

I did 4200 miles in 10 days and I thought I had done a lot of driving!
My first experience of chasing in USA and thought the Panhandle/New Mexico offered the best chasing. 26th May to 5th June. :)
 
I drove over 15,000 miles in the Plains in 2003, four separate trips from WV and back, and saw absolutely nothing. No tornadoes, no supercells, no structure, no good lightning.

2004 was the exact opposite, and the catches last year made me forget about 2003.

Success in storm chasing requires persistence and a willingness to get yourself there time and time again until you are rewarded. There's no other way to do it.
 
Yeah, it is rough driving all those miles just to see storms. I have it even worse then you, Mike, I live an extra 2HRS east of where you live. I basically chased in MI only in my first year of chasing in 2002, then I continued southwestward, with traveling to IL in 2003, and by 2004 I was going to MO/IA occasionally. Now, this year, I have been on the Plains practically the whole season, and it is totally worth the drive to get away from the constant crap I had to chase up back in MI...

I think your moving out of MI soon, just like me, right?

Make the drives when it calls for it, it may not always pay off, but when it does - it only feels even sweeter!
 
Traveling long distances, is it worth it?

I also think it is worth it to drive long distances to see good storms, I have seen tornados/very large hail in both Nebraska and Missouri this year and no tornados in Iowa so far, I'll definitely be doing more long distance traveling again very soon.
 
I think it is worth the drive to see good storms. Like so many of you, I'm a good distance away from supercells you can actually see. My chase vacation was 7 days and I put 4200 miles on my new Xterra. I doubled the miles on it!

I try and get away to chase whenever I can. We just bought a house so that might cut into my chasing a bit.
 
I live in central Oklahoma, so I can fully understand what it's like to drive long distances for chases. It's one thing when you live on the Coast or the Midwest, but when you live in the Plains and still find yourself averaging over 500 miles a chase, it gets a little annoying.

But is it worth it? HELL YEAH
 
I too live in Central OK. Whether or not it is worth it to chase long distances...Well for the most part that depends on what you have at the end of the day.

I have chase a few times distances greater than 1200 miles to come up with nothing. Those are the types of days when it is frustrating and you think about retiring from storm chasing because you spent so much on gas and you had bad luck.

On the other hand, there have been days when I chased distances greater than 1000 miles and would do it again in a heart beat. The key is to make sure that if you are going to chase that far away, that you are confident that tornadoes will occur. This does not mean that you should chase only days with a High Risk, (as many remember the infamous June 24th, 2003 Manchester SD tornado was on a Mod Risk that was not even hatched) but you should make sure that you are confident in your personal forecast.

I do envy you guys in MI that chase the storms in the Midwest. That is definitely a long drive, I have done it before.
 
Speaking of it is worth it or not. I was dressed and packed and leaving at 4am this morning for Colby Kansas. Due to other plans coming up I delayed the trip for another day. Laughed like an idiot as I watched the radar this afternoon commenting about the chasers dream of a slow moving supercell producing numerous tornadoes in NW KS. Yeah I definitely would have been there but such is the life of a chaser. Those 10 hr leeway drives suck sometimes.
Jerry Funfsinn
 
Short finances, old car, lower standards

Irregular employment, saving for school this fall and an older car have conspired to keep me close to home.

But two days ago I enjoyed watching a cumulus cloud develop into a large thunderstorm with three rain shafts and CG lightning on an unplanned interception along I-65 that started south of Rensselaer and ended in my driveway. Then yesterday I rounded another garden-variety storm/shower in an arc from Cedar Lake, IN to Grant Park, IL to Momence to Roselawn, IN (just to see two beautiful growing Cb and a gust front four miles from my front door on the way back!)
 
I've done roughly 3200 miles this year for chasing, the bulk of that was for the week long trip to the plains at the end of May. It's too far to do all the time, but I make a vacation of it and have alternative activities planned if I bust... this year I made a point of seeing parts of Colorado I hadn't visited before.

As for the rest of the year I simply wait for something closer to home to show up.. which isn't often! 8)
 
After seeing all those miles you guys put on your vehicles...Thank God I live in Amarillo!!! :D
 
Last year, between my vehicle and Graham's we logged right at 50,000 miles on the plains. A few days we were running both vehicles together, but most days that was done in one vehicle, anywhere from Texas to Iowa and everything in between.

Even local chases, it's not uncommon to log 300+ miles or more.

Is it worth it? 21 tornadoes last year and expriences and images of a lifetime tells me it is. 8)
 
It is easily a four hour drive from Albuquerque to anywhere remotely stormy (for lack of a better word), even Carlsbad. If you take I40 east, after about four hours, you'll hit Amarillo and you can just go from there. But if I wanted to actually catch anything, I'd have to be up very early to get a move on. Would I do it? Heck yeah. :) Longest chase I've done thus far was from Norman OK to DDC to GCK (taking the scenic route) and back...about 14 hours and 800ish miles. It was totally worth it, though. One of the most electric storms I've ever seen. Completely amazing.

Sarah
 
I once made an 1800 mile round trip for a bust once. While I don't like to do that often, it was well worth it! I love the road trips!

Last year, I logged over 15,000 miles and figure to do the same if not more this year. I also figure on logging another 1,000 miles starting tomorrow for the venture into extreme Southern Kansas and likely beyond... ya damn right its worth it! :D
 
All those long drives end up making you appreciate the pay off all the more IMO. I hate being stuck in the car for 20 hours just as much as the next guy, but it comes with the territory. It really gets bad after several days in a row. If you want to see tornadoes though, you have to go where they are. I think it just boils down to how dedicated you are to storm chasing. If it is just a hobby, then you probably aren't willing to drive very far from home. For those of us who have crossed another line, storm chasing is an obsession and no distance is too far. The longest bust for me was Saint Cloud Minnesota. It sucked pretty bad, but I don't regret it.
 
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