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Hey! Why is the beginner posting in the advanced section?

So, you really wanted to know? Well, it's a long story. But we aren't in the middle of spring, so I hope you will stick around for it. Now, before I begin, I want to mention that this is my very first post on the STORMTRACK forum, and I intend to make it a good one. I have quite a few questions and subjects I would like to bring up with you seasoned chasers. But, my basic reasons for posting are twofold: 1) I would like to hear your advice on a number of different issues 2) I am interested in finding a person to chase with. Now, I will number my entries so in case you decide to reply to me you can just title what you are going to say with a 1, 2, or whatever, and I will already know what you are responding to.

1. First things first... a little bio, right? Currently, I live in the great state of Oklahoma. I'm 26, and I just moved here about 4 months ago with my wife. I came from Madison, WI where I was getting my degree in English Education. During my 4 years of living in Wisconsin I got my pilots license, a teaching degree, some sailing experience, and I dabbled in chasing when I could. Slim pickins in Wisconsin let me tell ya. As you can see from my background I have needed a bit of weather knowledge (flying, sailing, chasing, have all demanded it). However, I consider myself a neophyte, a beginner, a novice. Before moving to Madison I lived briefly in Tulsa OK for about 2 years. I chased when I could, but again, I knew nothing. Now, I am a teacher which is excellent for not only my professional life but also my chasing life. I usually leave around 3:30 pm. I have weekends totally off, and I am done teaching in the middle of May. So, I will basically get paid to chase for the rest of the summer!

2. I plan on living in Tulsa OK for quite a few years, and I want to chase every season I get the chance. I absolutely love chasing. I enjoy every aspect. To see the awesome power of the storm and its shear size and beauty is extraordinary. So, I want to chase as often as possible but, I want to become a savvy chaser, not a "yahoo." In this pursuit I require two things: knowledge and guidance. I am currently working on the knowledge part. I have Tim's "Storm Chasing Handbook" and I've been perusing the forum here. But, this is what I want to know from you: the experienced chaser. What should I learn and focus on if I just want to chase? For instance, I have seen all of Tim's books on his site, and I wonder if I need them. Do I really need to become a forecaster to be a successful chaser (This question is not rhetorical)? I mean, I want to be smart about this. Tornadoes and chasing storms in general really interests me. But, how far do I need to go? Here is the reason I ask: I will go as far as I need to.

3. So, I plan on using the time from now until spring to study intensively. But, there is still one part that needs to be addressed, and here I will refer to the wisdom of Tim Vasquez. In the disclaimer of "Storm Chasing Handbook" Tim states, "Storm chasing is a dangerous activity. The information presented throughout this book is not complete and may contain errors or inaccuracies. IT IS NOT A SUBSITUTE FOR EDUCATING YOURSELF USING OTHER RESOURCES AND RECEIVING MENTORING FROM AN EXPERIENCED STORM CHASER" (emphasis added). So, I am looking for someone (or many people, I don't mind changing hands throughout the chase season) that I can go on chases with and learn from. That's why I propose that I would be willing to pay for a significant part of the gas bill as an incentive. So you understand my goals for chasing, I would like to mention that I am interested in tornado chasing. I love storms, but in order for me to get in my car and drive a few hundred miles, a tornado needs to be at least a slight possibility. My primary goal is therefore twofold: 1) see some epic tornadoes/storms 2) learn as much as possible.

4. I was considering resurrecting this post when it gets closer to chase season in order to get a larger audience. Would there actually be a larger audience, or does everyone keep up with the site throughout the off season?
 
David, it seems that you have a good head on your shoulders. It seems that not only do you want to learn about storms, you also want to do it safely. That's a very good thing. I'm sure you will have no problem finding someone to tag along with next spring. I live in Amarillo, but if I was closer, I wouldn't have a problem taking you along. I actually need a chase partner next spring. Study and learn all you can about storms and everything else will fall in place. If you ever have any questions, please feel free to PM me and I will help you the best I know how. Good luck with everything....

EDIT: With this being your first post, welcome to the forum!
 
Welcome to ST! Let me give you some friendly advice, if you are setting out with the mindset of being exclusively a tornado chaser, you're setting yourself up for massive disappointment. Generally, the odds of seeing a tornado on any given chase are low. Now, this was just a few years ago (2001-2003 time frame) when mobile internet was a pipe dream, but someone once posted on here the odds were somewhere around 1 scoring chase for every 10 chase days.

Of course, anyone on this forum that has known me for any length of time knows that I am definitely NOT one to talk about seeing tornadoes. I've gained plenty of notoriety for my bad luck. I think my calling is to be sitting in front a radar, but it hasn't really stopped me yet! If I still lived in Tulsa, I'd definitely talk to you about going chasing sometime.

Again, good luck and welcome to the forum!
 
if you are setting out with the mindset of being exclusively a tornado chaser, you're setting yourself up for massive disappointment.

I disagree. Being a tornado chaser doesn't mean you're setting yourself up for disappointment, it just means you're setting your standards for what is "success" higher. I enjoy all aspects of chasing, but just because I enjoy the chase doesn't mean it was successful. Anything less than a tornado I consider a bust, yet a bust is still something I get great pleasure from. Being a chaser is awesome, win or lose. So don't be discouraged from chasing the tornado just because the odds are stacked a bit more.
 
Welcome to the forum, David!

IMO, there's a lot of really cool stuff you can see on a chase, even if it's not a tornado. Tornadoes are harder to find and that is usually what most chasers hope to catch, but I don't think you'll be disappointed. I think the alley is an amazing place! Like Shane, I think chasing by itself is fun. Especially with a bunch of friends, and getting a sore belly from laughing too hard at times.
 
Honestly, I never go chasing just to see a tornado. I like all aspects of chasing from the forecasting on up. The tornado is really just icing on the cake for me.

Everyone chases for different reasons which is a good thing.
 
Do I really need to become a forecaster to be a successful chaser (This question is not rhetorical)? I mean, I want to be smart about this. Tornadoes and chasing storms in general really interests me. But, how far do I need to go? Here is the reason I ask: I will go as far as I need to.

IMO the best chasers are those who can forecast on two different levels. I consider there to be two broad types of forecasting, "pre-storm" and "leading right up to and after initiation". The most successful chasers will be good at both, and if you want to excel, I would suggest learning how to do both. Though I think it's getting easier and easier for folks to do OK without being able to "pre-storm" forecast, internet forums (such as ST), SPC, NWS's, and blogs are all making it so someone who is unable to forecast, can essentially "steal" (for lack of a better term) others forecasts. Though IMO to have any success in chasing, rather or not you "steal" pre-storm forecasts, you MUST be able to forecast for yourself once its the time leading right up to initiation and after initiation to be successful. You have to be able to recognize by observing storms, what move to make next, rather it be to change storms, position in a different location on the storm, and MANY MANY other storm specific details. IMO this is what separates the normal run of the mill chasers, from the absolute best in the business. I'm not sure most of this aspect of forecasting can be learned from a textbook; I think a trial and error learning approach is likely the best method. I personally have surrounded myself by the absolute best, and through observing and then my own trial and error I have learned a ton, and the best part is, the learning NEVER stops.
 
Welcome to the forum David.

I do most of my chasing in Idaho which limits me to mostly general thunderstorms, occasional severe and sometimes even a tornado in the mix. I have had luck with some of the big storms here in capturing wall clouds, shelf clouds and several other cloud structures. What I have done in the years is expanded my photography to include lightning, cloud structure, winter and even wind storms. I even do panorama and experiment with nature, firework and wildfire photography. My best advice is learn as much as you can about photography, storm structure and dont limit yourself to one or two aspects. Go for it all.

I do plan to chase the plains eventually and wont mind a bust if thats the case. I love every aspect of each thunderstorm and take advantage of all thats to offer such as lightning, microbursts, storm base before, during and after, the towers going up, the overshooting tops, you name it. I typically end up with at least 50 photos from each storm I chase or watch from my backyard.

If you have a passion for weather which I see you do then each chase or storm from your house will be an experience you can always remember and the more footage you have the better.

As for the forum, its always busy. If its busier during chase season then the posts are mostly reports and discussions and forecast in the field. Pretty soon the typical Storm deprivation syndrome posts will start showing up and before we know it chase season 2009 will be upon us.

Best of luck on your pursuit of the best passion in the world. The weather,.
 
I guess I should answer this one.

For instance, I have seen all of Tim's books on his site, and I wonder if I need them. Do I really need to become a forecaster to be a successful chaser (This question is not rhetorical)?

You can theoretically be a successful chaser without forecasting if you are shrewd with monitoring resources like Target Area here. But it's kind of like buying your way into the hobby -- it's questionable what you really get out of it, and doesn't offer much room in itself for developing and learning, and pursuing the noble course of scientific method as a route to the storm, which in itself adds some fragment to the overall body of knowledge when you converse with others about your chase.

As far my own books go, they're not necessarily required. They will help (perhaps mostly the Weather Forecasting Handbook if you're just needing a beginning framework for forecasting) but I'd say the most beneficial thing you can do is scour the Internet every day and just read, like at the NWS Paducah severe weather site (they've got tons of material) and Doswell's writings. Try to follow up on some of the cited papers using the ams.allenpress.com interface. Personally I suggest finding a particular specialty area of severe weather you have an interest in (i.e. hail) and as you satiate your curiosity you'll find yourself getting more comfortable with technical terms, getting a better idea of what out there is palatable for your skill level, and branching into some of the more general areas of severe weather forecasting.

Tim
 
Welcome!

Interesting what people consider a bust or a success. Chasing for me is all about the voltage, everything else is bonus.

Here's my scale-

Sheet lightning: Okay, I'd give it a 3, beats blue sky.
Cloud to air: Getting better, grabs keys
Pulse convective: Excitement builds, coffee is brewing
Electrified MCS in the Plains: Excellent catch for hours (while monitoring severe)
Frequent to constant CG over desert or mountain wilderness = score. Bed will not be slept in.
Frequent to constant CG over desert or mountain wilderness, combined with moon, lake, Indian ruin or the like = grail.

Tornado, microburst, haboob = bonus.

Funny how different we all are:)

Advice for fun:
1. The only guarantee is the unexpected, which will happen 100% of the time.

2. Storms, contrary to popular belief, are fully aware they are being chased by photographers. To increase chance of desired result, sass the storm and tell it you are bored and leaving. To coax big lightning or tornado, place cameras in the back seat inside case, start engine.

3. New insect species can be discovered nightly by leaving dome light on and car door open for extended periods of time while photographing in the wilderness.

4. International protocol rule #12A. While traveling the globe, cordial conversationalists avoid politics, religion, discussions of communism, socialism and capitalism, and lightbars.

5. All chasers at some point will experience involuntary vocal spasms on video. A giant "SWEET!" is nothing to be ashamed of. Speech therapy is not needed unless "Twister" quotes become rampant.

6. That really is a 120-ft cross in Groom.

7. There really is a yellow brick road in Liberal. Follow it, and Dorothy will come to the door.

8. There is something a little off about people who keep hailstones in freezers. But hey, we never promised normal, did we.

9. Long essays about Chaser Safety on WX-Chase and Stormtrack are simply the result of Supercell Deprivation and occur annually like church picnics. Nothing to be alarmed about, winter will pass.

Welcome aboard! =)
 
Of course living in Tulsa, you may not have to look very far to see a twister!
 
I think you have the right attitude about this... There are many things you can do between now and the season. Search the web pages of the chasers. Many have excellent blogs about how they approached a storm and what forecasting decisions they made. Watch video... I don't care which location you go to but there are thousands of videos out there. Concentrate on where the chaser is, what angle they are at in relationship to the storm, and how they move with the storm. I don't suggest being too aggressive at first. there is no joy in getting "into" the tornado --- that's stupid. One bad move and it's all over for you. Respect the storms; they are bigger than us. And one thing you must learn is patience (a very hard lesson). Develop confidence in your ability to forecast and stick with it. Still, you need to learn when to break off a certain storm and go for something else.... This comes with experience and sometimes it means "getting lucky" :)

Something else you can try on your own is on a non-severe day in February just go out there and chase a regular storm if it's in the area. Get a feel for storm motion, how it relates to upper-air maps and the models. Watch storms on radar (a biggie in my opinion). Plot maps even on snow days so you get a feel for what all those symbols means. And another thing: Learn your area. Learn the Counties and cities as best you can. You don't want to waste time in the field looking for where Arnett or Clearwater are. Get a general idea of the places you'll be chasing in. I always forget where "Four way" is but pick up a map one day in February and look it over. Learn the roads. Everyone uses GPS these days but I still carry maps... :(

There are so many things you can do learn. Reading is good but try to get even the slightest bit of experience is good so it's not all new to you on April 4th next year.

And here's just a personal request: Seeing a tornado is great but act like you have been there before. Just a pet peeve.... Good video is even better if you're not cursing too much or screaming with complete joy as houses are hit. Again, I'm an older guy, it's my taste... You want to celebrate, fine, but wait until after it's over and you're having your victory steaks at 10:00 p.m. :D
 
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Thanks Susan for the plug! :) Yes, SDS can be pretty debilitating in the off-season. Be sure to have a good supply of chase video on hand during the winter months. Renting "Twister" will suffice in a pinch...especially if you like Helen Hunt. [heart thumping] Avoid other movies like "Night Of The Twister" or "Atmoic Twister" as they may result in permanent damage.

Anyway David, welcome to the asylum, as Shane Adams says. Oh, and as Susan pointed out, try and avoid political and religious discussions online...such as lightbars. ;-)

Regards,
Dr. SDS
 
Wow! Thanks for the warm welcoming. I can tell that I am going to like it around here. Thanks for the advice all. I do realize that I have a lot of work ahead, but I am going to do as much research as i can before the season begins.
 
I disagree. Being a tornado chaser doesn't mean you're setting yourself up for disappointment, it just means you're setting your standards for what is "success" higher. I enjoy all aspects of chasing, but just because I enjoy the chase doesn't mean it was successful. Anything less than a tornado I consider a bust, yet a bust is still something I get great pleasure from. Being a chaser is awesome, win or lose. So don't be discouraged from chasing the tornado just because the odds are stacked a bit more.

Well, I'm sort of the same mindset, Shane. It's really all about what you consider a bust and how you handle one. I started out wanting to see a tornado every time I chase. After my first season, my definition of a bust changed. Now, I only consider a chase a failure if I bust with a clear sky, or I fail to learn something from my mistakes.

I just want to make sure that anyone getting involved in chasing knows exactly what they are getting themselves into. I hate to see people take up something that interests them, and then give up because they don't obtain instant results.

To be honest, I'm not sure I would enjoy chasing if I didn't suffer from my bad luck. My failures and let-downs keep me coming back for more. I'm a glutton for punishment. It's probably the same reason I keep playing golf even though I'm terrible.
 
Well, I'm sort of the same mindset, Shane. It's really all about what you consider a bust and how you handle one. I started out wanting to see a tornado every time I chase. After my first season, my definition of a bust changed. Now, I only consider a chase a failure if I bust with a clear sky, or I fail to learn something from my mistakes.

I just want to make sure that anyone getting involved in chasing knows exactly what they are getting themselves into. I hate to see people take up something that interests them, and then give up because they don't obtain instant results.

To be honest, I'm not sure I would enjoy chasing if I didn't suffer from my bad luck. My failures and let-downs keep me coming back for more. I'm a glutton for punishment. It's probably the same reason I keep playing golf even though I'm terrible.

I'm the same way Chris. I think failure keeps me coming back for more. If we got a tornado on every chase, it would soon become boring. I like it to be challenging.

Like yourself, I define a bust as having clear skies the entire chase. It doesn't happen too often, but it has and hopefully I learned from it.

By the way, we need to get together and go golfing next spring or summer. I'm no good either, but it's fun to take my frustration out on a little white ball!
 
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