how early do you get to your target? and your biggest Uh Oh?

I am really getting spring fever now that we've been blasted with snow. I noticed in the resolution thread that alot of you want to hit your targets earlier. So my questions to you are: On average how much wait time do you experience before initiation? How much wait time do you suggest? And what are the reasons that slow you down? I know work will be number one.

My biggest Uh Oh was:
We made it to Sioux City Iowa, at noon on 05/28/04. Looked at data, and just didnt' think the marginal instability would be enough with the shear they had. So we decided to drive back south and get in early to rest for the next day. Lesson learned was, your there with nothing else going on, wait it out and save the driving for the overnight.
 
I think it all depends on the situation. I'm currently out of Norman, OK, so if the target is Clinton, OK, which is relatively close, I'm not going to worry about making sure I'm at my target a few hours early. On the other hand, if I'm aiming for northwestern Kansas, I'll count on arriving at the target a couple to a few hours before I think initation will occur. This gives me time to readjust if I need to change my target based upon new data, etc. So essentially, if it's a close target, I don't worry about arriving too early; if the target is a relatively long distance away, I'll leave early enough such that I can arrive at my target 2-3 hours before I think initiation will occur. And if I'm in doubt? ALWAYS LEAVE EARLY! Better to sit in the middle of Kansas throwing a frisby around for a few hours than kicking yourself for missing an early tornado!
 
Yes, we will definitely be leaving for our targets earlier this year. Well, I've only had the pleasure to be chasing in the Upper Midwest for the past four years, and trust me it's absolutely no picnic most of the time.

May 30th 2004 was my biggest uh-oh of my chasing career so far. A wedge tornado was on the ground for around 30+ minuites in Indianapolis, and we missed the show by around fifteen minuites or so. We left at 1pm simply because we thought supercells would be smashing into the Fort Wayne area also, so there was no rush. But a good lesson learned was: it's never to early to leave for your target... ever.

I also sat and waited in northern Indiana/S. Michigan on May 8th 04 for around five hours for initiation to occur. Nothing happened except a few dime-hailer storms that were hard to get to before they weakened.

..Nick..
 
Not to disagree with Nick, but do be careful about leaving a little too early. I believe it was May 23. We left super early (7am which is early for an in state chase and a college student :wink:) for a target in a western IL. We were out in the boonies and didn't have data so we hung around for several hours waiting for initiation. Our biggest uh oh, the boundary had passed overhead and we didn't even realize it until after a supercell went tornadic over Bloomington. We were too far west to catch up to the storm which dropped an F3 that crossed I-55. Anyway this is more of a newb's mistake then leaving too early. Arrive early and keep on top of the situation instead of running out the door after the storms have fired.
 
Putting other obligations aside, I guess "looking at data" would be the top obstacle to leaving for a target in a timely manner. If you're at home and the chase is within 150 miles, then it's not so much of an issue. You can leave around lunchtime and make initiation no problem, particularly if you live east of where you expect storms to fire.

If you're on the road, then, to use a football term, it's more about down and distance. How far away are you and what time is initiation? In an ideal situation, which happens less than one-third of the time in my experience, you stick around the house/motel and do your forecasting up until the 1630Z SWODY1. By 1630, the trends of the morning have become clear, enough visible satellite frames are available to loop, and the situation is generally unfolding. Then, you compare your work with SPC, and leave.

If you can be in your target area by 20Z, then you're all set for another analysis of your own, compare it with SPC and/or local offices (if you want), and make adjustments. Those are nice intervals to use, I've found, and probably the reason that SPC chooses them for outlooks. If you have a chase partner and nonstop data, you could analyze constantly, I guess.

By 20Z, you can often get a fix on mesoscale features that will come into play, and might have a good idea about the arrival of upper level support, cap strength, and other factors. You can also begin to sniff a bust if cu fields are disappearing or surface winds have veered and brought drier air into the target area, among other calamities. When this happens, I grow more hesitant about driving around wasting gas. There are dozens of scenarios; I'm not trying to be comprehensive.

So my long-winded answer to your question is that I like to be in my target area by 20Z, even if it means a three hour or more wait for initiation. I prefer to be outside, parked at some rural gravel intersection and watching a boundary than in front of a computer. That's how I know it's chase season and not January, when I'm doing this....LOL.
 
I am about like Amos. I will wait for the 1630z if possible but there are times it will be a 4 hr+ drive and I like to be in target area by 1930 at the latest and just have to try and get SPC and meso updates via cell modem on the fly (or a nice WiFi hotspot). I have been burned too many times over the years by being "15 minutes late" and missing something or playing catchup all day trying to skirt around an HP.

That being said I wait until the last minute that I can reach my target by 1930z. Every extra minute gives me more data and can make or break the chase. Ofcourse there are exceptions when you know it will be a day when it breaks out at 1800z or earlier (hate those days) and data be damned. dont be late.
 
Have to agree with the 2 hour thinking. Getting to the area maybe 2 hours before the show gives you time to fill up the gas tank (you really can't do this too much), maybe check some data if available, etc.

Not to mention, it's actually kind of entertaining (while waiting) to get on the radio and see who is nearby. Seems like somebody I know is always a mile down the road somewhere.
 
My biggest Uh Oh was:
We made it to Sioux City Iowa, at noon on 05/28/04. Looked at data, and just didnt' think the marginal instability would be enough with the shear they had. So we decided to drive back south and get in early to rest for the next day. Lesson learned was, your there with nothing else going on, wait it out and save the driving for the overnight.

Yeah that is an ouch, if one likes structure. I'm bad about leaving my place early and it got me a few times in 04. Other times though it can help you. August 26, 04 waiting and waiting here probably helped as I wanted to go ne and ended up going se when that storm popped up. I always try and guess so that I have as little sit around time as possible as I really don't like it. Anymore though, I just leave a little early and hop around to different libraries narrowing it down as I go.

My biggest oops was June 11, 04 in nw IA. I thought I was leaving plenty early but was wrong. I left eastern NE around noon and was only going to an area west of Ft. Dodge Iowa. Well, I only got the end of a the big NICE tornado at Webb IA . It was on the ground at like 2 pm I think. All I would of had to have done was leave just 30 minutes earlier and I'd of had one of the years top tornadoes in an area of nice road networks.

http://www.silverliningtours.com/silver2/2.../2004June11.htm

When I see this segment of the video I want to(and do) cry.

[Broken External Image]:http://www.silverliningtours.com/silver2/2004Tour4/webb15.jpg

I will play that the morning of every chase in 2005. It slowly crosses that road and then re-intensifies. You could of driven up and had a conversation with the thing while it was crossing there. The lighting as it does so is just incredible. Sigh.
 
When out west, and living out of hotels, we always try to be out the door by 9 or no later than 10 am. That gives us time to get to our target, re-evaluate if need be, and maybe have a somewhat leisurely lunch before the action gets going.

As far as biggest mistakes, a lesson we learned by May 24th, is not to jump the gun. We bit early on May 22nd on some tornado warned junk near the Platte River, leaving the Hy Vee we were stationed at on the south side of Lincoln, but fortunately we got back south in time to get some very dark video of the Hallam wedge.
 
I got burnt enough times in 2003 being late that I refused to let it happen in 2004. I tried to be at my target at least 2 or 3 hours before initiation. I didn't have wifi this year, so I always made sure I had plenty of time to track down a library in my target area with a couple of hours extra to move if I needed to.
 
Q

I usually leave late from home and race at high speeds to get to a target area. The downside is that I miss the early stages of an event when the most photogenic LP tornadoes are dropping, but there is a huge upside - I don't have to sit under a sunny sky waiting. I like to have a growing cell on the horizon to be racing towards and make adjustments on the way there. 8)
 
I agree with the other users. It's also good to make quick stops on the way to get information updates. This may or may not be plausible if you have a wireless antenna or celluar internet. About half of the time I will decide to make alterations to the orignal course. 2 Hours is always a good bet. It's also good to be extra patient. I've made mistakes in this regard, several times and missed out on some incredible tornadoes. But of course, you already know this- I was speeding towards Sioux City from Yankton.
 
Assuming I can't be on the road for days at a time, I typically leave the night before a forecasted event. Being in Denver, I typically have to make a haul to get to areas such as the Texas/Oklahoma panhandles, eastern Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, etc. I happily invite a short night's sleep in the backseat of my car in order to cut down on the amount of driving I have to do the next day.

For instance, on May 15, 2003, I left my house in Denver at 5am to arrive in the TX Panhandle for a 2-tornado day in Stratford, TX, only to circle back around to pull into my driveway at 2:30a (21.5 hours later). Although it makes for a great chase story to say you covered just shy of 1000 miles in nearly 22 hours, that was a lucky day. I would've much preferred the 4-hour catnap and awakened with the sun in the morning to see that I'm going to arrive at the target area a couple hours earlier as opposed to pulling up as things are kicking off.

Last year, my marathon trips started the night before, usually driving til midnight/2am, crashing out, then waking with the sun between 6 and 8 the next morning. Not only does this aid me in driving the day of the chase (cutting 200 or more miles off the entire day), but I can usually get more up-to-date data form the road as opposed to relying on something I saw on my way out the door at 5am. It gives me more time to play with essentially.

Basically, to sum my answer, I like to have a couple hours to play with for whatever reason, be it get more data, eat a good lunch, cut off marathon mileage in a day, etc. I enjoy all my time in the field, whether beneath a meso or clear skies. And as much as I enjoy driving and road trips, I don't know how many times I'd like to pack 1000 miles in a 24 hour period.

My biggest oops, May 10, 2004. On the Saturday before (May 8 ), I was targeting the DCVZ for the 10th. The day of the 10th, I took a look at things after my final and bailed on my DCVZ target for what SPC had as more favorable tornado conditions along the CO/WY border. One thing those of us in Colorado KNOW is not to bail on the DCVZ when NWS-Denver is eyeing it for a lightup. Well, the hailstorm was nice, but the 7 tornadoes near Cedar Point would've been much better.
 
Varies. I used to get out hours before an event started, thinking that would give me more time to make adjustments if my target was off. Actually that just gave me more time to screw myself out of my initial plans. Then I tried timing it so I would get there just as the action started; of course I was late on some events and missed out, so scrap this plan too. Nowadays, I like to give myself roughly a 1-2 cushion before initiation, from the time I arrive at my target.
 
the boundary had passed overhead and we didn't even realize it until after a supercell went tornadic over Bloomington. We were too far west to catch up to the storm which dropped an F3 that crossed I-55. Anyway this is more of a newb's mistake then leaving too early. Arrive early and keep on top of the situation instead of running out the door after the storms have fired. -Skip

Yeah data is nice to have out in the boonies. But I was on the bloomington tornado from the start to finish. It touched down b/w I-37 and I-55. South of Highway 24 a few miles south of Gridely IL. It crossed north of 24 about 4 miles west of I-55 and never crossed I-55 It was only rated F2 but a high F2. Ripped the roof off a house Near Chenoa and at 250 yards wide and then i watched it rope out. you can look at my pics on my website.

Any way Its good to get an early start. This last year i noticed some times multiple target area choices that all produced on that same day. With me i gotta stick to my original target and not leave it misssed a few wedge tornadoes because of it. but if you have mixed feelings about two possible target areas such as June 12th 2004. I left MO at about 7 am and headed to Emporia KS, that way if i had to i could jet wither north or south, I sat at a truck stop for four hours and monitored the storms in NE. and didnt feel comfortable with that area as it became HP dominated very sloppy. I swung south and met up with Keith minor sitting on 160 and we watched the cell go from high based to surface based tornadic. Both 23rd and the 12th were very memorable days.
 
I'm envious Kurt. Of course I got all my facts wrong... as usual. We busted hard that day and went for the mammatus consolation prize. Adding insult to injury. My nonchase friend spotted that tornado from I-55, driving home from school. "It was huge! Dozens of professional storm chasers were pulled over taking pictures of it!" What a slap in the face. Anyway, I'm glad I finally found one of the "dozens." Nice pictures, the rope stage is always the most pretty in my opinion.
 
I didn't see the "biggst uh oh" part of the thread....

May 22 last year. Our target was dead-on, and we sat there over three hours waiting. Then storms started firing all around us, several miles away, and I was beginning to think we were standing around missing a major outbreak, so we bailed at the last minute and raced west towards a storm an hour west of us. Just as we reached it, we looked back east (for the first time) and saw a nuclear bomb going off - right where we'd been all day. The storm that eventually produced the Daykin & Hallam tornadoes developed 20 miles south of where we'd been all day.

The storm we eventually caught further west produced photogenic tornadoes before we got to it, but only managed a weak, brief tornado for us. Hardly a "great" day during a major outbreak.
 
I missed the 'uh oh' part as well.

I had a lot of 'uh-ohs' so I'll pick my favorite: May 24th. Started in southern Nebraska, as usual, and witnessed the birth of the supercell that eventually produced the Albany, Missouri tornado. But on its way to that fame and fortune, it took a dump near the Missouri border--looked awful both visually and on radar, then the tornado warning was dropped.

That sequence of degradation, along with heading into the trees and hills (confirmed by three Missouri residents caravaning with me) fit all the criteria for abandoning a storm. So we left it and raced back west to the Republic County, Kansas storm which had been producing multiple tornadoes, a trapeeze act, and a monkey who could read Joyce through a megaphone.

We put a stop to that.

As soon as we arrived, the storm produced one last meager midlevel funnel and became post-FROPA elevated with a big sign hung under the RFB: "You should have seen me an hour ago. Wow."

So, we raced to Topeka, where new storms were firing, and some inside information alleged that the SPC was VERY concerned about convection in that area, with a combination of good instability and mammoth SRH values. They produced all right, but well before we arrived, and were solidly HP mushbomb material by the time we had them in our viewfinders.

I stopped answering on the radio and drove south, without a destination--frustrated beyond belief--and thinking I could make Mexico by morning and assume an alias to avoid the shame and infamy of May 24th, 2004.
 
I missed the 'uh oh' part as well.

I had a lot of 'uh-ohs' so I'll pick my favorite: May 24th. Started in southern Nebraska, as usual, and witnessed the birth of the supercell that eventually produced the Albany, Missouri tornado. But on its way to that fame and fortune, it took a dump near the Missouri border--looked awful both visually and on radar, then the tornado warning was dropped.

That sequence of degradation, along with heading into the trees and hills (confirmed by three Missouri residents caravaning with me) fit all the criteria for abandoning a storm. So we left it and raced back west to the Republic County, Kansas storm which had been producing multiple tornadoes, a trapeeze act, and a monkey who could read Joyce through a megaphone.

We put a stop to that.

As soon as we arrived, the storm produced one last meager midlevel funnel and became post-FROPA elevated with a big sign hung under the RFB: "You should have seen me an hour ago. Wow."

So, we raced to Topeka, where new storms were firing, and some inside information alleged that the SPC was VERY concerned about convection in that area, with a combination of good instability and mammoth SRH values. They produced all right, but well before we arrived, and were solidly HP mushbomb material by the time we had them in our viewfinders.

I stopped answering on the radio and drove south, without a destination--frustrated beyond belief--and thinking I could make Mexico by morning and assume an alias to avoid the shame and infamy of May 24th, 2004.

And to end that day (I was with Amos through that fun afternoon), I was held up a gun point by Topeka cops at a Motel 6 as they were busting someone with drugs downstairs. All I wanted to do was get some ice! :lol: Definately a moment where I was saying "Uh oh!"
 
I stopped answering on the radio and drove south, without a destination--frustrated beyond belief--and thinking I could make Mexico by morning and assume an alias to avoid the shame and infamy of May 24th, 2004.

And to end that day (I was with Amos through that fun afternoon), I was held up a gun point by Topeka cops at a Motel 6 as they were busting someone with drugs downstairs. All I wanted to do was get some ice! :lol:

Jeeeez, Tony. I don't think you ever told me that. LOL! As bad as we were on the 24th, I'm sort of not surprised that people were pointing guns at us.

AM
 
Jeeeez, Tony. I don't think you ever told me that. LOL! As bad as we were on the 24th, I'm sort of not surprised that people were pointing guns at us.

I swore I said that at least once or twice! *LOL* My poor girlfriend who had endured her first major chase that ended up like it did (heck, screw the tornadoes, I'm even more ticked I missed the monkey :lol: ), had to watch me walk in wide-eyed because I almost ended up shot! :lol: Yeah, it was an intense day, that's for sure! And who knows, maybe someone near Topeka was pointing guns! We just couldn't see it through the rotating rain curtain just off the highway or the insane wind-driven precip on our way into what could've been a "wedge" or "emergency"! :lol:

I stopped answering on the radio and drove south, without a destination--frustrated beyond belief--and thinking I could make Mexico by morning and assume an alias to avoid the shame and infamy of May 24th, 2004.
You may have had a few gun run-ins had you gone that route! :shock: :lol:
 
Excellent narrative Amos, and good story Tony. Tales like that make reading bust logs highly entertaining.

::fidgets in seat:: 94 days, 18:09:12... 94 days, 18:09:11... 94 days, 18:09:10...
 
I missed the 'uh oh' part as well.

I had a lot of 'uh-ohs' so I'll pick my favorite: May 24th. Started in southern Nebraska, as usual, and witnessed the birth of the supercell that eventually produced the Albany, Missouri tornado. But on its way to that fame and fortune, it took a dump near the Missouri border--looked awful both visually and on radar, then the tornado warning was dropped.

That sequence of degradation, along with heading into the trees and hills (confirmed by three Missouri residents caravaning with me) fit all the criteria for abandoning a storm. So we left it and raced back west to the Republic County, Kansas storm which had been producing multiple tornadoes, a trapeeze act, and a monkey who could read Joyce through a megaphone.

We put a stop to that.

As soon as we arrived, the storm produced one last meager midlevel funnel and became post-FROPA elevated with a big sign hung under the RFB: "You should have seen me an hour ago. Wow."

So, we raced to Topeka, where new storms were firing, and some inside information alleged that the SPC was VERY concerned about convection in that area, with a combination of good instability and mammoth SRH values. They produced all right, but well before we arrived, and were solidly HP mushbomb material by the time we had them in our viewfinders.

I stopped answering on the radio and drove south, without a destination--frustrated beyond belief--and thinking I could make Mexico by morning and assume an alias to avoid the shame and infamy of May 24th, 2004.

I think we read for the same part Amos, because the script we ended up with looked almost identical: abandoned the first cell near the river, raced west to the tornado factory but missed all the ones people remember, and ended the day nearing Topeka with high hopes, hearing tornado reports and nowcast tales of 120-kt shear markers on 88D. Got into some very mean-looking stuff, to the point where I wouldn't take us further into it unless I could see other cars ahead (after all, if you see a car fly away ahead of you you have a cushion). It looked like a classic, scary, metropolitan tornado situation (the kind you see on TV specials) except there was no tornado.

There was nothing to do, nothing to say, just head south with lumps in our throats and myself saying repeatedly in my head "we said we weren't going to blow it again...."
 
So we left it and raced back west to the Republic County, Kansas storm which had been producing multiple tornadoes, a trapeeze act, and a monkey who could read Joyce through a megaphone.

I think I remember calling you during that time with a nowcast update, thinking "Geez, I'd hate to be in their shoes right now," as the front was already overtaking the storm by that point (after it had produced a kajillion tornadoes, of course).
 
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