How was the 2004 chase season for you?

How was the 2004 chase season for you?

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Dec 4, 2003
How was the 2004 chase season based on what you saw compared to previous years? To provide the best comparison we ask that you judge it on meteorological merits and not consider circumstantial factors such as time off or new equipment.
Excellent. One day with tornadoes and several others with photogenic supercells after going all of 2002 and 2003 without a tornado.
Had MUCH success this year, so I voted outstanding. This is, by far, the most storms and the most amazing storms I've cought ever. Plus, read the OUN forecast discussion over in another topic, and it'll just get better!
2004 was by far the best year of my chasing career. I set personal records for many stats I keep, and obtained some of my career-best video documentation of tornadoes. Here's my 2004 statistics:

MILES - 6,882
*career high

Other personal records I either broke or set:

Most tornadoes in a day (11)
Most tornadoes in one state in a single year (19, KS)
First 20-plus tornado year
Numerous tornadoes on video that are among my best ever

This has been a dream year regardless, but it's especially sweet after what I went through in 2003. Several factors led to me losing my vidcam, and missing out on almost the entire chase year. However, as bitter and disappointing as 2003 was, 2004 was even more wonderful, productive, and good-old-fashioned FUN!!!
This year was fantastic! Downfall was lack of vacation to have a chasecation this year, but got in a few great chases.. May 22nd in Nebraska and then a week later on May 29th in SC Kans where I saw roughly 3 or 4 tornadoes that day.
I voted poor, all chases has been confined to West Michigan
and taking care of a 75 year old diabetic father with various
health problems, gives you no opportunties to chase far from home.

This year was amazing. I saw about 8 tornadoes making it the best year ever (not counting when I was with Cloud 9 in '97) I also saw some of the best storm structure I have ever seen.
I usually come out to the Plains and just sit under a death ridge. The chasing and forecasting experience has been valuable.

I am currently reviewing tapes and will soon be posting chase logs and an accurate tornado count.

Of course, I do have a bit of "tornado envy" as I see others with more photogenic or longer lasting tornadoes. I am glad that most everyone who chases (and was able to go to the Plains) saw at least one tornado. I just wish the tornadoes were over open ground and towns including Hallam were not damaged.

Bill Hark
This year has been excellent for me as well. Had some great storms in my backyard 8) . Have another storm (non severe @ least at this point anyway) coming through now with a pretty cool lightning display :) .
I have to say my best chase year EVER! While I did miss a couple of big events, I was involved in some phenominal weather events this year, saw some awesome tornadoes and if I could get a couple more tornadoes this year I would beat my own personal record of 21 in one year. (Darn it for missing out on that one storm in KS by only miles!)

My only complaint is I AM STILL TIRED FROM IT! :lol:
The June 12 Rock, Kansas tornado for me personifies why this season has been so phenomenal - the storms did exactly what you wanted them to - and then some - over and over again.

After so many years of watching storms 'almost do it' then fall apart for one of various reasons, 2004 was the year when the storms went from high based to low based, from rain-free base to wall cloud, from wall cloud to funnel, to debris swirling on the ground......time and time again. The days of going home disappointed were overshadowed by the numerous days of going home awed, exhilarated and above all, satisfied.

The Rock tornado, while not the longest and most dramatic of the year for me, in my opinion is the epitome of why we chase. A wall cloud that waited patiently for us to stop and set up our cameras, then slowly and perfectly gave us a show from start to finish, topped off with spinning condensation all the way to the ground in front of a golden sunset-tinted sky. The wall cloud even moved west and parked over a break in the treeline in front of us, dropping the tornado in between the gap in the trees so it was completely visible the entire time. The tornado even stayed stationary between that gap for its entire life cycle, not moving out of view once - how could you ask for a better gift than that!!

I had an unofficial 'list' of tornado 'goals' (things I'd like to see in my lifetime) going into 2004, many of which I thought I would have to chase for 20 years to fulfill. The list included things like photogenic tornadoes, to hear the sounds, to get tornadoes at varying lighting conditions (frontlit, backlit), to get a debris cloud shot similar to 6/8/95 Pampa TX, to see a wedge tornado, etc. After 2004, the only item left undone on my 'list' is the wedge. And that's why 2004 gets my vote for OUTSTANDING.
May was an absolute blast for me. I got to do a lot of "spotting" from work being only one of a handful of people in my building that could tell the difference between a wall cloud and some scud. Didn't get to see much in the way of tornadoes. I do believe I saw what might have been the Hallam tornado from work, but I never could confirm or otherwise tell for certain.

It's sort of mean, but I also got a kick out of watching a girl from California freak out because she thought "it was the end of the world."

I also watched that "where the heck did you come from?" supercell that flew through Saunders and Lancaster counties here in Nebraska a while back. I could see the wall cloud on that thing all the way in Beatrice. One of my co-workers is a spotter for Gage and Lancaster counties and we both were scratching our heads trying to figure out where that cell came from because we were certain it was going to be a quiet day.

So it wasn't a bad season for me. I'm a bit disappointed by what June has so far brought me, but they can't all be winners.
By far the best year I have had. And that is with 19 yrs of doing it. 3 High risk days in a week in late May with all producing tornadoes.

For the season

Tornadoes for the yr =31
On same day =11

by state
Nebraska =11
Kansas =11
Texas =5
Oklahoma =4

If I could have chased each time I wanted to (work sux sometimes) I could have been around 50 for the yr (cant even imagine that).
Well, I haven't been in the game for too long, but my second spring of chasing has so far been my best. I got my first tornado (within an hours drive from campus, no less), which was absolutely gorgeous. I watched the video last night and I stared in awe at it (again!). I'm looking forward to an active fall. (PLEASE)

(the SDS is setting in again)
This was also my best year - with the week of May 22-29 being absolutely incredible - 17 tornadoes that week. The year got off to a slow start, and I went the longest I've gone without seeing a tornado. But overall the year seemed much more typical of what a good year should be. We'll be cheering for 2004 for years to come ... can't wait to see everyone's videos from this year.
Timing is everything

I flew out from Boston MA into Omaha on May 28. Landed at 2 p.m. and by 5:00 had bagged a nice wedge and an elephant trunk. Less than 3 hours after getting off of the plane! That NEVER happens. Should have bought a lottery ticket too.

After that it was a blue sky week. Save for a minor spin up in the Texas pan handle the following friday.

Just my luck. One of the most active seasons in years and I choose the wrong 10 days. Timing is everything I guess (should have booked a bigger window).


I sill came home happy. Planning 3-4 weeks next year.
Can't wait!

I had to vote outstanding also given not only the number of tornadoes for me this year, but the incredible structure and the degree of 'photogenic-ness' of the tornadoes that I did see! Here's my stats, using Shane's table:

MILES - 5750
TORNADO DAYS - 7* (3/29, 4/22, 5/12, 5/22, 5/29, 6/10, 6/12)
* - Personal records

Additional noteworthy things:
Awesome structure!! The textbook pics I've seen for years came to fruition in the plains this year!
The entire tornadogenesis and tornadolysis (if there is such a word) cycle from start to finish... Incredible.
Finally chased in northern KS and southern NE!
Beautiful anticyclonic tornado on 5/29 north of Calumet.

Again, I count this season a tremendous success not only because of the number of tornadoes I've witnessed, but also because how photogenic they've been. The vast majority of tornadic supercells chased this year have been relatively high-contrast and slow moving! And yes, these collosal synoptic-scale outbreaks of last year were virtually absent this year... The slow-moving nature of the storms (courtesy of relatively weak mid-level flow much of the spring) also helped minimize the overall number of people affected (read: less destruction). Oh, and structure... incredible structure...

Like Dan, the only thing I didn't really see this year was a classic wedge. But hey, with tornadoes like the 6/12 Mulvane tornado, etc etc etc, I can wait another year for a wedge :)

P.S. -- And yes, I was the pessimist when mid-April came and things looked down. The US tornado low bug was biting me... And since OK chases stopped last year after May 16th, I never though the mid-late May and June months to be chasing in OK/KS so much!

This year has been most excellent for me. Having never seeing a tornado my goal this year was to only witness one...just one. Well, I accomplished my goal seeing a total of 4 tornadoes on 3 different days. I chased in 11 states and loved every minute of each chase...yes, even the busts. In addition to the incredible storms I witnessed this year I was quite fortunate to have learned a lot from the more experienced chasers that I hooked up with.

Ok, this may sound corny but I want to take this time and space to send out a few "THANK YOU'S" to some of people who helped make this year great...

Damon Shaw, Ft Smith AK (Meteorologist): Thanks man! I learned a lot from you on our chases this year. Your forecasting was right on the money and your nowcasting on my IL chase really helped me see a nice tornado.

Jerry Funfsinn, Peru, IL: Jerry, you may be one of the best unsung chasers around. You always have a cool head under pressure. I learned a lot from you from the couple chases we went on this year.

Sara, my loving wife: For putting up with my growing obsession and holding down the fort whenever I have been on the road.

Scott Miller, Peoria, IL (founder of Thanks for all the nowcasting and a big THANKS for calling in the Secor tornado for me. It's pretty amazing to think that our report, which warranted the warning, may have saved someones life.

Pete McConnel, Gladstone, MO: Pete, your enthusiasm and dedication was awesome and you also deserve a big thanks for driving 7 days straight on our May trip. Congrats on your success this year too!

Tim Vasquez: I took your class at the storm convention in Denver and was really humbled. I realized how much I DIDN'T know about tornado forecasting and you helped point me in the right direction in terms of what I need to study up on. Your book is incredible as well. Thanks!

Dan Robinson, West Virginia: Dan, you are the man! It was a pleasure chasing with you the few times that we did this year. You are truly a dedicated and disciplined storm chaser with a great eye for taking pictures and video. I look forward to seeing you out there next year and hooking up again to do some chasing.

Dave Crowley, Tulsa, OK. Dude, you are the BBQ King. That was the best filet mignon I've ever had especially after living off beef jerky and double cheeseburgers for a week straight. Thanks for the hospitality and I'll see you next season!

STORMTRACK: To all of you at a HUGE thanks for making this the best storm chaser website in the world, period.

Hard to follow that Academy Award Acceptance Speech :)

Anyhow, far and away my best week ever. 3 PDS days, 4 days in tornado warnings, the start of the McCloud tornado in Missouri on the 24th, 6 tornados at Jamestown on the 29th, and running out of the way from the Belleville anticyclonic on the 29th as well.

Uber structure, a wedge, winds galore, kids huddled in the hallway of the hotel under a tornado warning asking me if they are going to be ok, and then how a doppler radar works. And catching a Royals/Twins game in KC.

Meeting Amos Magliocco, Angie from Tennessee, Matt Crowther, John Moore, Al Moeller, and a couple of dozen other chasers who's names I am blanking out on.

The nice guys at the Springfield, Mo NWS office (and letting the air out of Evan Bookbinder's tires)

The nice people we met everywhere who were full of questions, the great hotel (Victorian Inn) in Beatrice, NE and the good hotel (Best Inn) in Salina, Kan.

4 nights excellent hospitality from Bill Winkler in Lawrence, Kansas that left us well positioned for most of the action.

3300 miles in a nice 2004 Rav 4 that we think chasers had driven before (how else did a 6 month old car already have 25000 miles on it before we rented it?)

It will be at least two years until I can make it back, here's to 2006!

PS: I really didn't flatten the tires on Evan's Miata, but I wish I would have thought of it at the time :twisted:
Outstanding, awesome, incredible!! This was my best chase year yet, starting with May 22 in Nebraska, my first Plains tornado west of Beatrice, NE, the incredible supercell that went on to produce the monster that unfortunately destoyed Hallem, NE, then the incredible series of tornadoes on May 29 in Kansas, not to mention a couple of quick little neighborhood chases in OK that yielded a quick little funnel near Union City (Rich...Jo and I were on that one, too). The only thing that was disappointing... Panhandle Magic was missing this year...only got one storm near Pampa.
Many thanks to George Tincher for nowcasting for me...George, you are the best!! and Shane Adams who is the world's best navigator (and Shane...I do forgive you for that sand road in Kansas :wink: )!!
Looking forward to next year already!! 8)

Outstanding year. I would say I missed out on either the tors of a bunch of big days, or the day all together by not chasing it more times this year then probably any other. This is what is crazy though, all that missing out on and still saw more tors this year then any other and on more days then any other. I would say for what was being produced I did as well as any other year I've chased. I screwed up a ton of days in other words, but caught enough to keep me comparatively happy. I've never been that great at catching tornadoes, let alone good ones(0-30 in 2002). Not terrible no, but I hate not catching them all no matter how much a reality it is for *most* of us. I envy the hell out of those that seem to nail every damn thing. I want to pull YOUR hair out on those days I miss out on and get to read all about.

Chased May 22, May 29, and June 12 and did not see a single tor those days. On the Big Springs NE storm I was late(June 10) and got 30 seconds only of that tor show. Opted out on March 27(DOH!!!!!! as it turned out). Opted out on May 10, Colorado(DOH again, but there is probably no way I'd of been down there for the tors). Opted out on May 12(double DOH!!!!). What day was that Bradgate IA and other IA tors? May 21? I screwed the pooch good on that one too, missing not only the IA tors, but the tor near Norfolk NE that day too.

My tors for the year fall way short of what most saw this year, but I'm not complaining. I love those INSANE class storms and was lucky enough to see them on 4 days. June 13th Waverly NE surprise storm would certainly fit the insane category. The May 22 Columbus non-tornadic SUPER meso was also insane. I don't think I'll probably ever see a meso/supercell like that again. The May 28 ne NE sculpted like hell inflow beast was easily the best sculpted sup I've seen. That will be hard to beat in it's own little category. The May 16 holt co. tornadic sup just slips into the insane category. I don't think personally I'll ever top this year as a whole for me, and I don't hope to. Years like this can 'ruin' a guy I think. This year also holds a rather amazing feat. The utter lack of cap bust days. I have forgotten what it's like to sit in the sun waiting on a cap to break. I can only recall one no storm bust drive home that took place in nw IA on that mod risk wednesday most all of us busted on. And even that day had those crazy cyclical sups along the wf after dark in nc IA.

I am very serious about that ruining a guy comment. It may seem like a damn silly comment, half wanting to see less cool stuff. It is. But, at the start of this year I was excited seeing weak showering cu that couldn't spark a cg if they had to. Excited enough to snap pics out the window of my apt, edit them, and forward to a fellow chaser on msn and say, "Cu!!!!!". June 12 in se NE that lead 'sup' started cranking out the nastiest cg fest you could imagine while being very outflow dominant and grungy. A year ago, I'd of been thoroughly giddy at this site. At this point, it was doing very little for me. As if it sucked because it was not able to produce. What a pity, huh. Just recently, I caught myself stopping the camcorder on a less then impressive tornado. I for a second thought it wasn't worth recording. Like a funny comment Amos made in chat, "Ho hum, another tornado". This was so true, and that is not good, I don't think. Like fishing in an aquarium filled with anorexic starving fish. Just not as fun as a severe farmers 'tan' from tooling around a small lake all day for.....a severe farmers 'tan'. But, alas, I can look back to all those SOBs that get them all, and get them all from this most amazing angle, year after year. I still see them chasing, and not seeming too ruined. I guess I just fear being ruined to the point of expecting too much and then becoming unsatisfied to the point chasing doesn't seem worth it anymore. I know come next February though, when I see that first little piece-o-crap Cu that I'll be snapping pics and forwarding them once again.

Well, here in Ontario, I've only been on two chases thus far this season and still got many more to go on... but so far things have been excellent.

May 23: Went on a 9 hour chase (that's considered a good long chase where I live!) with some friends. I saw a full condensation funnel, hard to say if it was actually on the ground, so I will just pass it as possible tornado... but it was beautiful... it is just too bad my partner forgot to bring the video camera Doh!!! :oops: Saw an inflow "stinger" for the first time on this chase, as well. Watched an incredible lightning show near the end of the chase.

June 14: Saw an incredible rotating meso and wall cloud on a brief but exciting chase. It didn't drop a tornado, but it was very close. Can't get any better than that here. Got great video on this one!
Compared to other years I have chased, I voted "outstanding". Even with just one chase day this season... May 29... I would have voted "outstanding". I don't think I will EVER observe what I witnessed on May 29th in Harper and Sumner County, KS. The rest of the season was merely icing on the cake. The "chase pattern" this season will go down among the best mid-upper tropospheric patterns for May-June since upper air observations have been made in the 1940s.

For you statistic buffs in the crowd, here's a summary of my season... up to this point, because who knows how the rest of the summer and fall end up!

Tornado days: 8
* April 20 near Beggs, OK
* May 16 near Scott City, KS
* May 24 Belleville, KS
* May 29 Harper-Sumner Co., KS
* June 6 McLean Co., ND
* June 9 Bennett to Woodrow, CO
* June 10 Big Springs, NE
* June 11 Webb, IA & Otho, IA

Tornadoes: Depending on counting philosophy, anywhere from 19 to 27
States chased: 7 (KS, NE, ND, CO, IA, OK, TX)
States tornadoes observed in: 6 (KS, OK, NE, ND, IA, CO)

Another interesting stat: my first tornado 3-peat! ...June 9, 10, and 11. (Hell, I've never even had a 2-peat :roll: )
* I observed a tornado at the farthest north latitude to date on June 6 in ND... 47.75N ~35 SSW of Minot

I think "tornado days" is a more interesting statistic for me personally, and I keep track of this number, versus actual number of tornadoes... because after all, what really is a tornado?

This, by far, was the best season for me in terms of tornado days. This crushed last year's 5 tornado days. Tied for third with 4 tornado days is 1999 and 2001... making a career number of tornado days 28 since 1998.

Like Mike H, I have had my frustrations, like many others (well, except for Eric Nguyen!!). My most notable "misses" on days that I chased were May 24th, when I just caught the last tornado (at Belleville KS) of this prolific tornado producer. I was also late for the first round of tornadoes in northern Iowa on June 11th, only catching the Webb, IA "narrow elephant trunk" tornado from a distance. We were also minutes late for the first Fort Dodge tornado from the southward propogating tornadic storm, but managed to observe the other subsequent tornadoes.

June 12th hurt, not so much that I missed the Mulvane event, but the fact that the NE-KS target, which I was 100% confident in... failed due to too many storms and too much cold outflow.

All in all, a year that will be very difficult to top for many, many years. This year has risen the bar for sure, in terms of observing long lived, high contrast tornadoes.

Mike U
Approximately 25 tornadoes in five states (OK, KS, CO, NE, TX) on eight tornado days.

27-March (4 in OK)
12-May (7 in KS)
16-May (2 in NE)
20-May (1 in CO)
21-May (1 in NE)
22-May (2 in NE)
29-May (7 in KS)
1-Jun (1 in TX)

I still haven't looked at most of my video. With my other project going full steam and a serious deadline approaching, reports and imagery will probably wait until winter.

We weren't very good on May 24th, but as time passes I feel better and better about it. Our decision-making was sound, just had bad luck. Did a lot better on the 29th, though our north Kansas tornadoes weren't nearly as photogenic as Harper County. May 12 was the highlight for me personally, a front row seat at every tornado, racing one across the highway, and general tornadoesque frolicking all around. My last chase was June 1 when my truck suffered major hail damage in northwest Texas. So I missed some big days, but you can't chase them all. I'm always grateful for the time I'm able to spend in the plains.

I agree with MikeU that the tornado count is becoming less meaningful for me. On both May 12 and 29, I filed reports saying I saw X tornadoes, only to see later damage surveys count X+Y, bascially increasing the number I had used for the same events. Considering that the definition of a tornado has become a matter of personal preference anyway--and there's nothing wrong with that--I think 'tornado days' and imagery have eclipsed these numbers for me.

Most importantly, the season was incredibly fun. Some catch phrases from 'ought four':

"Better call Doug!"

"Tomorrow is always better" [man did this turn out to be true or what??]

"Save as many as you can" [from Day After Tomorrow previews]

and last but not least,

"What county are we in?" [an inside joke that won't make sense until people see my May 12 video]

So, what else is there to say? I can't wait for October! 8)

PS: had to edit this as I'd forgotton about March 27!
Originally posted by Amos Magliocco

I agree with MikeU that the tornado count is becoming less meaningful for me.

After March 27th and June 12th I most definitely agree with this. I sit back and look at my photos from these days and it was the whole package that made it such a memorable day. Having a great photo (be it structure, lightning, or tornado) is more important than another nader for the list imho. (sorry can start the "stills" bashing anytime now; I still can't believe I almost let the Mulvane tornado drift out of video cameras frame while snapping slides :shock: , lmao)

That being said getting 15 tornadoes this year made it not only my best year but my most memorable so far. I had a number of firsts this year one of which was being able to chase the northern plains. This can be directly linked to the fact that I moved to Lubbock Tx in Jan. Many thanks to David Drummond for kicking me into chasing shape and making me blow off many a weekend to chase!! Oh, and for setting up my chase vehicle!!!! I will post a page on my website sometime in the next month!!He did a first class job.

Who knows......the year isnt over yet!!! What else might happen???

Graham Butler, wx5svr
[email protected]