lessons learned while chasing last May and chase logs online

Bill Hark

Jan 13, 2004
Richmond Virginia
I have finally completed my chase logs for May 15 to May 30, 2004 including the May 29 tornado outbreak (Jamestown KS wedge etc), Bradgate tornado, Hallam tornado and damage survey, May 24 Washington Co, KS tornado, possible tornado near Topeka, other storms and the storm chaser picnic.


While reviewing video and writing chase accounts, I thought about lessons learned during this season. Here are some in no particular order.

1. GPS is a necessity. Most roads were shown on my maps (DeLorme); however, there were no numbers or names. The roads appeared as featureless grids especially while I was in Kansas and Nebraska. I would pass road signs (ie 107th st or Rock Rd.) and there would be no listings on my maps. It was easy to get lost.

2. I am glad I obtained my HAM license. It made chasing more fun and increased my safety as I communicated with chasers from different viewpoints around storms. HAM radio can also be used to report tornadoes in areas with no cell phone service.

3. Stick with one's initial target unless there is overewhelming evidence to change. I changed my original target on a couple of days and missed some tornadoes.

4. Don't rely on Wi-Fi. I checked into hotels that advertised wireless internet and couldn't access on many occasions. Use a broadband wired connection. (And ask what type of internet access) The exceptions are truck stops. I never had a problem with wired or wireless access.

5. As above, sign up for a month of internet service with each of the two competing truck stop internet providers. One is Flying J, the other is ?truckstop net. They have wired and wireless connections. Research locations before chase season and print out maps for the road.

6. If you rent a car, make sure the seat is totally comfortable. I rented a car and thought I could "live with" a seat that was not completely comfortable. By the end of the two weeks, I had a back pain and my back doesn't usually hurt. Also, get the insurance. My hail dents and cracked windshield would have been very expensive.

What are some lessons that others learned this year?

Bill Hark
I agree with #3, I've learned that when I pick a target to stay with it. I've ventured outside my target area at least twice this year and missed the action.
Good post.

I learened the following:

1. Wifi is well worth it. Flying J and Truckstop.net are key. Also knowing where the free wifi hotspots are.

2. Use a mapping softare that has pushpins, and key in all of the wifi hotspots and good cell spots so that you always know where you can get data. In some instances I found wifi networks that weren't listed anywhere and tried to set pushpins for those as well. Now I have a pretty good map wifi map of the plains.

3. Scannner (my first time using) was critical when there was low vis and or nightime. Helped navigating through some dicey situations when I could hear what others observations were when I couln't see a thing. (Really helped after dark during the Hallam event).

4. Make sure life insurance is paid up... especially after the Hallam event... had a few scarry moments after dark.

5. Be friendly to other chasers. I was chasing alone, and met some really great folks that helped with insights and info.
Bill I wanted to ask how the rental car damage thing went... particulary when you returned the car? Did they hassle you, or question what you were doing?

I rent a car as well, and have had a few close calls with hail, but never any damage.
Biggest thing I learned was the stick with the initial target. May 24 we were within 40 miles of Hebron Nebraska when the storm that ultimately put down uber tornados in Missouri blew up right in front of us.

We turned around and followed it into Missouri, and gave up on it just in time to have it start tornadoing and too late to get back to the storm we would have been in perfect position for in the first place.

A month later I discovered that I did get footage of the first tornado on the Missouri cell from a distance, which made me feel a bit better, but we really felt bad that night.
extra stuff for chasing on the road

I recommend getting one of those small portable tvs (my is rca from radio shack). It really helped me when I was cruising to find tornadoes on May 29. There were so much going on and several places to target. That radio really helped me as well as the radio reports and I bagged two tornadoes. It also helped when it was pouring rain cats and dogs and the report there was a wall cloud over my head which I could not see.

I need to get a new computer to do internet and the suggestion about signing up for the stations is a good idea. I need to check those out.

It would also be good if I could find one of those tripods that you can fit in the car to take pictures which I am driving instead of videotaping with one the camcorder on the wheel as I drive (worked out well thought). Where can I get them and what kinds are there?

Also what I really need it to find more people to try to chase with and to nowcaste. It's more fun then chasing solely alone.

Dr.Eric Flescher ([email protected]),Olathe, KS -Storm Satori-http://members.aol.com/kcstormguy/stormsatori/stormsatori.htm


Bill I wanted to ask how the rental car damage thing went... particulary when you returned the car? Did they hassle you, or question what you were doing?

I rent a car as well, and have had a few close calls with hail, but never any damage.

I had the rental car insurance. I wasn't hassled but I did have to fill out a couple of forms (ie where and when the event ocurred) I said I ran into some hail. "We don't these kind of storms in Virginia!" Of course, I wasn't wearing any shirts with a picture of a tornado.