Scheduling the chase ?

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Jun 12, 2004
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Location
Athens, OH
I have 5 weeks of vacation that I can schedule for storm chasing.

I have about 3 years of experience doing this and I have:

  1. Gone out sometimes when perhaps I could have stayed home.
  2. Missed some early action because I thought I could afford to wait for the "real" season.
  3. Stayed on the plains and chased marginal setups when I could have just gone birdwatching, or drove into the mountains or something.
In those three years I have not:
  1. Chased the fabled caprock or the panhandle of texas.
  2. Caught a massive outbreak.
So this year I have five weeks of vacation, perhaps six but that last week I might want to save for the holiday season in the winter.

I will be leaving out of Ohio. My plan anymore is something along the lines of what Dan Robinson did this year. Schedule the chase but if there is no good reason to head out then do not. For example this year I had vacation in May but unless I saw a two day stretch of decent chasing I stayed home. So for last year that meant I stayed home. Start the trip with a bang or do not start it all.

I am tempted to do the following as way of hedging my bets.

I will block out the last three weeks of May. I have other activities on Memorial day, so that gives me those last three weeks, more or less.

What about the other two weeks? Well I am thinking of scheduling two weeks off in the middle or end of April. This might give me a chance to catch some early action and early action might be all that we get? Five weeks at one time is a long time.

What do you all think ? Two little vacations of 2 and 3 weeks or one big one of 5 weeks? It would be two weeks of chase, two or three weeks of work and then 3 weeks of chase.

When does the Texas Panhandle get sucked into a vortex each year ? Is that a march, april or may event ?

Any thoughts and advice is appreciated.

Also I have yet to encounter "the hordes" I would rather not get caught in a chaser jam, although seeing 5 or 6 other chasers is always nice. When and where do the hordes hit the roads ? I assume OK and the 35 corridor in May. Perhaps I have missed them because I seem to end up North , Kansas and above.

--
Tom
 
When does the Texas Panhandle get sucked into a vortex each year ? Is that a march, april or may event ?
Tom

Tom -

Could you clarify what you mean by this? I don't understand the question.

With five weeks of solid chase time some would say you already have it made. Personally, I have just spent this evening working out when I will take my six days of available vacation to maximize my chasing time to see something significant.

I would perhaps plan to split some of your weeks up - maybe one in March, one in April, two in May and one in June......to give yourself the maximum chance to see somethng and to dig yourself out of an atmospheric hole (i.e. death ridge) if you happen to find yourself in one.

Oh - and be prepared to chase anywhere from deep south Texas to Nebraska to Montana to Colorado to Illinois. That should about do it......btw the last few years seem to have biased towards the Northern Plains.

Good luck to you,

KL
 
Sounds like you're on the right track. How much notice must you give your employer prior to taking time?

If there is a blocking pattern in mid April or you go out and decide to come home, will you then be able to reschedule your remaining time for mid-Janurary?
 
I will block out the last three weeks of May. I have other activities on Memorial day, so that gives me those last three weeks, more or less.

What about the other two weeks?


--
Tom

I guess I've always been of the opinion that the more consecutive days off you can secure in a row, the more likely you will be able to chase a significant event or two. From an extreme standpoint, it would be better to have five weeks off in a row than have 35 days off randomly sprinkled throughout April, May, and June. For that reason, if I were you (and wanting to chase as many big events as possible), I'd probably take the five weeks all off at once. Which five weeks will be best are, of course, up to Ma Nature each year... but I'd probably lean toward week 2 of May through week 2 of June.

On the other hand, being that I have a similar predicament with my job, I tried blocking off a "longer" period one year (rather than my usual option: 6 days off in a row per month). This didn't work out real well; the days were April 28 through May 13, 2004.

Andy
 
Tom -

Could you clarify what you mean by this? I don't understand the question.

KL

Oh my statement about the Texas panhandle being sucked into a vortex was just a funny way of saying,

"When does the caprock, texas panhandle action happen ? Is it early or late season ? It seems to NOT have happened at all the last two years so I am unfamiliar with the setup. Folks seem to love that territory.

--
Tom
 
It can get interesting around here anytime from Mar. 1st through June. I guess the best time around here is from about mid April to Mid June.
 
It can get interesting around here anytime from Mar. 1st through June. I guess the best time around here is from about mid April to Mid June.

I agree with jason here about timeline. I have been chasing panhandle magic for 21 years. Ofcourse in April the storms are still moving pretty fast at around 35-40mph and in June we usually start getting more LP'ish higher based stuff so if your looking at a 3-4 week period I say all of May is a great time. Especially the last 2 weeks. not only is the dryline active from Midland up to kansas but you also get some great red river, southern kansas and western oklahoma chase days thrown in. Once into June things start moving north towards the I-70 to I-80 area.
 
My timeline usually kicks off as soon as my last final is complete.. this year, I'm slated for May 11 - June 10, but the flexibility to take random days off for chasing all summer if need be.

I'm usually at the mercy of my final exam schedule seeing as I am still in classes; the following two weeks are gimmes as there are no classes (thus no work on campus), then I go into "vacation time" for the first couple of weeks of the summer semester.
 
When does the Texas Panhandle get sucked into a vortex each year ? Is that a march, april or may event ?
Texas Panhandle Magic hits anytime between May 10- June 10, with some events as early as early-mid April. Based on my past experiences, I would place the supercell primetime between about May 22nd and June 10th across the Texas Panhandle/Caprock/South Plains.
 
Texas Panhandle Magic hits anytime between May 10- June 10, with some events as early as early-mid April. Based on my past experiences, I would place the supercell primetime between about May 22nd and June 10th across the Texas Panhandle/Caprock/South Plains.

I second that. Almost every real good storm I have seen in the Panhandle, falls within May 22nd and June 10th timeframe.
 
Tom,
Be sure to save a few days for fall outbreaks. Aug 24th and Sept 16th were arguably the best chases of the 2006 season!
 
I have 5 weeks of vacation that I can schedule for storm chasing.

I am tempted to do the following as way of hedging my bets.

I will block out the last three weeks of May. I have other activities on Memorial day, so that gives me those last three weeks, more or less.

What about the other two weeks? Well I am thinking of scheduling two weeks off in the middle or end of April. This might give me a chance to catch some early action and early action might be all that we get? Five weeks at one time is a long time.

When does the Texas Panhandle get sucked into a vortex each year ? Is that a march, april or may event ?

Tom

Tom,

Assuming you have to lock in your vacation schedule now and don't have any flexibility this is what I would do. I'd chase May 5th through May 27th, take a one week break from chasing, then return for June 3rd through June 17th.

The following is a list of tornado days with 4 or more tornado reports within a ~150 mile radius that occurred in or partially within the Texas Panhandle. The list may have some errors but it will give you a good idea of when the Panhandle is active. It is interesting that no events occurred outside of May and June.


2000
none

2001
29-May PH TX/E CO
5-Jun PH TX/S KS

2002
5-May PH TX/C KS

2003
15-May PH TX
3-Jun PH TX

2004
21-Jun PH TX

2005
12-May PH TX
5-Jun S PH TX
9-Jun W KS/PH TX
11-Jun PH TX
12-Jun S PH TX

2006
2-May PH TX
5-May S PH TX
21-Jun PH OK/TX
 
I'll be heading out there for at least 3 weeks this year, after school ends mid-may. We'll be leaving May 18th after I get home from work. As of right now, we're heading for Wichita. I've only had one good chase in the Texas Panhandle. That was on May 15, 2003. Didn't get any confirmed tornados, but was on the supercell that would create the after dark wedge near Wheeler. I was in the PH on May 2, 2002. However, due to lack of data, and being new at chasing, we missed the tornados that hit Happy. We later saw a tornado near Seiling.
 
Boy, I sure wish I had five weeks to schedule for chasing. Not that I haven't got the time (I have), but Ohio is a lot more proximate to the Plains than the Pacific Northwest.
The commuting time (not to mention the travel expense) cuts my chase window down to two weeks a year. Usually, we go in mid-May, but my son now suggests early June --- and the comments about Panhandle storms in that period have almost convinced me to give ol' June a try.
We love the Panhandle; in fact, might fly into Amarillo this year. Our first face-to-face encounter with a significant tornado was in Tulia, just south of Amarillo, a number of years ago.
If I were our friend from Ohio, I'd schedule 2-week chunks in mid-May, and then early June.
 
Thanks everyone,

Scott in particular for the event history summary for the caprock.

We need all the science we can get in terms of figuring out what when and where.

I may go for the 3 weeks in may, 2 weeks in June arrangement.

See you all out there !!
 
This is a link to a paper called Climatological Estimates of Local Daily Tornado Probability for the United States, co-authored by Brooks, Doswell, and Kay, which appeared in the August 2003 issue of Weather and Forecasting.

In the article, the writers present findings that suggest a definite tornado probability peak at Lubbock Texas centered on or near the last few days of May, and with the least amount of variation of any single location they examined. The graph is figure C on page 635.

They write:
"The least variable season is found in the Texas Panhandle (Fig 10), with a trimmed standard deviation of less than 10 days. Put another way, there is approximately a 70% chance of the maximum tornado season occuring in a 20 day window in the Texas Panhandle (635-6).
It doesn't mean that the Panhandle sees the most tornadoes, but the data suggest that the best chance of the tornado climo peak occurring within the narrowest range of time is there. In other words, if you can take vacation during those twenty days, there's a good chance that you'll be out and about when the Panhandle reaches her tornado climo peak. Any single given year could suck, of course. That's the danger of chasing by climo.
 
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