Well with only 4 months to go until we are out chasing in Tornado Alley I thought i would put together a post that outlines what a typical chase day is like with the Netweather Storm Chase team and Weather Holidays! If anyone new who is booked on the trips this would be ideal in knowing exactly what active or not so active chase days are like.
The Best way to explain a chase day would be probably easy to break down into 3 or 4 different scenarios, every chase is different and depending on the Synoptic Set-Up or predictions from the models can differ greatly. Sometimes we are within our target zone in plenty of time, other times we might have a 200-300 mile drive to get to the Chase Zone as models could have moved the risk overnight, sometimes we have 2 zones of interest so might split targets the night before, other days are complete travel days where we set an acceptable overnight stop giving us a realistic chance of a chase the next day.
I will run through the different types of Chase Day in more detail below with some chase accounts of what to expect.
Waking up within the zone of risk. This would typically see us have breakfast at 8-9am and a leisurely look at the mornings model runs, we would typically leave the hotel at leisure at checkout time (Usually 11am) We sometimes get things done like stopping off at Walmart, get camera equipment, or finding the next town along for a lunch stop. Depending on expected Initiation time we could still have time on our hands if storms were not expected until 5-6pm so we could always pass the time in a recreational area whilst we await storm initiation.
A good example of this type of day would be - May 25th 2012 in Kansas
On this day we were within the 5% Tornado zone and all models had an amazing agreement on where the Warm Front and Dryline Triple Point would be and also where they expected Storms to Initiate. We awoke in Central Kansas and picked the town of Russell for a leisurely lunch at Pizza Hut, more time was spent taking pictures of the Discovery crew and the NOAA Weather Team. Knowing that conditions were favourable just 20 miles to our west we were always on the first storm with initiation near Hays (Kansas) and ended up seeing 6 Tornadoes this day, total mileage on this type of day is quite low at between 250-350 miles.
Pictures above show me meeting with Tim Marshall (NOAA) and two tornadoes on the ground on the night of the 25th May 2012 near La Cross (Kansas
This type of day would involve a long drive to the Chase Target and also a chase straight on top of all the driving, these type of days can be very tiresome but if you put the effort in and get a decent result you will reap the rewards. A good example of this type of day would be - May 31st 2010 in Colorado
On this day due to the change over of guests we were overnighting in Oklahoma City, the risk zone for this day was SE Colorado and the North West Oklahoma Panhandle. Now the distance from the hotel to target zone was about 360 miles, this type of day would see us leaving the hotel typically at around 9am and grabbing a very quick lunch at somewhere like a Subway Fast Food Outlet. After having a quick bite to eat at Woodward we carried onwards towards SE Colorado, a single Supercell had been ongoing by the time we reached the target zone and luckily for us it had not dropped a single Tornado, it was almost as if it had waited for us before putting on the show. No later than 15 minutes after we positioned ourselves about 10 miles to the SE Of the Supercell it produced an amazing Cone Tornado that was on the ground for a full 17 minutes, it went onto produce another 2 Tornadoes within the next 20 minutes and the Structure of this Storm was mind blowing. We ended the day at Liberal (Kansas) at about 11pm, a very long day with something like 450-500 miles under our belts but a great result and worthy of the effort.
Picture Above is of the Campo Tornado (Colorado)
Picture Above is of the Structure of the Supercell with Tornado Ongoing in the rain core!
This would be a positioning day for the day after's risk. A good example of this would be from Tour 5 in 2012, we ended the previous days chase in North Central Kansas and knew the next day would be quiet, we also knew that the next chase day would be in Eastern South Dakota or Western Minnesota so we took the view to split the journey, we picked Pierre (S Dakota) as out stop off point and calculated that with a leisurely lunch and plenty of sight seeing on the way we could be there by 7-8pm the night before the Risk Day, this would also enable us to be within 50-100 miles of the next days risk.
If no weather is favourable for a few days then we will always aim to get some sightseeing done, we only had a few days spare in 2012 and on one of them we drove to the highest driveable Peak in Colorado (Mount Evans) and also enjoyed visiting some amazing Alpine Towns along the way. Other amazing down days include photographing the Milky Way in the Badlands (S Dakota) See Below
I hope this tries to give you a good flavour of what to expect on the different types of chase days we encounter, remember a typical 10 day Chase Trip will see you do an average of 4000 miles per trip, it sounds a lot but it really does fly by like the blink of an eye and you really do not feel the pain so to speak!