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Chasing and safety tips for first Plains trip? (1 Viewer)

buckeye05

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So this is pretty last minute, but a friend contacted me and asked if I'd like go out to the Plains with him this May, and I said yes. I've never done this, and have been kind of kicking the can down the road for a while due to my lack of experience. I was hoping to start out with someone more experienced to show me the ropes so to speak, but my chase partner only started last Spring. Obviously, I have some concerns about safety and I'm trying to gather as much info as possible to avoid us ending up in a bad situation. I know a few general rules of thumb like staying south of the meso and always allowing yourself an escape route, but I want to learn as much as I possibly can in the short period of time I have to prepare.

So I want to know if there are any resources that would be helpful for me, and if anyone here has any advice for someone going on their first Plains trip? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 

Nightking2021

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So this is pretty last minute, but a friend contacted me and asked if I'd like go out to the Plains with him this May, and I said yes. I've never done this, and have been kind of kicking the can down the road for a while due to my lack of experience. I was hoping to start out with someone more experienced to show me the ropes so to speak, but my chase partner only started last Spring. Obviously, I have some concerns about safety and I'm trying to gather as much info as possible to avoid us ending up in a bad situation. I know a few general rules of thumb like staying south of the meso and always allowing yourself an escape route, but I want to learn as much as I possibly can in the short period of time I have to prepare.

So I want to know if there are any resources that would be helpful for me, and if anyone here has any advice for someone going on their first Plains trip? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
I don't have a lot to say to you is be careful in traffic as that can be just as dangerous as being too close to a tornado. I have never seen a tornado in real life. In my life I have only chased once. It was May 1, 2008 and though I didn't get to see a tornado but it was my first time encountering baseball sized hail. As you probably know there a lot more dangers than just the tornado itself. Good luck and have fun this season.
 

Kragg

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Skip Talbot has a couple of good videos on his YouTube channel about chasing. His AAR’s on the Moore Tornado and the 28 May 2019 discussions are both long but worth a watch.

He’s really adamant about the importance of maintaining situational awareness by being able to read a storm’s structure in addition to radar.
 

Flyboy70

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I chased locally (mostly for lightning) in N. Alabama for a few years. This year I committed to expanding my chase range after consulting with a retired storm chaser about my limited meteorological knowledge and chase plan. March 25th was probably not the best set up for me to jump into but I managed to catch the Eutaw, Al tornado crossing the road 1/4 mile in front of me and ended up right behind Reed Timmer chasing the storm that hit the retired Brent, Al weather station and caught some GoPro video of that wedge. March 27th I had a navigator on board and managed to get a shot of the top of the funnel that hit Lexington, Tn. Friday I ventured solo back to the Mississippi delta and chased the storms back home to Florence, Al. As mentioned above Skip Talbot, Pecos Hank, and others have some good information on YouTube. ALWAYS keep an escape route option and if possible, never chase alone is my only rookie advice to offer other than packing road snacks (and the world is your urinal).
 

Matt Grantham

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So this is pretty last minute, but a friend contacted me and asked if I'd like go out to the Plains with him this May, and I said yes. I've never done this, and have been kind of kicking the can down the road for a while due to my lack of experience. I was hoping to start out with someone more experienced to show me the ropes so to speak, but my chase partner only started last Spring. Obviously, I have some concerns about safety and I'm trying to gather as much info as possible to avoid us ending up in a bad situation. I know a few general rules of thumb like staying south of the meso and always allowing yourself an escape route, but I want to learn as much as I possibly can in the short period of time I have to prepare.

So I want to know if there are any resources that would be helpful for me, and if anyone here has any advice for someone going on their first Plains trip? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

There is definitely an adjustment period in becoming more comfortable near the storm and being able to understand what you're looking at. Personally, I have become a fan of positioning downstream or slightly north of the meso path for maximum visibility. Some of my best video has been shot that way. With your limited experience I would only recommend this strategy if you are able to grab a spot 10-20 miles downstream and let the storm come to you, particularly if the storm is relatively fast-moving. In fact you should be looking at positioning well out ahead of the storm regardless of your viewing angle *especially* if there is significant chaser convergence.

Stick to paved roads.

I also don't like to let the storm go past me, again, especially if there is significant chaser convergence. You may never catch up with it. Be as proactive and forward-thinking as possible.

Don't play your hand too early. If you have a sense that a storm is not ready to produce, keep moving downstream until it is time to get closer.
 
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There is definitely an adjustment period in becoming more comfortable near the storm and being able to understand what you're looking at. Personally, I have become a fan of positioning downstream or slightly north of the meso path for maximum visibility. Some of my best video has been shot that way. With your limited experience I would only recommend this strategy if you are able to grab a spot 10-20 miles downstream and let the storm come to you, particularly if the storm is relatively fast-moving. In fact you should be looking at positioning well out of the storm regardless of your viewing angle *especially* if there is significant chaser convergence.

Stick to paved roads.

I also don't like to let the storm go past me, again, especially if there is significant chaser convergence. You may never catch up with it. Be as proactive and forward-thinking as possible.

Don't play your hand too early. If you have a sense that a storm is not ready to produce, keep moving downstream until it is time to get closer.

I made those mistakes with the Mangum, OK storm on May 20, 2019. Waited for the meso to cross US 62 near Gould before the tornado started, then got trapped in the traffic and never could catch back up. If I had just bailed a little earlier and gone back to Duke and north on OK-34 toward Mangum, I probably could have seen it.
 

buckeye05

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Can anybody tell me if it’s a good idea to chase near McAlester, Oklahoma? I have some concerns related to geography, trees, and possibly cell phone coverage.
 

buckeye05

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I’m back from my trip!

pros: I have some real chasing experience under my belt now, and we saw a tornado!

cons: I found out when I got out there that my chase partner’s only experience is with non-tornadic July thunderstorms last year, and his overconfidence put us in extremely dicey situations multiple times, leaving us flying blind with no radar after loss of cell coverage, in both wooded area of Dixie, and at night in the DFW metroplex. We ended up in the direct path of circulations several times, with no way to see what was coming. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think I’m going to have to reassess who I will partner up with next year, if anyone.
 
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Super late to this thread, but if you haven't already seen it, Pecos Hank did a good seminar about storm chasing at the College of DuPage a couple of years ago. Youtube link to it here:
 

WesL

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Stick to paved roads.
Best advice ever, especially in the plains. Oklahoma mud is special, to say the least.
I’m back from my trip!

pros: I have some real chasing experience under my belt now, and we saw a tornado!

cons: I found out when I got out there that my chase partner’s only experience is with non-tornadic July thunderstorms last year, and his overconfidence put us in extremely dicey situations multiple times, leaving us flying blind with no radar after loss of cell coverage, in both wooded area of Dixie, and at night in the DFW metroplex. We ended up in the direct path of circulations several times, with no way to see what was coming. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think I’m going to have to reassess who I will partner up with next year, if anyone.
Well glad you made it back!! I don't think you overreacting, those moments are life lessons for sure. However, I'm glad to hear you got to see a tornado!!
 

buckeye05

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Super late to this thread, but if you haven't already seen it, Pecos Hank did a good seminar about storm chasing at the College of DuPage a couple of years ago. Youtube link to it here:
Definitely should have watched this before I left. Honestly, my plan was to start with a DuPage chase when possible, but this opportunity came up first. Definitely still want to do a DuPage chase tour ASAP though.
 
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buckeye05

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Best advice ever, especially in the plains. Oklahoma mud is special, to say the least.

Well glad you made it back!! I don't think you overreacting, those moments are life lessons for sure. However, I'm glad to hear you got to see a tornado!!
Oh trust me, I tried to tell him to stay on pavement, but it was a futile effort. Glad I’m back in one piece! Lol

For now, I’m going to brush up on my solo chasing skills here in Ohio the rest of the year, and do lots of research before heading out for the next spring season.
 

Lori

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From watching the past almost two weeks of the system in The Plains and south, dirt roads especially in Kansas become quick-sand!!
Paved is the best way to go!!
Plus, Matt Grantham’s advice is golden, he’s been chasing a few decades!!
 

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