What is Storm Chasing?

Storm chasing can mean many different things to many different people. You see a lot of conflict amongst people who do (or don’t) call themselves storm chasers. All of that type of discussion is typically frivolous anyways.

The big thing to differentiate here is storm chasing is not storm spotting. Storm spotting involves a person heading out from their local community and reporting on severe storm movement, behavior, and impacts for their local community. Typically spotters don’t leave their local area and their goals are more to relay information.

Storm chasing, on the other hand, involves a pursuit of (typically) severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Most people chase for personal reasons — only a very small number of chasers actually chase with a legit scientific mission with a realistic plan for results.

The vast majority of us chase as a hobby, and it is a great hobby, but expensive. Most storm chasers chase with cameras and internet in order to get pictures and film of severe weather — with the goal of documenting and observing a dynamic atmosphere at work.

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A Potentially Deadly Hobby

Storm chasing is a dangerous activity and should never be done by anyone who has never received any formal training in severe storm behavior and hazards. Everything from traffic conditions to the threats storms pose to life and property should be immensely respected by all.

While storm chasing can be an exhilarating experience, especially for those who are in love with weather, it can also be incredibly boring. A typical chase day is spent driving lonely roads 75% of the day or more while spending over $100 per day oftentimes.

If you are interested in beginning to storm chase, we recommend attending local spotter classes put on by NWS offices and also starting out by spotting for your local community. If you want, finding an experienced chaser to perhaps ride along with or riding along with a storm chasing tour are also good calls. You should always consider putting more distance between yourself and the storm, especially if you are a newer (under a few years of experience).

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A Typical Chase Day

The most typical chase days, especially local ones, begin early in the morning and end late at night. Here is what a sample timeline looks like for a pretty traditional chase day for us:

  • 8am – Wake up and make a forecast.
  • 10am-12pm – Depart for the Target Area.
  • 2:30pm – 4pm – Arrive in target area, make adjustments as needed.
  • 4pm – 6pm – Storms initiate.
  • 4:30pm – 10pm – Chase the storm until it weakens and dies. The traditional chase days typically end at or just after dark.
  • 9pm – 11pm – Find dinner and begin driving home.
  • 12am – 2am – Arrive home after a long day of chasing.