The bust.  It’s pretty much one of the hardest things to go through in storm chasing. You go out, spend an entire day, spend $40-$100+, and end up seeing nothing that you wanted to see. We all know storm chasing is an expensive hobby, it’s even more expensive when the busts start racking up. But these days, what exactly is a bust?

Back when I started chasing (I’m pulling that card), busting still meant not seeing any storms. Seeing a storm meant you couldn’t have possibly busted, you did the hard part of actually seeing a storm.

That was 2003 though, and that also was a time when widespread mobile internet, much less high speed internet wherever you go, wasn’t even thought of.

Chasing is much easier now, so much so that expectations of chases seem to be on the rise.

For some, not seeing a tornado means a bust. For others, not seeing a beautiful storm is a bust.

Some older chasers do scoff at this attitude, but the old expectations are somewhat out of line with new realities. In the 80s and 90s, seeing 10-20 tornadoes a year was a pretty big deal, a career season of sorts.

Today, seeing 10-20 tornadoes a year means you either didn’t chase much or you had a down year.

That’s how chasing has changed over the years in the expectations game, some have gone from hoping for storms to expecting to see them produce a rare event, the tornado.

Supercell West of Waurika, Ok - May 7, 2015

Supercell West of Waurika, Ok – May 7, 2015

Is the Redefinition Good?

There’s no doubt newer chasers have higher expectations out of chasing. You can make whatever social commentary you want on that, but I think it’s simply the realities of more data at more times.

Chasing is easy these days if you have a LTE phone, and even the most novice of weather minds will end up with plenty of good storms if they chase more than a dozen times a year. You don’t even really have to do much outside of open up your favorite radar app, follow local forecasts, and head to the place most everyone else is.

So is it right to call a day where you see a beautiful storm (like the one above from May 7, 2014) a bust if you don’t see a tornado?

Some chasers may just say the day was a bust…and while it really isn’t a bust to me (the storm was beautiful, pictures were aplenty) — I don’t fault anyone who simply chases to see tornadoes for calling a non-tornado day a bust.

Just I’d also warn them that chasing is going to be full of more busts than successes in that regard.

So the redefinitions of busting off of the classical terms has happened, and in some ways that’s a result of technological advancements over the past couple of decades. Even more importantly, chasing has seen a rise in expectations because of that.

Some will lament the lack of some chasers’ ability to enjoy storms as beautiful, rare, and unique — much less tornadoes. I say its a natural reaction to the increased odds of seeing beautiful and unique each year. What used to take 10 years to do in building a library of footage and photos can now be accomplished in a single spring if you chase enough times.

What Is Your Definition of Bust?

As far as I see it, there are a few different definitions of busts that are popular, see if any of these fit you:

  • Blue-sky Bust: The universally agreed upon total bust…no storms whatsoever form and you are left with, you guessed it, blue skies instead.
  • The Non-Severe Bust: You get showers, and maybe even storms, but nothing goes severe. The ‘what was I thinking’ line still applies here for sure.
  • The Non-Pretty Bust: Storms form, may even be severe, may even produce a tornado, but your camera comes home with no useable pictures because the storms weren’t exactly photogenic.
  • The No Tornado Bust: No tornado today? Then the chase was a failure. Some adhere to this more strongly than others.
  • The Chase Decisions Bust: Tornadoes happened. Pretty storms happened. You chased. But you zigged, storms zagged, and you missed it all. This one is more painful these days thanks to the instantaneous social media stream into your phone.
  • The I Didn’t Chase, Storms Happened Bust: You see the thermonuclear cap, you see the dryline, you scoff at storm chances today and go for a round of golf. You leave the golf course to see a massive anvil from storms 80 miles away and find out they’re producing tornadoes.
  • The Non-Supercell Bust: Some people simply chase for supercells. If you leave the house expecting them, and you don’t get a supercell…to some that’s a busted chase.
  • No Tornado Warnings, So Bust: Others have an even higher standard of a storm needing to have a tornado warning associated with it for their chase to have been a success. Its true, forecasting and chasing to the point where a tornado is even likely has to be considered a success, right?

Comment on which definitions you adhere to with busts, and be sure to add your own in the comments! Definitely interested to see where everyone falls in line with what they expect out of a chase!