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History and Background Of Storm Chasing

Chasing storms was first done by scientists to learn about thunderstorm development.  They wanted to provide more accurate warnings about severe storms.  Little about the dynamics and physics of thunderstorms, as well as lightning, is well understood yet, so in the interest of research, storm chasing is necessary to learn more about severe storms and how they develop. 


There is another group of storm chasers who chase storms for a hobby because they like storms and find them beautiful.  A well-developed, severe thunderstorm is not an everyday sight and the power being displayed by lightning, downbursts, and tornadoes can be an awesome site.

Finally, there is a group of storm chasers who track down storms for the media, or otherwise commercial interests.  This group of chasers usually takes the most risks to get as close to the storm as possible in order to get the best and most dramatic footage.

We belong to the second group because we have no intention of chasing storms for the media but do it purely for our own interest and enjoyment. We have tracked severe storms for 4 seasons getting better every year.  Finding a suitable storm to chase is one of the most time consuming of our preparations.  We usually spend a week tracking severe storms through “Tornado Alley” in the Midwest.  Driving times vary depending on your target area, but plan on sitting in a vehicle for 4-8 hours a day.  We usually log about 2,500-3,000 miles a week!  Putting in the time is no guarantee of seeing a severe storm.  But the pay-off is priceless!

You can chase storms in a variety of ways.  You can just go out and watch a storm passing by; this is not really storm chasing, and the chance of seeing something interesting is lower, but storm chasing as a hobby usually starts this way.


The best place to go depends on the situation and the type of storms being chased.  When chasing super cell storms, position yourself to the (in most cases) SE of the storm (when in the USA), to have a clear view of the updraft core, flanking line, and any possible wall clouds or a tornado, while at the same time being not directly in the path of the storm.  There is nothing more exciting than chasing a super cell for hours through out its life cycle. 


What a site!
Photo By: Eric Nguyen

Not us...but somebody got close!

The Armada, Our Storm Chase Vehicle 2005

In the City!