I’ve chased storms every year, to some degree, since 1997. By chasing storms, I mean I’ve headed to Tornado Alley to chase the big storms, the grand, rotating supercells that draw me out there year after year. But I’ve always come from the East Coast, and that’s where the challenge lies when scheduling a storm chase.
A few people have the freedom and money to fly out to chase whenever a system looks really good. Or they already live in Tornado Alley; several years ago, I looked into moving to Oklahoma from Maryland, but I never really found the perfect job and ended up moving to Florida’s Lightning Alley instead. At least we have some picturesque storms here, and some spectacular lightning, albeit not as frequent as a photographer would like.
So I’m still having to plan my chasecations, as we outlanders call them. At least I don’t have a strict job-regimented schedule now, but I am working as a freelancer, so I still have to schedule work and think about the long-term costs of a chase trip. And that meant I couldn’t go to the Plains for the April 14 outbreak. What all these dreary details boil down to is that I set May aside for my chasecation, but now, the pattern stinks for storms.
Oh, yes, there will be storms. There might even be a few astounding ones, and a few tornadoes, in these first couple of weeks of May. But the outlook for the next couple of weeks doesn’t promise a great deal of severe weather, especially not in the Southern Plains, which is ideal chasing territory. So I’ve put off my chasecation until the pattern improves, in hopes that the jet stream will dip down to where it’s supposed to be in spring.
Waiting is actually a horrible gamble, because some years, the pattern shuts off storms completely. You get the summer “death ridge” or equivalent, and you might as well just stay home. So I’m hoping my gamble pays off as I sit at home, watching storms develop here and there, and watching the computer models evolve. I’m ready for the chase, but the atmosphere isn’t ready for me.