STORM CHASING

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GUARENTEED DEPARTURE 19 MAY 2019

 

OR


Everyone is silent, but the tension is the room is tangible. You've already heard stories on the news  about severe storms hitting hard later today. Your tour guide will tell you soon what he thinks about it and especially where we need to be. Do we need to go immediately to be in-time 800 km in the north, or can we relax a little and wait for the events to evolve close to our current location?

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Dark clouds are filling the sky. Curtains of rain are sweeping through the fields within stone's throw and the gusty wind is picking up. In a few minutes large hail the size of golf balls will drop from the sky. The tornado is not visible yet, but cloud fragments are racing around like crazy. The adrenaline rushes through your body! You are alert, ready for the moment you came for. Can we stay put, or do we have to move out quickly?

YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE

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Eric Terpstra

Your senior tour guide on this adventure

Experience: 15 storm chases since 1996

Call +31 (0)6 5757 0846 or email

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Arno Paanstra

Your senior tour guide on this adventure

Experience: 12 storm chases since 2005

Send me an email

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Michiel de Vries

Your tour guide on this adventure

Experience: 4 storm chases since 2008

Send me an email

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Melody Sturm

Your tour guide on this adventure

Experience: 2 storm chases since 2017

Send me an email

WHEN

Tornado seasons runs from roughly mid April to the end of June. Tornado climatology tells us that the best period is May and the first week of June, so that's when we plan our trips.

WHERE

We will chase the weather, wherever it will be. It could be on the high plains of Montano or Wyoming, in the wooded areas of Wisconsin, the corn belts of Iowa & Illinois or in sub tropical southern Texas or Louisiana. More likely are (in)famous Tornado Alley states like Oklahoma and Kansas.

 Source: opensourcemap.org

Source: opensourcemap.org

 

SAFETY

Read all about it on our storm chase safety page on this important issue.

UNCERTAINTY

Obviously chasing a hurricane is not an easy task. We will do our best to bring you into the eye of a hurricane. But not at all cost as you can read in our special safety page. Also, a hurricane can be predicted with a certain precision. It is never sure what a hurricane will do. So even with the best information and location strategy, we are still dealing with nature. The hurricane could take another path, sometimes even stay off shore. So, there's no guarentee that we will actually be inside the eye of the hurricane.


 

PROGRAM


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Day 1 - arrival at Denver airport

We will arrive at Denver airport in the late afternoon. If storms are very closeby we will quickly get out and start our storm chase immediately. Otherwise, we will go for dinner and your guide will brief you on the potential for severe weater for tomorrow and the days beyond.

The next 10 days you will be driving across the central part of the USA, not knowing where you will be at night. We will go where the weather is. One thing is for sure, we will not cross the border into Mexico, but we might chase in Canada if needed, as we have done before.

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Day 2 Storm chase day

Every day is different. If there's a chance of severe weather with the potential for supercells and tornadoes, we will drive out. Normally that would mean that we have to cover 300-500 miles (500-800 km) just to get to the right spot. However, sometimes we're lucky and can stay put or drive for an hour or so.

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Typical day

07 AM: Wake up

08 AM: Weather briefing and decision what time to leave the hotel and what is the first target area

01-04 PM: arrival in target area

03-05 PM: maneuvering in the area to get to the best place.

04-06 PM: Start of the chase

05-09 PM: Chasing storms and tornadoes

10 PM: Weather briefing for tomorrow. Potentially driving 1-2 hours to be at a better position

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Motherships

There's alot of slang in Storm Chasing. There;s even different slang words in different chase communicties. The mothership is used frequently to describe the spectacular cloud formations that often happen with supercells. Turkies are small columns of clouds shooting up in the air (towering cumulus).

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Rear Flank Downdraft (RFD)

17 May - 2018 - South Dakota

A supercell can be recognized by identifying the RFD. That's a dark threatening horizontal band of clouds that spirals inward to the center of the storm. It's the boundary between cool air associated with the evaporation of raindrops near the rear of the storm and the warm and humid air the flows into the storm. RFD winds can be destructive and will normally be from the west, while inflow will be from the south, south-east or east. We look for tornado (T) genesis precisely at the location where the RFD spiralles inward. The Forward Flank Downdraft (FFD) is associated with the general downward flow of rain fromt the center of the storm and intersects with the RFD close the where the location of tornado genesis.

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Two tornadoes at the same time

Is it possible? Yes, it is. On 29 May 2018 we intercepted these two in eastern Colorado. The right one is the main supercell tornado. The left one is located on the RFD and could be either cyclonic or anti-cyclonic. In all our years of chasing, we have seen this several times. 

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Very close to an F4 tornado

Iowa, June 2000

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Hail

Hail is always a factor when storm chasing. Every storm we chase has some hail associated with it. With supercells you can be sure there will be large hail the size of ping-pong balls or larger. We have seen three inch (7 cm) on the ground, just minutes after the fact. You don't want to be on the road with this kind of hail, it will smash our wind shield. Very large hail (four inches / 10 cm) will even go through the roof of the car. We take care of this in our saftey procedures. If there is visibility we observe the clouds and look out for the greenish colors. In zero visibility we monitor high resolution doppler radar for signs of large hail, as well as checking the weather radio and spotter networks. However, driving through a hail storm is kind of exciting with all the noise. If we're sure about the size of the hail, we will certainly do that.

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Very close to an F4 tornado

An F4 in South Dakota (May 2010)

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Alternative programme

Even at the height of the tornado season, it happens that there is simply good weather in the whole of America. A very few times that is even a few days in a row when a large high pressure area from Canada to the south. In such cases we have an alternative program that we can choose from. Usually that is only a single day. The exact choice depends on where we are at that moment and where we expect the next chance of tornadoes to start. Of course, we want to be in the immediate vicinity when the high-pressure area leaves.

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Sunsets

At the end of the day clouds lit up beautifully with the low position of the sun. It's also a moment or relative peace after an intense storm chase.

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GOOD TO KNOW

You travel to distant regions with sometimes exceptional circumstances. Often you need a visa, but you will certainly have to take into account clothing. In addition, many countries have different electricity plugs. Because we do not yet know exactly what our destination is during this trip, you will be informed well in advance about a number of requirements.

What has to be arranged before are visa for the United States and Canada.

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Passport and visa

All this information applies to people with Dutch nationality. For other countries within the EU, the conditions will usually not be different. If you do not have Dutch nationality, check online what the exact conditions are for you.

United States

To visit the United States, you need a passport and visa. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months after returning. You need an ESTA, a visa that can only be requested via the internet. It usually takes a few days and the costs are US$14. You can apply for the ESTA visa on the website of the US Customs and Border Protection

Canada

To visit Canada, you need a passport and visa. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months after returning from Canada. You can easily arrange the visa yourself via the website of the Canadian government. This so-called Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is usually activated immediately, is valid for 5 years and costs C$ 7. You do not have to send anything and also not to the embassy, everything can be arranged online. The site indicates that it can sometimes take several days, we recommend to have the visa at least 2 weeks before departure.

 

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Vaccinations and health

No vaccinations are required for the United States and Canada.

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Electricity plugs

In the United States and Canada, type A sockets are used with 110 volts (see picture below). You need a travel plug converter (From Europe to America). Google on 'travel plug America' and you will find various offers immediately.

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Time difference

In the US and Canada it's 7-8 hours earlier in the day than in Western Europe. While chasing we keep to Central Time, even if we're in the Mountain Time zone on the western fringes of Tornado Alley.

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Clothing

We go to warm areas with temperatures during the day between 25 en 35 degrees. However, during storm chasing, tempereatures can drop to below 20 degrees and with strong winds this will feel very cold. So a sweater and rain coat (or windstopper) are essential to pack.

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Phone & internet

We will install a WiFi hotspot in the car for your convenience, without any charge. We will ask you to turn off all automatic updates of apps and photos to cloud services. It is often possible to call via the internet, but here again we will ask you to turn off the video.

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Flight schedule

We will fly into Denver International Airport. From there we can reach almost all locations in Tornado Alley for next day storm chasing. And with some luck, we could even chase the day of arrival.

We travel with reputable airlines such as KLM, AirFrance & Delta from SkyTeam.

Below are some examples of flights for May 2019. Airline companies can make changes to this. The time schedules mentioned are therefore indicative. Our actual flights can be with another airline and / or with another intermediate stop. Current pricing is around €500 - €600 for a return flight.

(example)

Amsterdam-Denver

3 May 2019: 10: 30-15:44 Delta via Minneapolis

13/14 May 2019: 18:00-13:25 Delta via Minneapolis