Choosing a Storm Chasing Tour
One of the most common questions we receive in regards to which storm chasing tour week to choose is “which tour has the best chances of seeing a tornado?” In our tour schedule, you’ll notice that we only offer storm chasing tours during the height of the tornado season in the Great Plains. We put together this article to help you decide what week to go storm chasing is right for you.
In short, every storm chasing tour we offer has the same chances of witnessing a tornado event. Tornado season throughout the Great Plains starts in early March and lasts well into late summer, and even early fall. We offer tours when the season is at its peak, this is generally the months of May and June. The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center has some great visual tools that we can use to validate our information.
We need to look at two things:
- The location where the majority of tornadoes happen.
- What period of time has the highest frequency of tornadoes.
What is Tornado Alley?
Tornado Alley is the area of the Great Plains that runs from central Texas to the Dakotas. This is our “storm chasing zone”, altogether it’s more than a half-million square miles!
The Great Plains are unique to the United States. Its flat terrain which is mostly agriculture has few trees. As a result, it’s ideal for storm chasing. In some parts of the plains, you can literally see a storm that is over 100 miles away!
Another great feature of Tornado Alley is the road network. Agriculture is big business here. A gridded network of roads spaced about one-mile apart covers much of Tornado Alley. These mile sections allow farmers to have easy access to their fields. The roads also provide us with a lot of options when planning our interception strategy of violent thunderstorms.
There is a road (of various quality) about every one mile in a gridded pattern. Road quality can vary greatly. In Texas, even the backroads are near highway quality. Throughout the rest of Tornado Alley, backgrounds are usually gravel or dirt.
We only chase storms in Tornado Alley. In fairness, we consider “Tornado Alley” to be larger than the blue area on the map shown on this page. We would also include parts of Wyoming, Montana, all of the Dakotas and parts of Iowa and Minnesota. Altogether, our “playing field” is more than 500,000 square miles!
Tornadic storms happen outside of Tornado Alley of course. But, as a general rule-of-thumb, we don’t chase storms outside of Great Plains. It becomes difficult to safely intercept tornadoes when you can not see them because of thick trees and hilly terrain. Of course, the key phrase here is “you can not see them”. And, if we cannot see them, then there is no point in chasing these areas. This is why we stick to storm chasing in Tornado Alley.
On the next page we’ll discuss storm chasing during the height of tornado season!