Download GPX file for this article

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Travel Warning WARNING: Storm chasing can be extremely dangerous if not done responsibly. Please read through this article, and Tornado safety, very carefully.

Storm chasing is the act of deliberately following severe weather. This can be done for adventure, journalism or scientific purposes. Most storm chasers are recreational, which is what this article will focus on. The majority of storm chasers are not professional meteorologists. Storm chasing is usually done in the Great Plains of the United States. This area has great conditions for very severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, but is also chosen because it is relatively empty of people and structures, making storm chasing safer and the pictures and videos produced higher quality. Storm chasing has the potential to be an incredible and life-changing experience. Storm chasing should be done responsibly at all times, and is not without its dangers, much like mountaineering. Your own vehicle is also essential, as is lots of gas. Carrying a spare and knowing how to change a tire is very useful.

This article is about chasing storms of the type that are chased in the Great Plains, and in the way carried out there. Chasing other types of severe weather or in other types of environment involves its own issues, which aren't handled here but need to be taken into account if you try to adapt the advice.


Storm chasing is a dangerous activity to some extent. It is mainly done recreationally. Although it is not without risk, some of the dangers of storm chasing are exaggerated. You're more likely to perish in an unrelated car accident than from storms. However, you can very easily find yourself in danger if you don't chase responsibly. See #Stay safe.

Storm chasing involves a lot of driving, and on many occasions severe weather may be forecast but then never materialize. The main season for storm chasing in the US is spring and early summer, especially May and June.

Outside the United States[edit]

The Great Plains' severe weather extends into the south of Canada. Some storm chasing has occurred in Australia's Top End, and in southeastern Australia, especially in November and December. There are storm chasers in many other countries.


A working camera and video camera are essential for storm chasing. The areas you will be in are usually remote, so take food and lots of water. A mobile phone is very useful for staying connected, and calling the emergency services if things go wrong, or to report injured people or those needing help. You must keep track of severe weather warnings.

  • Tornado watch: Conditions are right for tornadoes, but no tornado has been observed.
  • Tornado warning: A tornado or funnel cloud (which will likely develop into a tornado) has been spotted.

Some tornadoes strike without any warnings being issued. Some warnings are also false alarms, but you should always err on the side of caution.

An internet connection to monitor weather radar is highly recommended, although you can use a smartphone app, such as the Weather Channel app, for actually viewing the weather images.


Many areas have tornado sirens, which mean a tornado is imminent. Tornadoes sometimes happen without warning, under cover of night, or are hidden by rain or hail. Tornadoes often produce a loud rumble or roar.


The skyscapes produced by storms are fascinating to those interested. At the same time, keeping an eye on the sky is essential. Signs of a tornado forming include:

  • A loud, continuous rumble or roar
  • Tornado sirens sounding
  • Visible rotation in the clouds
  • Visible debris

Stay safe[edit]

Travel Warning WARNING: Do not take shelter under a bridge, most notably an underpass or overpass! The winds from the tornado tend to be stronger under the bridge, and flying debris funneled under the bridge can injure or kill.
Travel Warning WARNING: Chasing responsibly is very important. Please read through all of this advice.
  • Keep your distance. Staying distant from an active tornado, or the area or funnel where one will form, is essential. Tornadoes often move at over 30 miles per hour (50 km/h), sometimes much faster. The winds inside a tornado can be some of the strongest in the world, strong enough to harm you and throw your vehicle into the air. Staying distant from a storm can also help you capture better photos, with the overall cloud structure visible. There are storm chasers who intercept tornadoes; don't do it. It's too dangerous, especially for a recreational chaser without a specially adapted vehicle. Tornado safety#Stay safe has useful information for those who nevertheless end up closer to a tornado.
  • Monitor the weather radar. This can help you avoid getting too close to a tornado, but also avoid getting hit by large hail. Large hail can strike without warning, even out of storms that don't seem likely, such as those without dark or green sky. Large hail can completely mess up your vehicle. You generally need an internet connection to get updates.
  • Never enter urban areas. Stay out of urban areas; the debris in these areas could harm you, or mess up your vehicle. Stick to rural areas, which the vast majority of the Great Plains is anyway.
  • Let people know about tornadoes. Radio in or phone the police if necessary. It's important people know to take shelter, especially as some tornadoes are difficult to see or strike without warning.
  • Don't neglect lightning safety. Try to stay as low to the ground as possible if you do go outside. Don't set up camera equipment outside and away from your car.
  • Remember road safety. Storm chasing involves a lot of driving and driving responsibly is essential for this. Road conditions can also be extremely hazardous during storms, due to fallen debris, rain and hail on the road, poor visibility and general panic.

See also[edit]

This travel topic about Storm chasing is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!