Yesterday a blogger emailed me and asked if I’d like to contribute to an article about “the most popular destinations for storm chasers.” I contemplated replying with, “Texas Roadhouse,” but only about ten people would get that joke, so I refrained. Last year an Instagrammer messaged me on my private Facebook account and said, “Ay! When is storm season? And is Kansas the pathhhh? Thinking about chasing it! Are you?!” I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you don’t know when storm season is, and if you think there are “popular destinations” where tornadoes magically appear, you have no business hitting the road to chase.
Storms are intense and beautiful, but they can be wildly unpredictable — and they can kill people. If you don’t know how to read weather models and radar, and if you don’t know how to drive in sustained 70mph winds with 18-wheelers flying by, you could die — or injure someone else. If you want to chase and you have zero experience, consider booking a trip with a group like Tempest Tours, or link up with photographers who offer private workshops.
Quite simply, if you’re not with a pro, don’t go.
I share a fair amount of storm media here, and some might argue that I am promoting chasing to people who might want to try it themselves. However, whether it’s captions or interviews, I always state that I’ll never chase without a competent partner, which I’ve found in my friend Kelly Delay. I shouldn’t have to explain this, but given some of the messages I receive, it seems like there is a need for it.
And the funny thing is, Kelly and I never know where we are going to end up, because we generally make that call hours before we arrive. And even if I take a photo of a road sign, I'll probably never be able to find the same place again. I honestly have no idea where this shot was snapped, and even if I did geotag it, do you really think plugging in the coordinates would guarantee the same display of mammatus clouds tailing a tornado-warned supercell? No. But if you want to get your windshield smashed by baseball sized hail, I could probably point you in the right direction...