Mar 5, 2012

Eric Nguyen explaining something that Glenn Dixon probably doesn't understand

Eric Nguyen explaining something that Glenn Dixon probably doesn't understand

If you are reading this blog you are already doing the first step, which is to seek out information about storm chasing. Don't worry about learning how to forecast weather or operate a ham radio just yet.

Storm Chase Tours

One possible way to get your feet wet (so to speak) with minimal education and training is to purchase a seat on one of the many storm chasing tour groups that drive all over the midwest in pursuit of severe weather. The operators, drivers and forecasters are usually seasoned veterans and almost always find at least one tornado even on the mildest of weeks. Yes, you will pay for the luxury of having someone else drive you right up to a storm but many take advantage of this option each year and the trips often book up months in advance. It's a great way to get a feel for the hobby, but you will want to record what you see! I will cover both storm chase tours and video and digital camera equipment in a future article.

SkyWarn Classes

If you don't have enough money or vacation days for a tour, probably the most common first step for most chasers is a local SkyWarn class conducted by the National Weather Service. These classes are required by many storm spotter and emergency management organizations and are an excellent way to familiarize yourself with what you are likely to encounter when you start chasing, and they're free!

Weather Conferences

There are at least two other major conferences that cater to storm chasers. The first and oldest (I think) is TESSA which was started by Martin Lisius in 1996. Martin also runs Tempest Tours, one of the first storm chasing tour groups. The other is the National Storm Chaser Convention in Denver. While both provide a lot of information, TESSA is probably more accessible to the novice. There are many regional events like these which I will cover in a future article.

Basic Equipment

This is a list of the essential equipment that is required for a successful storm chase:

  • Weather data - At some point you have to determine where storms are most likely to form. During the chase you will need to find out where storms are actually forming and drive to them. This can be as simple as a NOAA Weather Radio or a scanner, or a computer with an internet connection, all the way up to a high-dollar hardware or software specialized weather data package delivering radar in real-time.
  • Transportation - Drive a car, share a ride or go with a tour group.
  • Communication - The minimum form of communication is a cell phone, the ultimate is probably a ham radio.
  • Navigation - The "Roads of" series of map books is basic, but a GPS device is almost a given these days.

Many more details and reviews of these products will be the subject of future articles.

I'm sure I left out something here and there, but this should give you an idea of the basics. Keep watching this site for more information.

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