CHASER CONVERGENCE IS THE GATHERING OF STORM CHASERS & THEIR VEHICLES IN THE VICINITY OF A STORM. THIS IS NOT AN EDITORIAL ON THE DEGREE TO WHICH CONVERGENCE IS OR ISN'T A PROBLEM. IT IS A REFLECTION ON HOW I MANAGE CONVERGENCE AS ONE OF THE MANY CONDITIONS THAT MAY COME WITH A STORM.
On the morning of a storm chase, well before the cap breaks and storms fire, I anticipate whether it will be an active day with many chasers, or whether it’s likely to be a quiet one. If I mentally prepare myself for a busy day, I feel more confident out there when it is a little crowded. So, I consider factors that may contribute to convergence:
- How was the event forecast? I expect more chasers out on days that have been a) forecast with significant lead-time, and b) predicted to be major systems.
- What is the timing of the event? Peak season is usually more crowded than off season and weekends are busier than weekdays. Long weekend setups are particularly active.
- Where will I be chasing? IMO some states – Oklahoma for example – are considerably busier than others, regardless of other factors.
- What will the road network be around my target? Mile-by-mile grids afford chasers options and spread them out; limited roads may result in crowding.
Once the storm has fired and my chase is on, I evaluate and consider the impacts of key factors, and one of them is the other chasers around me. I weigh the volume on the roads just as heavily in my decision making as I weigh real-time weather information or visuals. For example, I consider congested roads to be a heightened chase hazard, just as I consider high-precipitation storm mode to be a heightened chase hazard. If I am on a storm that is crowded, I specifically consider:
- How will traffic affect my escape route? I am always cautious when my escape route is southbound and terminates at a T-intersection; if I need to turn left (east) to stay ahead of the storm or continue to a safer position, there may be a steady flow of traffic that makes the turn difficult or delayed. This is especially true if there is no stop sign for the west-east vehicles. If it is an all-way stop, traffic may back up with a significant delay for the flow in all directions.
- Do I need to pass through a town? I often try to move through a town before stopping to watch a storm. Even if this means I must wait longer to get a visual than other chasers, that’s fine. I would rather position on the lee side of town so that I don’t have to get through the community when I need reposition or evacuate to safety.
- How will traffic affect my maneuverability? Traffic can impact the ability to do some turns or U-turns, to pull-off or re-enter the traffic flow, or to drive up to the posted limit. If congestion is at a level where maneuverability isn’t as good as I want it to be, this becomes a safety consideration as important as any other.
- How are the other vehicles around me driving? Are other chasers driving focused and responsibly? Is the behavior of non-chaser vehicles impacted adversely by the storm? My vehicle is far from the only vehicle I need to consider.
If any of these factors have me uneasy I remove myself from the vicinity, and as a matter of habit I try to be the first on the move to reposition or evacuate from an advancing storm. Just as I would keep more distance from a violent tornado than, say, a landspout, I keep more distance from a storm when conditions are crowded as opposed to when they are not.