Many factors are considered when deciding whether a particular setup is worthy of chasing or not. Of course, each chaser has different criteria in mind when pulling (or not pulling) the trigger on a chase day.
Here are a few considerations that the Forever Chasing crew uses in determining a potential chase:
Location: Where are the storms expected? We are located in Wichita, Kansas, so a severe weather setup in Montana may not be in the cards. We generally do not stray too far from the Texas Panhandle, the northwest half of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, western Iowa and eastern Colorado. A chase in the Dakotas or eastern Wyoming would be feasible for our team on a weekend.
Terrain: Is the target zone favorable for being able to see the sky? It may not be obvious to some, but some areas of the Plains are not favorable for chasing. Those not familiar with Missouri or Arkansas may not be aware of the Ozarks, an area of hills, trees and lakes. Finding a spot on a clear hill would be the best way to “chase” in these areas.
Road Network: It probably goes without saying, but a robust road network is crucial during storm chase operations. Here in Kansas, we are spoiled with a road grid unlike many places in Tornado Alley. In most places, we have a road every mile. A lot of roads are more like a dirt path, but in a pinch, a chaser could navigate down one of these roads for safety reasons.
Storm Mode: Our team generally prefers storm motions to be under 35 miles per hour. Any faster, and it becomes quite challenging to keep up with the storm. Also, a supercell-type thunderstorm would be preferred over a linear convective system. Supercells are easier to track and usually are more friendly for storm positioning. A linear storm mode adds additional challenges, including low visibility due to rain.
Cellular Network: One reason why our team chases is because of our partnership with TV and radio stations. If we can’t get our video stream or call in for live reports, our mission is less useful. A bad cellular network goes hand in hand with some areas discussed above. Towers are few and far between in the Ozark mountain region. However, most of Kansas, Nebraska an Oklahoma have a robust cellular network, which we take full advantage of.
Each chasing group has their own set of considerations for storm chase operations. This list is intended as a set of ideas that we look at before heading out on a chase.