Let’s face it, a lot of us don’t live on the Plains and our time to spend out in the heart of Tornado Alley is limited. And for too many of us, that time is also quite inflexible with plans needing to be made weeks or months in advance.
Others of us are a bit better off, with limited time but a more flexible schedule and the ability to pick and choose a bit more about when and where to take off for chasing. This video is mainly for these people.
If you have limited funds and/or limited vacation days and you need to think through when you should and shouldn’t chase, here’s four tips to get you started!
Tip 1: Don’t blow all your budget before the end of May (0:36)
You are going to want to chase a lot early because STORMS, SPRING, SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS, etc.
But trust this person on this one: you can miss the early stuff because June exists. April is great, June is greater. Be wise about not starting too fast and ending your season before it really gets good.
Tip 2: The ERTAF (1:12)
The ERTAF is a he…ck of a tool. (We keep it PG still).
You’ll want to refer to this forecast, by some highly skilled and well respected mets, to anticipate tornado activity in the week two and week three timeframe. If you have the flexibility to take time off relatively last second, this will help you anticipate the big patterns upcoming a bit easier. Check it out at: https://atlas.niu.edu/ertaf/
Tip 3: The 850 Winds (2:01)
Are you struggling to figure out if you should actually make that last second trip happen? Well one really good way to break the tie is to refer to the 850mb winds!
Anytime a setup looks good but not great and you are wondering if you should make the trip, the 850 winds should be your tiebreaker. Anytime they’re out of the due south to southeast direction at 30 knots or above, its a good idea to chase. Its always more nuanced than that, but the 850 winds shortcut will get you moving in the right direction.
Tip 4: Avoid Chasing Quick Moving Systems Early (3:07)
Quick moving systems early in the season that result in just a single chase day are usually not worth the money or vacation time. If you want to maximize your days of chasing, wait out better/more consistent patterns later in the year where you can string multiple chase days together, sometimes over weekends to double your chase time.
The exception to this? If a one-off chase day looks like a can’t miss big risk day — these are almost always worth chasing.
I get 5 weeks paid vacation every year so I take the third week in May as I believe this is peak season in the Southern Plains and I take the second half of June off as severe storm season migrates to the Central and Northern Plains.