Tornado Chasing

Tornado near Harper, Kansas. Shot during a 2009 storm chase.

Every Spring the USA experiences dramatic changes in the weather as it shifts from the winter pattern to the warmer summer pattern. During this changeover period strong frontal weather systems produce large areas of highly unstable air. Above this the Jet Stream helps create wind shear and increases the instability still further. As a result of this highly sheared and unstable atmosphere violent thunderstorms called Supercells form. These large and violent thunderstorms spin and rotate and are responsible for producing the many tornadoes that impact the US Mid-West every year.

I have been chasing Tornadoes for over 12 years and have intercepted over 60 tornadoes and more Supercell storms than I can remember. By using my weather forecasting skills along with the latest satellite and internet based weather data systems I can forecast where these storms are most likely to occur. Then using my experience I can find the part of the storms that can produce tornadoes and then try to get into the best position to get the most photogenic views of the storm.

A Supercell thunderstorm and developing tornado.

In the early Spring (late April) the strongest storms normally form in the Southern open plains states of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma as well as the more heavily forested states of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee. As the season progresses the weather systems move further north and by late Spring (June) the tornado producing storms often occur in the far northern states of the Dakotas and Montana.

Tornado chasing is a mixture of road trip long boring drives, days of seeing very little combined with days of incredible drama, spectacular scenery and weather that will take your breath away. The adrenalin rush of the chase is an amazing natural high as we try to negotiate giant hail (golf ball and bigger) flooding rains and strong winds trying to find the best positions to see and photograph the storms and tornadoes. It is a real adventure that you will remember for much longer than most conventional vacations.

Giant Hailstones from a Texas Supercell

Of course there is no guarantee that the weather will play ball. But it is rare for there to be no severe weather if you chase for a week or more  between late April and late June. My definition of severe weather is storms with hail bigger than golf balls, damaging straight line winds, lightning striking more often than every 30 seconds, supercell thunderstorms or tornadoes. I have never been storm chasing and not seen at least 1 of these things.

So why not join me for an incredible adventure. Unlike many of the larger tour groups I restrict numbers to just 5 or 6 guests. Many of the bigger tornado tour companies will have 2 or 3 vans with anything up to 20 people which is a nightmare when you stop for a bathroom break in a small town gas station with just one toilet. The smaller group means we are more mobile and can react faster to rapidly changing weather conditions.

The cost for a 7 day tornado chasing tour is $1,900 USD and a 10 day tour is $2,300 USD. This includes accommodation, transport and guide services but does not include food or travel to/from the start city.

Please use the contact form to get in touch for more information.

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Cinematographer and film maker Alister Chapman's Personal Website