| Tornado Chasers

What kind of severe wx knowledge should a new chaser have before heading out?


I know lots of people just go chasing, only for the adrenaline rush! What about us that aren’t meteorologist-in-training but maybe have some SkyWarn training and want to do it as a hobby or to help out our local area NOAA, etc? What should we know to stay a little safer?

Advice on becoming a first time chaser

Very good topic Brecky! Safety should be number one when it comes to storm chasing. The first step is prevention of injury, property damage, and death. This can be mitigated by planning out your chase. I know I do not usually like to take my best car out on a chase in case I hit hail, but I have to make sure that if I use another vehicle, it is ready for inclement weather. Check the oil, fluids, filters, and have everything well lubricated. The tires should have plenty of tread and the brakes must be in good condition. You WILL be driving in rain. Do not make the mistake of driving on wet pavement with bald tires. If you know your vehicle had trouble with any of its functions, it is not recommended that you use it. The last thing anyone wants is to break down with a supercell right on their tail. If you plan on exiting the vehicle during the chase to observe the storm or otherwise, be sure that you are conscious of where you park. You may find yourself with a ticket or an accident if you do not park in a safe and legal area. Do I need to mention safety gear? Use good judgement with your choice of gear. Bring a first aid kit with you just in case. Drive safely!

In case there is an injury or accident, be sure you bring your insurance cards for car and health, and keep the locations of hospitals in mind dependent upon where you are going.

It is always a good idea to travel with a buddy to help you keep your eyes on the road.

Stay well informed of the location and movement of where the storm is. If you are a photographer with little experience, the small squall you were chasing may turn into a fast tornado-producing supercell, and unless you have a means of getting weather information, you will be in harms way.

There is so much more to cover! Most of the safety training is in the SKYWARN program, but there is just a few bits of info that only experience can give. Hope this helped!


You definitely need to know enough about close-range structure to escape bad situations. The key in any chasing situation is to always have a quick exit strategy. Experience is really the only way to gain that, so I think the next step is to chase with as many veterans as you can to learn your safety boundaries and how/when to escape when you need to. Even in between workshops or chasing seasons just watching as many videos as you can online will help. YouTube is a luxury we didn’t have when I was learning to chase. It really would have accelerated the learning curve.


Thank you both for this valuable information. I use the GRL3 software…still trying to figure out how to use it. Can you recommend other useful programs to help us? Or would this question be for another TOPIC…still new to blogging.


Thank you so much for the advice. I always watch tons of storm videos especially during the spring season.


Brecky, your software is really good for analyzing data and seeing much smoother graphical radar data. However, the GRL3 software requires a lot of computer memory, probably a good amount of processing power, and no small amount of bandwidth on the go.

I have not used this software firsthand, but by reading up on its use, it seems it may take a little bit longer to see the refresh of the scans. If you have a performance laptop and a good mobile internet provider, (not to mention the coverage) you should not have many problems using it once you have become accustomed to using it. I personally use a performance laptop, Verizon mobile hotspot, Storm Prediction Center’s web velocity radar and outlooks, and Weather Underground’s Wundermap. These are all free to use and are fairly user friendly. The Wundermap is exceptionally useful with it’s capability of customization. You can also get the app on your smartphone.

It really depends on the person I guess (and said persons pocketbook). Some software may be overkill for a person who is not pursuing meteorology. I wish that I had the high resolution velocity radar that your GRL3 comes equipped with though.

Perhaps later I can compile a list of appropriate software both free and paid that spotters may like to use.


As you mentioned,[quote=“AceCritical, post:6, topic:128”]
I personally use a performance laptop, Verizon mobile hotspot, Storm Prediction Center’s web velocity radar and outlooks, and Weather Underground’s Wundermap.

I use all of the above but find I get overwhelmed with information on the SPC site. I will check out the velocity radar page that you speak of and do some studying. And as Reed mentioned above:

[quote=“reedtimmer, post:3, topic:128”]
chase with as many veterans as you can
[/quote] It is so nice not to be feeling around in the dark and trying for figure out all of the steps on my own anymore. Shout out to Will Wilkens for helping me get started. “Love this site!” Now to find some WILLING veterans! Thanks a bunch…AceCritical, I will keep an eye out for that list. :wink:


On that list of software, I found a pretty good list of paid software for the weather enthusiast or meteorologist. The GRL3 that you are packing Brecky is number 2 in the best software on the market today. Good choice if I say after reading this blog. Here is the link:

As for free software, I find that public resources like NWS, NOAA, SPC, Weather Underground, The Weather Channel, Weatherbug, Accuweather, etc are the most useful for those on a tight budget. If you really know what you are looking at and have the speed to click between pages, you should have no problem going toe to toe with someone sporting a GRL3. The paid software only provides convenience and a little more detail.

If you are willing to drop some cash, click on the link above to find a good software that is right for you.


That is an awesome article. I use RadarScope on my phone along with Storm Center.


Travel with redundancies. Have more than one method of getting information about the storm you’re on and more than one method of communication in case you find yourself in trouble (or find someone else in trouble).


I thought of a little more to add on the safety issue.

When it comes to your vehicle, it would be a good idea to bring a floor jack, or any kind of hydraulic jack that is better than the stock emergency jack in your car. This will make a flat tire change a lot quicker and easier. For instance, Reed had a flat tire in the Dominator during a chase, and he had a floor jack handy in order to quickly get back to his chase.

Don’t forget the tire wrench for the lugs. Make sure you have a heavy duty one available. (And watch a video on changing a flat if you don’t know how)

Be certain your spare is properly pressurized. Inspect for damage or dry-rot. If you are using a temporary emergency tire (commonly called a “donut”) then you may want to think about how that will change your driving and safety. However if you have a full size spare, then there is not a problem there.

On the side of your navigation, there are some programs that offer realtime traffic accident reports (ex: Waze). Having to plot a course change because of an accident ahead of time can really save you in the long run.

I may add more as I brainstorm over the next few weeks.

Best wishes!


I had an extra laptop so I used it to have GR2 and GR3 trials and every 44 days just restore the computer and it will restore your trials. Better then paying 200$-300$ on radar software when you can use that. I also use Radarscope and SimuAWIPS.


I don’t think we should be advocating things like that in this forum. I don’t want to get into a debate about copyrights or licensing but if you can’t afford it or don’t want to spend that much then you should simply look at cheaper options instead.

That said, I do believe radar applications are ripe for disruption by a solid free and open source solution. It’s probably only a matter of time before it happens.


Hints on navigation.

I am a stationary spotter most of the time in my area. But a hardcopy road atlas is imperative! Also, if you are going to limit your chase to a certain area, every fold-up map you can find of the area. AAA is great for this, so is picking up free maps from state governments (in Missouri they are free at many rest stops). I have even requested maps from local metro areas and it’s great to have.

I’ll be the first to say that aren’t helpful if you are on your own chasing a storm. If you have someone else with you, they can be a lifesaver when cell service goes down, software locks up, or a recent/last minute accident blocks your route.

Just my two cents!


You know, I have had AAA for years, but have not picked up a map ever since I got my first iPhone. That is GREAT information! In this tech age we forget it is all still hard wired to a point.

I was watching team AVIWx chase today and they were talking about the power outage in the area they were going through. If transformers and substations can get hit, it’s obvious cell towers can too.

So, I am off to get some maps of Dallas through Oklahoma City, before my trip to Dallas in late May. Thanks!


Reed in 2011 that one that hit Tuscaloosa Alabama I was about to work but they called production and I went Home and was on 20/59 heading North and had one behind me and by the time I got off Exit 97 it was gone and every since then I have called Fox 6 and gave them weather reports on any kind of weather and last year when the few tornadoes touch down in Walker County I was here outside watching for it and I know at night and rain wrap is the hardest to see. I started watching you show since and loved it. If You have to come to Walker County will You send me a friends request and like the page of Rescue and recovery of Alabama on Facebook so anytime I see something I can share photos with You and anytime You would lke to chat about this I will enjoy talking to You about this.


There are already some great answers here that probably cover just about everything, so nothing I can add. My answer would simply be as much as possible. Knowledge is power.

My personal opinion is that chasing just for the thrill without any idea what you are doing or any thought about the consequences is stupid and reckless. You are not only endangering your own life but others as well.


Agreed, this question was posed so new chasers can learn how to avoid danger for themselves as well as others, if they choose to go on the road. I would say a majority of the chasers, whether they are doing it for science, school projects or photography are all thrill seekers! Am I right? I have been chasing all my life, only now I am chasing with video cameras, GPS and radar gear, which now makes me a CHASER…a “new chaser” though. Thanks everyone for the great information, I know that I have gained some valuable knowledge and hope that others have too. As for my first trip to TX/OK May 27th, I have a veteran chaser scheduled to ride along with me for a day, road music, 2 GPS options, my radar and other software, some first aid gear, the car will be an all wheel drive, I have paper road maps, I have multiple ways of getting information, although, I have NOT gotten my ham radio operators license yet, but that is scheduled for this November. Oh, and thanks to all you other veteran chasers that have been willing to talk with me on the phone! You all ROCK!


I may have been a little too harsh there, using the “S” word. I just don’t believe that going out and driving around looking for a tornado just for fun- with no other purpose- is the smartest thing to do.

Glad to know you will have someone experienced with you for your first chase.

Don’t forget to take some water and snacks too, in case you don’t have the chance to stop. I don’t know how many times I have heard chasers on the live streams talking about being hungry or thirsty and it always makes me cringe. I know the adrenaline will keep you going, but dehydration and hunger make it harder to concentrate and you have to drive at high speed on wet pavement, through wind and hail… a slight misjudgement could end in a serious accident. And it’s really unhealthy to go for hours without eating or drinking.

Just my two cents. Good luck! =)


Hmmm… I was wondering if that would work just the other day. Not that I would ever do anything like that. But I live in Canada and although it would be nice to have, it’s just not practical to pay that much for it.