You've been researching, going from site to site seeing which tour company is going to offer you the best service for your needs and ultimately those needs are to see the most severe weather and tornadoes as possible! For many, once that choice has been made it comes down to the next question - When is the best time to go on that storm chasing adventure of a lifetime? In this article we are going to investigate the many tour periods that are available and which one is truly the best of them all - the answer might surprise you.
Almost all storm chasing tour companies offer predetermined tour periods that you can choose from. For example:
Tour 3 and so forth.
Each tour company places these tour periods during what they believe to be the best time of the season for experiencing the highest frequency of severe weather and tornadoes. Some begin their tours in early April while others wait until Mid April or even May. The time of year when companies end their tours is also across the board - some ending their tours at the end of May, others in June and a few all the way into mid July. Some offer up to 11 tour periods to select from during these times, while others as few as three. The decision as to which tour period you select can be a very difficult one. Which brings us to length. Like pretty much everything else in life, the longer you stay after something the greater your odds are for success.
As you scan over tour schedules from various companies you'll notice that many vary from 5 days up to 14 chase days - with 6 to 10 days being the most readily available. Some chase tour companies only offer 7 day tours while others mix it up, offering different lengths of tours throughout storm season.
Onto the meat and potatoes. What is the best month, the best week and best length?
Something to consider before digging into that million dollar question! Mobility.
Several tour operators ( including Tornadic Expeditions ) place a tornado frequency graphic on their tour schedule ( seen below ) for each tour period offered. The data collected on the graphic is observed frequency from 1982 to 2011. These charts were created by NOAA.
Tornado Probabilities Graphic
With this mind, I am going back to the subject of mobility. Yes, you will notice when looking at these graphics that May and June are going to present the highest amount of tornado frequency, but does that mean your odds are higher in May than say July or April - to simply state the answer is...No. The reason is simple, mobility. We go to where the storms are going to be. There doesn't need to be 20 tornadoes a day for us to see a tornado. Any tour period ran from the months of April through July have equal odds of experiencing tornadoes and severe weather due to mobility.
As a tour operator, it is our job to be in the right place at the right time, so you can witness the splendor of our incredible skies. We can only chase one storm at a time. I'll break it down!
Here is the current 3 year average number of tornadoes per month in the United States:
April - 146
May - 242
June - 185
July - 102
It's easy to get excited about those numbers in May, but mobility and experience levels this playing field real quick. A legitimate tour company with real chase and forecasting experience is going to make a quality forecast each day and stay on top of that forecast as new data comes in. Since only one storm at a time can be chased it is imperative to be in the right spot the first time. Our forecast and experience determines where we will go from day to day to stay in the game. There is also the possibility that there could be a tour period where there is very little severe weather. When there are no storms to chase - no tour company is chasing. This can happen on any tour period and it has, although it is rare.
Here is an example. Let's say it's a chase day in May and by the end of the day there were 15 confirmed tornadoes across 2 states and 4 storms produced those tornadoes. The storm that you were on produced 3 tornadoes. A great day! Now let's say there is a chase day in July, there is only one storm to chase and it produced 3 tornadoes for everyone to witness! Both days produced stunning views and tornadoes, but which day was better? They were both equal. The month of May might have 9 tornado days totaling 242 tornadoes as where July could have 16 tornado days totaling 102 tornadoes.
Of course there are a ton of other variables to include as well. Some years May is not the prolific tornado producer it is cracked up to be, sometimes it's June or April.
The point is all tours offered by most tour companies are in the prime of storm season and there is no real way of knowing which period is going to be better than another. Any tour period you decide to go on is a little bit of gamble when it comes to the weather. So how do you place the odds in your favor?
- We know not everyone can go 10 plus days, so choose a tour at least 6 days long. If you can go longer, then you just gave yourself higher odds.
- Reach out to different tour companies and ask questions.
- Select a reputable tour company who really shows care for their guests.
In closing, keep an open mind when looking into which tour period to select. Besides what your schedule will allow - don't focus too much on the time of season. Also, consider the region or area the tours are most likely to take place in, northern plains vs southern plains. A great tour guide is going to find storms and if mother nature is generous some tornadoes as well! All storm chasing tour companies share the same sky, some just find the storms a little better than others.
I wrote this article with zero bias, so I can help you make the best decision for you. We would be honored to have you out with us and it would be our pleasure to make your dreams come true on your next storm chasing vacation. You can learn more about our storm chasing tours here.