StormGroup Chasers is not a commercial business - no profits are made. As a small group of like-minded people sharing expenses, it's a much more personalised, participative and educational experience than many of the large group tours operating on the Plains.
Each tour is a full 10 days days on the road using one chase vehicle, allowing greater flexibility of movement and making the best use of our chase day. The small group approach allows greater communication and flexibility, including healthier food options - daily supermarket shopping stored in a fridge in the van, to enable scenic picnic stops for lunch.
Regular daily departures by 9:00am (after breakfast at interesting local diners), and no late night driving marathons (except where jointly agreed upon to meet a promising “next day target”) also make for a more enjoyable chase experience.
Our Chasing Guidelines
- deliver the best overall experience - a great holiday that includes superb storm chasing
- focus on the group's needs, rather than the leader's personal storm chasing objectives
- maintain a “beginner’s mind” to keeping an understanding of the group's perspective
- continue to fully appreciate the “wonder of it all” – don’t get jaded
- involve the group in the forecasting process - with final decisions by the tour leader
- educate using background resources/materials and live involvement in the chase
- communication, communication, communication
- chase every tornadic event, "go" for all severe opportunities - failing that, chase all available storms
- safety as the baseline - while we want the “whole experience”, always carefully manage the risks
- enable photography, e.g. sunsets, unique lighting, dramatic scenes, storm effects, local sights
- book hotel locations for overnight severe weather activity
- experience the Midwest “history and landmarks” - but avoid “tourist traps”
- find unique & interesting restaurants/diners for that "local" experience
- enable healthy food options, balanced against the need sometimes just to "grab & go"
Your tour will be led by myself, Peter Wharton, as tour organiser and lead forecaster. I started storm chasing in 2002 after a lifelong interest in severe weather. My parents tell the story of me standing in my crib and watching a major lightning display one night in London - childhood imprinting for severe weather!
I've personally witnessed over 90 tornadoes in my years of chasing. An especially photogenic experience was the classic Campo, Colorado EF2 tornado on May 31st, 2010 - this was a "chaser's dream tornado" - one that chasers wait years to see, and then talk about forever! In 2011, we were within a few miles of the destructive Joplin, Missouri tornado - a sobering experience, reminding us of the devastating impact of severe weather on local communities. In 2012, we witnessed 7 tornadoes one magic afternoon/evening at La Crosse, Kansas - that evening's chase ended with a huge cone tornado just a mile away, popping out of the gloom only when backlit by intense CG lighting. The 2013 tours included huge wedge tornadoes at Carney & El Reno, OK and Bennington, KS - unfortunately with tragic outcomes at El Reno, giving a pointed reminder of the need to be ever vigilant about safe chasing practices. In 2016 we were right underneath a supercell as the tornado sirens went off south of Dodge City - we witnessed 12 separate tornadoes that afternoon from one incredible cyclic tornadic supercell. In 2022 we were right beside the Morton, TX tornado as it morphed from a ground hugging wall cloud to a stovepipe tornado to a massive EF2 wedge tornado - a front row seat to arguably the “tornado of the year” for 2022.
Despite all these dramatic events, the experience of closing in on a massive rotating "spaceship" supercell never ceases to amaze me - I really enjoy the challenge of targeting severe weather, rolling along on a superb road trip with great people, and doing my utmost to deliver the best possible chasing experience.
Steve Graham has been storm chasing 5 times, 4 of those with SGC, and will co-drive with me on Tours 1 & 5. Retired after a successful career in the Pharmaceutical industry, Steve brings a passion for severe weather developed as a child growing up in the Midwest. He also has an interest in photography, especially landscape photography, is an avid cyclist, enjoys hiking and fitness, and loves to travel. Steve enjoys the camaraderie of the group and sharing the excitement of seeing severe weather first-hand. “Storm chasing is about much more than finding elusive tornadoes, it is about appreciating the formation and development of enormous, powerful and beautiful storm systems.”
Jan Bechtum will be my co-driver on Tour 2. Jan is an IT consultant from the Netherlands, as well as a an accomplished musician and composer, as the first lead guitarist in a group called Picture, a Dutch heavy metal band. After forming and playing in several groups over the years, Jan has recently rejoined Picture, which has been on international tour. All of his life he has been fascinated with severe weather, especially thunderstorms. The opportunity came to tour Tornado Alley some 12 years ago ... after that first year he was hooked for life. "This will be my 11th year on the Plains, and 7th year with Peter ... chasing storms is an amazing adventure for me, and it is fantastic to be able to do this with a group of people from all over the world sharing the same interest".
John Anderson was a classmate many years ago in the Faculty of Commerce at UBC and will act as a co-driver on Tour 3. John joined me last year for the first time to experience storm chasing. A former professor of management at UCLA, Columbia, Queen's University and the University of Colorado Boulder, John now is semi-retired and lives in Los Cabos Mexico, where his Facebook page, Enjoy Los Cabos Life has reached over 10 million people in its fourth year. An avid driver going back and forth from Denver to Los Cabos each year, he is used to long days on the road and the excitement of anticipating storms.
Randy Hall returns for his 6th year, again in the co-driver’s seat, this year for Tour 4. As the child of a WWII China-Burma-India Theatre pilot and radioman, Randy learned to fly at his dad’s knee and was awed by the beauty and power of the cumulus towers that surrounded them. Randy married his childhood sweetheart and fellow chaser, Jo Ann, and translated his love of flying into a career in aerospace. "Every trip with Peter yields exciting chases, awe-inspiring weather, and life-long friendships with my fellow chasers".
StormGroup Chasers tours will use the largest spacious Chevy Suburban or similar vehicle, with two drivers & four passengers, each with their own window seat.
There is a full technology platform - widescreen display laptop visible from all seats, so you always know "what's going on"; real-time weather & radar software; full access to all severe weather forecast models and analytics; supported by on-road real-time reliable Internet access using mobile hotspots, antenna and amplifier; position tracking via GPS/Street Atlas; public reporting to Spotter Network; and a Weather Radio as a safety-warning backup. Due to the challenges of managing competing data streams/bandwidth, WiFi is not available in the vehicle, so guests should arrange for their own Internet access while on the chase.