Frequently Asked Questions
What is Tempest Tours?
Tempest Tours is a storm chasing expedition company. We introduce the science and romance of storms and storm chasing to guests. Our team is comprised of some of the most experienced and successful storm chasers in the country. We emphasize safety, education and responsible conduct.
What's it like chasing with Tempest Tours?
See our latest videos and photos.
Why chase with Tempest Tours?
See this page.
Is Tempest Tours safe and responsible?
Yes, we place safe and responsible conduct above all else. Our staff receives an annual orientation which centers around very strict safety guidelines. All guides must be approved by our insurance company prior to each season. Members of our team are responsible for creating materials for the National Weather Service to train storm spotter groups nationwide.
What is your storm chasing philosophy?
First, you'll want to know something about the Tempest Tours philosophy. Storm chasing to us means finding the best storm of the day. It's about learning, seeing, and appreciating incredible weather in a safe and professional manner. An important part of storm chasing is just being on the Great Plains during the most beautiful time of the year. Farms, ranches, wheat fields, wildflowers, friendly people, and good food are all part of the experience.
What do tours include?
- The industry's most experienced staff. The single most important thing we provide our guests is our team. We've been successfully forecasting and tracking severe weather longer than most, and emphasize safety and education.
- Lodging. We stay at clean, comfortable Tornado Alley style motels, usually in small, rural towns. Most offer free Wi-Fi and a free, basic breakfast.
- Transportation. Clean, comfortable, smoke-free, company-owned and carefully maintained 8-passenger vans. All guests will receive a window seat with an unobstructed view of our big sky. Our vehicles are equipped with state-of-the-art chase equipment including redundant weather radar and GPS systems. They are built for safe and reliable travel including the highest rated truck tires in the world (for wet traction, heat and tread) and best rated batteries and roadside safety equipment.
- Limited tour sizes. We operate with a maximum of two vehicles for a safer, more enjoyable experience.
- Free on-board Wi-Fi in each vehicle.
- Exclusive chase team T-shirt. A new, unique shirt is provided every season.
- Daily weather briefings. Our team will analyze and forecast a target early in the morning and will present a forecast package to the group prior to each day's chase. It's important to us that our guests leave with a better understanding and appreciation for our dynamic atmosphere.
- Personal service. Our staff is here for you. We will do everything possible to help make your trip with us comfortable, safe, and fun. Team members are always available to answer your questions about anything.
- Discounts on future tours. All return guests receive a discount on tours.
- Our commitment to safety. The safety of our guests and staff is our number one concern. Tempest Tours has established a safe record and has maintained a commercial grade insurance policy since we began operating in 2000. All driving records are checked and cleared each year by our underwriter. And, our staff receives a thorough and updated safety orientation annually. In addition, all guests are presented with an in-depth safety class prior to each tour. Our president, Martin Lisius, is also our risk manager. He is known throughout the storm chasing community for being tough on safe and responsible conduct. Martin is the author of "The Ultimate Severe Weather Safety Guide," a book he wrote to mitigate the risks of potentially dangerous weather.
- Exploration days. When Mother Nature takes a rest, so do we. On those days, we stop at sites like Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Devils Tower, Pyramid Rocks, Palo Duro Canyon, the Cadillac Ranch, The Big Texan, Chimney Rock, local National Weather Service offices, the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma, or take a personal guided tour of the Lisius Farm in Nebraska. And on these days, we eat delicious local Tornado Alley delicacies like chicken fried steak, some of the world's best BBQ and our legendary Tex-Mex cuisine. We make sure every day is a day of wonder!
- Storms! Lots of storms. That's what we do best. See some of the storms we've captured for our guests on our Facebook page.
- There are no extra fees like fuel surcharges, baggage fees or booking fees.
Which tour should I go on?
If you have the time, consider our 10-day tours. If you prefer a shorter tour, consider our 5 or 6-day tours. If you want the best possible experience, consider one of our Lecture Tours. All tours are scheduled to coincide with peak tornado activity.
Can kids go on storm chasing tours?
Yes, depending on the age. The child needs to be accompanied by an adult and have parent/guardian permission.
Rates & Registration
Rates are subject to change. Guests are charged the rate published at our web site at the time of registration. Register early as most tours sell out. Longer tours offer more opportunities to see storms, shorter tours are more convenient. You can combine consecutive tours and receive $200 off your booking and free "in between" lodging. You may want to do this if you are a "storm nut" like us.
What are your Departures Locations aka "base cities"?
Our base cities are Arlington, Texas, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Denver, Colorado. They were chosen for their proximity to the highest average risk of significant storms for the corresponding time period. We will depart from and return to our base city. We may be chasing hundreds of miles from the base city during the tour - most likely in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, and Minnesota.
We sometimes chase in Canada during June and July, so be sure to have a passport if you are booking a June or July tour!
Arlington, Oklahoma City and Denver offer fun and interesting things to do if you arrive early or stay late.
Arlington: Dallas Cowboys/AT&T Stadium Tours, Texas Rangers Baseball, Six Flags Over Texas, Hurricane Harbor Waterpark, Shopping at The Parks Mall.
Oklahoma City: BBQ, Tex-Mex, 89ers baseball, rodeos, museums, a beautiful and vibrant downtown district, tours at the National Weather Center in Norman.
Denver: Great food, Colorado Rockies MLB baseball, rodeos, museums, a beautiful and vibrant downtown district, and the incredible Rocky Mountains.
How do I make Travel arrangements?
Schedule your flight so you arrive in time to make the 10:00 am orientation. Most guests arrive the day prior to avoid missing the tour departure. Always a good plan. Schedule your departing flight so that it leaves after 3:00 pm on the final tour date, or just stay an extra day and relax.
What are Guest Responsibilities?
Guests are responsible for meals and extra lodging prior or after the tour. We eat at casual restaurants, usually in small towns. When we have time, we eat at eateries featuring local cuisine such as chicken fried steak, Tex-Mex, steaks, BBQ, home cooked meals, and big breakfasts. We want our guests to enjoy the taste of Tornado Alley while they are on tour. When we are in a hurry to catch storms, we stop at McDonalds and truck stops. For those needing to eat healthy, even these fast options now offer salads. Guests who require an early evening dinner should take along a snack. Snacks are easily acquired during fueling stops.
We sometimes chase in Canada during June and July, so be sure to have a passport if you are booking a June or July tour!
What can I expect to see and experience if I go on a tour?
You will learn and experience all aspects of storm chasing. In essence, you will live the life of a real storm chaser. It is likely that you'll see significant storms and possibly tornadoes.
On the morning of each chase day, the Tour Director presents a forecast briefing to the group. The briefing outlines the day's target and departure time. If forecast parameters suggest an early departure, the Tour Director informs the group the night before. However, the group must be ready to depart for a chase target with very little notice. This is one of the many things that make storm chasing both challenging and exciting. The goal of each chase day is to forecast and intercept the most significant weather that we expect to develop on the Plains later in the day. We operate primarily in the Tornado Alley states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Along the way, our team educates guests about the many dimensions of storm chasing including the meteorology, logistics and even romance of our discipline. Guests will gain a greater appreciation for the atmosphere and the Great Plains.
We concentrate on forecasting supercell thunderstorms, our initial objective. Supercells are thunderstorms with long-lived rotating updrafts. When supercells develop as forecasted, the group will intercept and view them from a safe distance. Some chase days continue after dark when Mother Nature provides us with a spectacular lightning display. Guests are afforded many opportunities for photography.
There are some days when no storms occur on the plains of Tornado Alley. Atmospheric physics require "recovery" days in between stormy periods. It is the "order follows chaos" principle of weather. We use these days to reposition for the next storm intercept. On fair weather days, we visit as many points of interest as time allows. Some of the sites on ourmaps include: the National Severe Storms Laboratory and Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado and other weather-related facilities, the Twister Museum in Wakita, OK, Cadillac Ranch and Big Texan in Amarillo, Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, the world's largest ball of twine in Kansas, Chimney Rock National Monument in Nebraska and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. And, there are the miles of beautiful prairie landscapes, and skyscapes, that every day of the tour offers!
Will I see a tornado if I go on a tour?
There's no way to know if guests will see a tornado while on tour. Tours are scheduled during the US tornado maximum, and are lead by skilled storm chasers. It is likely that guests will, at least, see significant storms such as supercells. Each day, we will forecast and go to areas of highest tornado risk.
Do you drive into tornadoes and other damaging weather? No. We view storms close enough to see incredible things such as tornadoes, but far enough to be safe. We do not "drive into" damaging weather and do everything possible to avoid these hazards.
How close do you get to tornadoes?
We get close enough to tornadoes to take great photos, but still at a safe distance. We don't drive into tornadoes or dangerous hail.
How do you count tornadoes?
We have kept a record of tornadoes intercepted since 2003 (we saw tornadoes in 2001 and 2002 but began documenting them in 2003), and individual intercepts indicating the date, location and number.
We count only tornadoes that we are 100 percent certain are tornadoes. We do not count every brief dust whirl or spin-up beneath an area of strong, persistent rotation. By definition, a tornado is a violently rotating column of air in contact with the ground that is associated with a thunderstorm. It is easy to interpret that so that almost any ground swirl can be called a "tornado." We believe there needs to be a distinctive pause in the ground rotation before we count a second tornado and we don't count things that simply "look like a tornado." Sometimes, we see what we think "might" be a tornado, such as strong rotation within an area of precipitation, but we do not add it to our count unless we are absolutely sure. This often requires a lengthy discussion among our team and a close revisit of video and photos. It may require days for us to determine if what we saw was a tornado or not. As scientists, we want to be absolutely sure and accurate in what we post. And, as veteran storm chasers, we see no purpose in calling something a tornado that may not be a tornado. With our conservative method, it's probable that we don't count every tornado we see, but the ones we do count have been verified.
Finally, the tornado intercept counts we post are ONLY tornadoes seen by Tempest Tours during our short 10-week annual operation period. We do not count tornadoes seen by our individual staff members while chasing independently. If we did, our numbers would be substantially higher.
Which tour offers the greatest chance of seeing tornadoes and supercells?
Our tour dates and base cities are selected to coincide with the highest frequency of tornadoes in Tornado Alley. All tours offer an equal chance of seeing tornadoes and supercells, on a per day basis. Naturally, the longer the tour, the greater the chance of seeing significant storms. To learn more about tornado climatology, and the best time to chase, click here.
What is the Lecture Tour?
Our Lecture Tour is hosted by renown tornado scientist Dr. Charles Doswell who presents an informal yet comprehensive discussion on storm chasing during the tour. Dr. Doswell shares his insight on forecasting, logistics, and safety.
Where do you chase?
We chase in an area of the US called "Tornado Alley." Tornado Alley spans the Great Plains from Texas to the Dakotas. We travel throughout this area to reach our forecast targets.
How do you know where the most significant storms will occur?
Our team analyzes weather data the night prior to, and the morning of each chase day to determine a target. The tour group departs for the forecasted target, usually in the morning, with an expected afternoon intercept. The Tour Director will refine the target throughout the day as he acquires new data. Once at the target, we intercept storms when they develop.
Is storm chasing really like the movie "Twister?"
No. "Twister" was a fictionalized portrayal of storm chasing. In reality, successful storm chasing requires careful forecasting and planning. Storm chasing is a serious discipline that demands constant attention to logistics, safety and changes in atmospheric conditions.
What are the risks involved with storm chasing?
Our team exercises safe practices at all times. However, as with any outdoor activity, there are some risks involved. An excellent document authored by our Lecture guide, Dr. Charles Doswell, examines the risks of storm chasing in-depth. Link to Chuck Doswell's article "Storm Chasing with Safety, Courtesy, and Responsibility".
Do you camp out and stay in tents while on the tour?
We are asked this question on occasion. The answer is no, we stay in clean, comfortable motels each night. Staying in a tent would not only be uncomfortable, but also potentially hazardous if a severe storm were to threaten the area.
Will I have a window seat?
Yes! Each guest will have an unobstructed window view in our clean, comfortable, roomy, smoke-free, air conditioned, owned and carefully maintained vans. In order to maximize safety, logistics and maintain the quality of our product, we typically operate only two vehicles per tour, but never more than three.
Is Tempest Tours insured?
Yes. To compliment the safety measures we practice on a daily basis, we posses a complete commercial insurance policy. Read, A Tour Operator's Responsibility.
What camera do I need for taking pictures of storms?
Bring a camera to take pictures. You can shoot almost everything with a good smart phone. If you want to bring other gear, then a quality zoom lens roughly in the 24 mm -105 mm (FF) range will cover most subjects. Fast, wide lenses in the 14-16 mm (FF) range can be quite useful as well. Several of our staff members are well-known, professional storm photographers and can answer any question you have on the subject.
You can also check out "Best Gear for Storm Photography" written by Tempest Tours President Martin Lisius.
I'm ready to go! How do I sign up?
Just go to our registration page to get started. Seating is limited, so register early.