CHASING THE WIND An Arlington adventure tour company has established itself as one of the top storm chasing groups in America. Founded in 2000 by veteran storm chaser Martin Lisius, Tempest Tours has become one of the hottest tickets in the adventure travel industry. The company books guests from around the world who want to experience the unique discipline known as storm chasing. Tempest Tours is operated by a team of experienced storm chasers who understand every facet of severe weather meteorology. Their goal is to share their knowledge and appreciation for storms with guests. Tours are conducted from late April to early July to coincide with peak tornado activity in Tornado Alley, a region that stretches from Texas to the Dakotas. Each tour departs from and returns to the scheduled base cities of Denver and Oklahoma City. What makes the company unique is its wealth of experience and its operational philosophy. “The founding members of our staff began chasing from the 1970’s through the early 1990’s,” Lisius said. “We didn’t start the company to help fund our chasing. We created Tempest because of the many requests we received from people wanting to go with us as individual chasers. And, we believe that storm chasing should be conducted in a safe and responsible manner.” Safety is the foundation of the group’s daily activities. They track storms close enough to view tornadoes, but far enough to be safe. “We don’t drive into tornadoes. We are out there to appreciate the beauty of nature, not for the thrill of doing something dangerous,” said Lisius, a 27-year expert and author of the book “The Ultimate Severe Weather Safety Guide.” On the morning of each chase day, the tour director presents a forecast briefing to guests which defines the day’s target. If forecast parameters suggest an early departure, he informs the group the night prior. However, the group must be ready to depart for a chase target with 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 expected to develop on the plains later in the afternoon. Along the way, the team educates guests about the many dimensions of storm chasing including meteorology, logistics and photography. The company concentrates on forecasting and intercepting supercell thunderstorms, a rare type of storm that is identifiable by a persistent rotating updraft. When they develop as forecasted, the group will intercept and view them from a safe distance. Some chase days continue after dark when nature provides guests with a brilliant lightning display. There are some days during a tour 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. During this time, the group visits points of interest on their way to the next day’s storm target. Some of the sites include the National Severe Storms Laboratory and Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, the Twister Museum in Wakita, Oklahoma, the Cadillac Ranch, Palo Duro Canyon and Big Texan in Amarillo, the world’s largest ball of twine in Kansas, Chimney Rock National Monument in Nebraska, and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. “For many of our guests, this is the adventure of a lifetime,” Lisius said. “They take a tour with us as a onetime ‘bucket list’ experience, and then return year after year.” To book a storm chasing expedition with Tempest Tours, visit their registration page at www.tempesttours.com or call (817) 274-9313. Tours operate during the spring and early summer, and often sell out by March.You can view spectacular storm photos captured by the group on the company’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tempesttours
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