FAQ

Why are you offering tours?

Because we really enjoy storm chasing and, more importantly, we love to share that experience with you. We want to help you realize your lifelong dream of seeing severe storms and tornadoes, while understanding something about how and why they form.

What are my chances of seeing a tornado on your tours?

There are no guarantees of seeing a tornado on any one tour but we will make our best efforts to try to achieve that goal for you. We have the knowledge, experience and equipment to make it happen. Even if you do not see a tornado, chances are very good that you will at least see some very unique storm structure and severe storms. Your chance of seeing a tornado largely depends on two factors: (1) the length of your tour and (2) the type of large-scale weather pattern that is in place during your particular tour, particularly during the early tours. Some patterns are very favorable for severe storms and tornadoes over the Plains States and Midwest (e.g., a large upper level “trough” of low pressure in the Western United States with a corresponding upper level “ridge” of high pressure in the Eastern U.S.) and some patterns are not (e.g., a significant upper level trough in the Eastern U.S. and an amplified upper level ridge in the west). It is impossible to accurately forecast more than a few days in advance which atmospheric pattern will be in place for your particular tour. There can be minor variations in these patterns that may allow part of the tour to see increased or decreased activity. To help improve your odds of seeing a tornado we picked our entire range of tour dates to correspond to the broad climatological peak of the U.S. tornado season. Our calculations show that on a statistical average, roughly the same number of tornado days (days on which significant tornadoes occur in the Midwest or Plains) occur each tour period.

Which tour offers the best chance of seeing a tornado?

The odds are the same for any tour of a given duration. As discussed above, the amount of storm activity that occurs during any given tour is a function of the weather pattern that happens to be in place during that tour, something that is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to forecast more than a week in advance. Therefore, which tours are destined to see the best storms and tornadoes is a total crapshoot. As mentioned above, even those tours that have suffered under particularly uncooperative weather patterns have still managed to witness severe thunderstorms and tornadoes! The climate and unique geography of the U.S. dictate that the most frequent severe thunderstorm and tornado activity will occur during that period of time from April through July. The very peak of this season occurs during the period from early May to late June. Therefore, we simply take that peak period and divide it into more-or-less equal chunks of time. We have 6-day tours during the late spring and early summer when severe storm activity has a tendency to be more frequent thereby making shorter tours less risky than they would be earlier in the season. Nevertheless, the longer your tour, the higher your odds of seeing something. In fact, the very best way to maximize your probability of seeing tornadoes is to join two or more of our tours consecutively (which garners a sizable multi-tour discount). Each year, a couple of die-hard storm fans do just that and in every case, it pays off!

How do you determine the length of your tours?

After 15 successful years of tour operation, we have become convinced that ten days is the optimal span for each tour – long enough to see good storms but short enough to fit into a typically busy, vacation-starved schedule. We also proudly offer a slate of tours that are 6-days in length during the early summer when, as mentioned above, storm activity tends to be more frequent due to the seasonal establishment of a very warm and humid regime over the northern and high plains where residual mid-altitude westerlies still blow. These shorter duration tours tend to make a storm chasing adventure tour more practical for people with limited vacation time.

What should I look for when trying to choose a storm chasing tour company?

Number 1: make sure that they have experience and that they have been successful in the past. Experience is important for three reasons: (1) the ability to not only find storms, but to negotiate them safely and confidently; (2) the ability to actually forecast and find the storms and tornadoes; (3) the ability to smoothly run a tour operation, which is distinctly different than just piling into a vehicle with your friends on a whim. Also, we maintain PROPER commercial insurance, and are one of a few operators who actually do. Always ask a tour operator if they have proper commercial insurance for that peace of mind with whomever you choose to tour with. We are registered with the US Department of Transportation, and are proud to boast 100% compliance with their regulations for tour operations! I’ll touch on these ideas vis-à-vis how to vet your prospective tour operator:

Nobody is perfect. Every single chaser makes mistakes and plenty of them. But after being out there for several years, a tour operator should have amassed enough material worthy of displaying on his or her web site. Be especially inquisitive about any tour company whose web site is conspicuously void of photographs or video captures, or redirects you to a client’s site for the bulk of their images. One company in particular is displaying photographs that are fakes. The tornadoes they are showing never occurred at the times and places that they claim and, in many cases, were photoshopped into fake backgrounds and filched from other legitimate sources. If they had actually seen tornadoes, they wouldn’t need to invent ones that didn’t occur! If you would like to discuss this or even ask who we would recommend (other than us of course), please feel free to contact us via email or phone anytime.

We at Silver Lining Tours have pictures of many of the supercell thunderstorms and tornadoes that our tours intercepted. These can be viewed at any time within our extensive Chase Logs. We tell you the truth about what we’ve seen during our tours and we have the storm and tornado pictures to support our claims. It is true that we don’t post images of every single storm seen on every tour, but we make a real effort to show you the majority of the good stuff. We have the proof. This is why we have a 50-60% annual customer retention rate! This past season we had one customer return for his eleventh consecutive year, and several that returned for their fifth or more!

Also beware of tour companies that don’t give you thorough or truthful documentation of their credentials. A tour company might make claims on their websites about how they are the best tornado forecasters in the world, but in fact don’t have any formal education in the field of meteorology and little experience, to boot. If your friendly supermarket butcher claimed to be a skilled surgeon by virtue of the fact that he handles knives, you wouldn’t let him operate on you, right?? The Silver Lining Tour staff features veteran and respected storm chasers with years of chasing experience, the respect of the storm chasing community at large and, in several cases, advanced degrees in meteorology. We truly are among the best severe storm forecasters and chasers in the country, with universal respect within the storm chasing and meteorology community. We create our own forecasts from scratch every day without needing to rely on third parties to do something for us that every tornado tour operator should be capable of doing without assistance! We have the knowledge that some of the others lack and with us you get what you pay for.

The drivers should have amassed considerable driving experience in storm chasing conditions. It’s dangerous to have inexperienced tour guides that drive your tour van around severe thunderstorms. All of our drivers have the critical mass of experience necessary to drive a van-load of passengers in and around storms safely. Even if they are experienced, the drivers should adhere strictly to standards of conduct befitting a commercial driver.

We at Silver Lining Tours are totally dedicated storm chasers, committed to safe and skilled storm chasing. You can expect to have a fulfilling and comprehensive storm chasing experience with us. We will work harder, more skillfully, more safely and more intelligently than anyone else to be in the right place at the right time, time and time again. As you can see from our Chase Logs, that hard work has paid off! There will be no mitigation in our future performance because there will be no abatement in the knowledge, skill and experience of our staff! We will be learning and growing with every passing year, and we will always strive to pass that knowledge on to you, our cherished and valued customer. Why not be a part of these great storm experiences with people that know what they’re doing and care enough to share that knowledge with you?

Why are there so many storm chasing tour companies

Because of simple economics. It became apparent a few years ago that it was possible to run a modestly profitable storm chasing tour operation and sustain it for years. The success of our company and the few pioneers that started it all has encouraged others, some with little or no experience and knowledge, to follow our lead. It seems that a handful of self-proclaimed experts, most of whom we’ve never met nor heard about during our many years of chasing the plains, have come out of the woodwork. The seedier tour operators are likely just trying to capitalize on the growing and emerging market of weather adventure tours. Before choosing a storm chasing tour company you should solicit opinions from veteran storm chasers and previous tour clients.

Do you allow people to follow behind the vans?

Only media personnel, experienced chasers or seasoned drivers are allowed to do so, and only in very special circumstances.

How many vans do you use on each tour?

It depends on how many participants are signed up for a given tour. Typically, we’ll have one to three highly customized 15-passenger vans. If you are not one who believes in the aphorism “the more, the merrier”, then we encourage you to ask about being directed to one of our many offerings that will be limited to no more than two vans, a situation that we will gladly inform you about. Both of our Photography Tours are limited to one van.

Once a tour is filled, it stays filled unless a cancellation occurs. It is also appropriate to note that we have become very adept at operating with 2 – 3 vans, including mastering the art of van customization. We have installed a communications system for van-to-van communications. This system allows everyone in each vehicle to hear the tour leader without the need for CB radios. Ham radio is used to monitor spotter and National Weather Service frequencies. It is also available to convey emergency information to the proper officials.

How many people sit in each van?

Only 6 customers per 15-passenger van plus, of course, a driver and navigator in the captain’s chairs up front. Additional vehicles are staffed with one experienced driver each, plus one additional whenever possible to allow rotating drivers to the maximum extent possible. We remove the rear bench seat in the 15-passenger van to accommodate luggage. This leaves room for only 2 participants sitting in each of the three remaining 3-person bench seat. Therefore, each person is guaranteed a “window” seat at all times!

Will you be changing your tour schedule or canceling a tour?

Almost never. Our schedule is fixed for each season as soon as it is announced. You can plan your vacation with us knowing that the dates you choose are solid. We may, however, add NEW tours from time to time. We have never had to cancel a tour. If, for some reason, we must do so in the future due to a fault of our own the full deposit would be refunded and airline tickets reimbursed (the latter will be refunded unless you have travel insurance which compensates you). It is emphasized that the probability of your tour being cancelled is miniscule and if it is a possibility, you will be notified very early on to allow maximum time to make a change in plans. We are very excited that our tours are so popular and this means that we almost certainly have sufficient demand to fill each and every tour offered.

What are the risks involved in chasing storms with Silver Lining Tours?

There are significant risks involved in storm chasing, no matter with whom you go! However, the risks are substantially lower chasing with us than on your own. We at Silver Lining Tours have only veteran storm chasers and highly skilled drivers handling our tour vans. This experience will greatly reduce the chances of any mishaps while driving during the tours. In fact, during the last 30 years of storm chasing there have been only three storm chaser fatalities1 directly attributable to a storm and its elements. That occurred when researchers (TWISTEX) got too close to a violent Oklahoma tornado in 2013 and misjudged their environment. We are NOT researchers and stay at a safe distance from any tornado. To find out more about safe chasing click here.

Will the area in which you chase during the tours be confined to the region around the meeting location?

Absolutely not! Once the first chase day dawns, we become itinerant for the remainder of your tour.We will take you to the area we think is most likely to experience tornado activity on any given day. We don’t care where this area is: you are paying money to see supercells and tornadoes and we will do whatever it takes within some reasonable space/time perimeter to make it happen, even if we have to travel to the Rio Grande River, the prairies of south-central Canada, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains or east to the Mississippi River. Silver Lining Tours will take you to the best place our substantial forecasting skills can identify. We are the first tour company to have chased storms in Canada, and we have never had any problems with border crossings. We’ve chased as far west as the Rocky Mountains, as far east as the Mississippi River Valley, as far south as the Rio Grande River Valley and very deep into the Canadian Prairies.

Can you give us a reference? Maybe someone who has joined a past tour?

Gladly! Please contact us at info@silverliningtours.com and we’ll put you in touch with a couple of clients who have been on some of our recent tornado chasing tours. Also check out our testimonial page to see what previous customers have had to say!

Lately I notice several new tour companies coming out of the woodwork. How can I tell whether they’re legit?

Although this subject has already been touched upon in the previous Q&A points above, the recent proliferation of storm chasing tour companies warrants special attention to the matter of choosing your company carefully.

Any venture perceived as being successful will inevitably attract a good number of charlatans and fraudsters and that may be happening in the fledgling storm chasing tourism industry as well. As a storm chasing enthusiast seeking the experience of your dreams, choosing the wrong tour company can have very unpleasant results. It pays to do your research and choose wisely. However, it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff because some of the most deceptive owners have cloaked their operations with a neat veneer.

Webster Dictionary defines an expert as “one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject”. A few companies in our industry are bandying this term with aplomb, when in fact not one single individual affiliated with the organization in question satisifies the criterion in any way, shape or form!

We at Silver Lining Tours can rightfully tout our expertise because the people making the day-to-day decisions about where to chase, which storm to target and so forth are truly experts – having amassed a body of experience and skills worthy of the label.

So how to tell whether the owners are being truthful? Have a careful look at the listed credentials and pictures, ask for references, compare to other companies and then decide for yourself.

We at Silver Lining Tours, also maintain proper commercial insurance. There are in fact FEW storm chasing tour operators that carry this insurance.

How much does a tour cost? And what about deposits?

Tour fees vary depending on a lot of factors, especially the length of the tour. Deposits are either $600 or $700 and are due at the time of booking, with 6 and 7 day tour deposits being $600, and 10 day tour deposits $700. Your tour balance is due no later than 60 days before the tour starts. Once you book a spot on a tour we’ll send you an invoice which you can pay the deposit and tour balance from. Please check out our tour schedule page for a listing of our offerings. You can click on the tour name to take you to a page where tour details are shown.