This is a guest blogger post written by Tony Barlow (@tonybarlow03), a member of the KELOLAND Storm Chasing team. We hope you enjoy this post about storm chasing in South Dakota, a thrilling adventure!
While many people may think of South Dakota as a summer tourist destination because of things like Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Badlands National Park or the Missouri River there is a very different group of people that visit the Rushmore State during the summer months… Storm Chasers!
While South Dakota is officially on the northern edge of tornado alley many chasers love to chase in the state because of a few factors. The first is our road network; eastern South Dakota has a great road network for chasing because for the most part it is on a grid. That means that you know you can drive 1 mile and have an east-west or north-south road. This is a big deal when you are trying to follow a tornado or trying to stay out of a tornadoes way! As a chaser you want to know that you have a lot of travel options. It is also popular because of our terrain. Most of South Dakota is very flat, without a lot of trees. That means that you can be several miles away from a tornado and still have a good visual of the storm. The terrain factor was huge for me and the KELO team last year during the Bowdle, South Dakota tornado. We were expecting storms to fire in south central South Dakota. However, as is pretty typical the storms didn’t follow the rules and fired in north central South Dakota. From Chamberlain we were able to see the storm clouds all the way in northern South Dakota. These visual clues gave us a nice head start on catching up with the storms.
One of the reasons I love chasing in South Dakota is because it is such a diverse state as far as terrain and topography. While chasing I have seen everything from the Glacial Lakes area in the northeast to the Badlands in the west. My favorite area is the Missouri River corridor around and south of Chamberlain. Oftentimes while following storms we will cover several hundred miles and see most of South Dakota’s natural beauty in one day!
In recent years storm chasing has become a very big deal. Just a few years ago we would only see a couple of vehicles out on the road when storm chasing. These days because of television shows and media attention to compelling video there can be hundreds of chasers out during an event. I know there were a couple of events last year that brought chasers up from Oklahoma and Texas to chase storms in South Dakota. This of course can be good and bad, the chasers need to eat and get gas so there likely is some boost to the economy, however, from a chasing perspective the more people following a storm the more dangerous it can be. You can just imagine a traffic jam on a tiny South Dakota dirt road when there is a tornado in the area! As a part of the KELO chase team we do our best to keep our distance from the storms and try to stay away from the crowds.
Learn more about the tools and processes that the KELOLAND team uses when out storm chasing in a future blog post here on Tuesday, June 24.
If you would like to follow us this severe weather season in the KELOLAND Storm Center you can do so on Twitter, just follow @kelostormcenter. You can also follow our chase team at @dorothychase. We also have a great facebook page where we will post updates, just search KELOLAND News and “LIKE” our page. Lastly, we have created a web page where you can keep up to date and view our live chase camera and GPS as we follow the storms. You can also watch the live storm coverage on KELO-TV, view our radars, and follow the twitter streams. Here is the link for that resource: http://www.keloland.com/_flash/weather/severewx/index.html