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Tornado chasing becomes new vacation of choice for thrillseekers

Friday, October 8th, 2010 3:03pm MDT
"Tornado tourism" is becoming a quickly growing industry as folks look for alternatives to a trip to the beach. (ThorntonWeather.com)

"Tornado tourism" is becoming a quickly growing industry as folks look for alternatives to a trip to the beach. Check out the slideshow below to see what a one week tour yielded this past summer. (ThorntonWeather.com)

While many might view a tornado something to flee from, an increasing number of vacationers are flocking to the Great Plains for the chance to get up close and personal with a twister.  A new study shows that storm chasing tours are becoming a vacation of choice for not only many Americans but also visitors from overseas. 

A University of Missouri research team found that interest in tornado chasing is being fed by popular television shows like the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers.  Further, thanks to the power of the Internet, live video streams by storm chasers showing tornadoes as they rip across the landscape have skyrocketed in popularity. 

Tornado Alley stretches across the nation’s midsection and is a unique location as most of the world’s tornadoes occur in this broad swath from South Dakota to Texas.  Tour operators like Silver Lining Tours have capitalized on tourists seeking something more adventurous than a day at the beach.  

Researchers Sonja Wilhelm Stanis and Carla Barbieri said that while the majority of participants in these tours were American, there was an international flavor to them as well. “While more than half of the surveyed travelers lived in North America, 11 percent came from Australia and nearly a third traveled from Europe to get a close encounter with a tornado.”

Storm chasing tours take to the Great Plains on the hunt for tonradoes. This past summer as part of our work with Examiner.com, we rode along on a seven day tornado chasing tour that covered more than 3,000 miles.  Among the 18 tourists were five British citizens, three of whom have been on multiple storm chasing tours in the United States. 

Demographics for the group ran the entire gamut from married couples to singles aged from 25 to 55.  Their backgrounds were as varied as one would expect at any vacation destination with blue collar workers and urban professionals all among the participants. 

The study found that most that chose this high-risk activity were satisfied with the experience, even if they did not see a tornado.  One-third of them saw a tornado while 50% saw funnel clouds.  The vast majority, 95%, at least saw a “significant atmospheric event.” 

View the slideshow for images of what it is like on a storm chasing tour.  Also be sure to check out this video shot by ThorntonWeather.com of the Campo, Colorado tornado.

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2 Responses to “Tornado chasing becomes new vacation of choice for thrillseekers”

  1. Mark Lingl Says:

    Weather Gods Tornado Chase Tours is the most successful Tornado chasing operation. Weather Gods weekly tornado/funnel intercept rate it the highest in the industry at 100%. Chase tornadoes with a degreed meteorologist. Weather Gods Tornado Chase Tours will have you in the action daily, traveling in clean, comfortable, air conditioned vans. Then staying in quality hotels at night. Check us out at weathergodsinc.com

  2. Thornton Weather Says:

    We will allow the above comment although we normally do not allow commercial solications. Weather Gods appears to be a reputable organization however ThorntonWeather.com does not endorse them and is not the chase company we have chased with in the past.

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