This section is for anyone wanting to see and experience the power of the weather (a 'weather tourist'), be it watching the crashing waves and wild winds of a winter storm or experiencing more dangerous weather like thunderstorms, tornados, ice storms and hurricanes.
Weather focused adventures come in two main flavours:
• Firstly the trips and tours focused on extreme weather in the form of hurricanes, twisters, tornados, supercell thunderstorms and lightning – and where the aim is to follow the weather. Chasing the storms to take photos and video or simply to experience the forces and watch the spectacle. This type of trip is listed in the first part of this page. Also see the article here.
• The second type of weather trip is a little more sedate (safer too!); while still experiencing dramatic and impressive storms first-hand, guests do so from a comfortable base, often a strategically situated luxury hotel, in an area known for its impressive weather action. These holidays can be found in the second part of this page. See the article here.
North America experiences some of the most extreme and violent weather in the world and most commercial storm chasing tours take place here. Its popularity is aided by a good road network, which makes following a storm easier, the availability of plenty of accurate weather data, and flat open landscapes offering panoramic views.
The infamous 'Tornado Alley', with its exceptionally high number of tornadoes, is the most popular destination. This covers an area made up of much of the Great Plains and a large chunk of the Midwest and generally includes the states of: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming and the Dakotas.
The main US storm chasing periods are the spring tornado season, which runs from April to June, and the hurricane season, running from June to November.
Tips on choosing a storm chasing package
• Check that the company uses experienced storm chasers. A good team can teach you about the science behind the storms, as well as just getting you to the weather, and may include meteorologists or climatologists in the mix.
• If your principal aim is recording the storm, be it in still photos or on video, look out for packages specifically dedicated to this. Some tours include instruction from professional weather photographers who will be able to provide tips on getting the best shots.
• A lot of storm chasing time is spent travelling, using mini-vans, 4x4's and SUV's, and driving anywhere between 100 and 500 miles per day, so make sure the vehicle used is a comfortable one!
• Remember that not all days are stormy, a good tour company will arrange for visits to local sights and attractions at times when storms aren't expected. Look for this detailed on their tour descriptions.
Then there is lightning ... You'll get lighting in the US of course, but if you want the the very best lighting destination you'll need to head for Venezuela, with its Catatumbo Lightning – an amazing storm that's active each year for between 140 and 160 days. During peak periods the storm can last nine or ten hours a day, with up to 270 lightning discharges an hour! A few tour operators run trips in the area (see right), not generally specifically chasing the lighting storms, but taking them in as part of a bigger trip in Venezuela.
video: view video
Offering a range of different stormchasing tour packages catering for the changes through the severe weather season, also tours for special requirements such as a specialist severe weather photography tour. They have tours available right through the season from April to July.
Sociable 7 or 10-day storm chasing tours from the UK going out to the US midwest to witness incredible storms. Tours are lead by experienced chasers, forecasters and drivers, and tour vehicles carry the latest tracking technology. Pre-tour meets are also arranged through the year.
Tornado Alley storm chasing tour company. Offering six-day tours covering a number of states in the US in Tornado Alley and Great Plains area, using well equipped vehicles with up-to-date radar, mobile broadband and state-of-the-art communications.
Severe weather and tornado tours in Canada and the US, with a very experienced weather consultant, tornado chaser and US/Canada certified storm spotter. All tours include transport, storm target briefing and lessons in severe weather forecasting and navigation.
Complete tour packages to view tornadoes, storm structures and lightning displays from safe vantage points in the heart of Tornado Alley. Learn about the formation of the weather as well as chasing and forecasting skills.
Facilitating storm chasing adventures in Australia and the United States; offering educational training covering forecasting techniques, storm safety and storm chasing field experience. Including supercell thunderstorms in NSW and Queensland, and US tours in Tornado Alley.
The Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, British Columbia is the original and ultimate winter storm watching destination on the West coast of Vancouver Island. Here they really know how to do it, here every room has a view of the ocean, here they provide rain gear boots and oilskin hats, guided nature walks, fireplaces and hot drinks. Their dedicated 'Storm Watchers Package' is ideal for a short break.
For a unique close-up experience of the storm, we recommend taking a massage in their cedar cabin located right out on the edge of the ocean.
The NW Pacific coasts of America and Canada are the origin of the newest trend in autumn and winter breaks, that of storm watching from the safety and comfort of a well positioned hotel, B&B or holiday rental. The West coast is exposed to the strong winds and crashing waves of Pacific weather, so is prime winter storm territory with many places along the Washington, Oregon and British Columbia coast now actively promoting the pastime with dedicated packages. These Pacific storms generally rage from November through to April.
The Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino (on Vancouver Island in Canada) was one of the first to set up dedicated storm watchers packages and now the small towns of Tofino and Ucluelet, long battered by Pacific storms, are at the heart of the activity.
UK storm watching destinations
Storm watching packages as such haven't yet taken off in the UK, but with the weather we've been having recently it can't be long coming! Already you'll find it suggested as a winter activity by a number of holiday sites, many of which are listed in the directory section on the right.
So what are the top destinations? The UK doesn't have the consistent extreme weather you'll find on the American/Canadian Pacific coast, but it does have a number of locations that experience particularly wild weather and above average numbers of winter storms.
One of the stormiest part of England is Cornwall, where the Atlantic weather pounds the North Atlantic coast, offering up crashing rollers and gale force winds for keen weather watchers. Storm season is from November to March, with December and January being the best months.
Then there is the dramatic coastal scenery of South Wales, including the Gower Peninsula and Pembrokeshire which gets a good share of winter gales. Scotland too is a good bet, including the islands and particularly the remote and exposed Hebrides, which feel the effects of North Atlantic storms and gales.
Tips for a storm watch holiday
Once you've chosen your location, make sure your accommodation offers what you need, that's:
Watching spots and big windows with good ocean and cliff views.
• Helpful aids like binoculars, wellie boots, umbrellas and rain gear.
• Comforts from the storm like hot chocolate, open fires, hot tubs and big comfy sofas.
If you venture out into the storm to lean into the wind and feel the rain and spray on your face, stay safe by keeping:
• away from cliff edges,
• off of driftwood piles,
• out of the water,
• and by remembering not to turn your back to the ocean least a unexpected wave catch up with you.
Enjoy the aftermath of the storm, the (sometimes) sunny post-storm weather that can be great for photographs, long walks and beachcombing, as you discover what's been hurled up the beach by the wind and waves.
Ucluelet storm watchers vacation package, this oceanfront resort is in a prime spot for guests to enjoy winter storms and the wild Pacific landscape. View the weather from the resort's floor to ceiling windows.
In an unrivalled location for UK storm watching, this stylish Victorian hotel sits perched on a rugged wave-lashed headland in Newquay, on the stormy Cornish coast. The hotel overlooks Fistral Beach, Cornwall's surf capital and boast it's own spa, 9-hole golf course, surf school and sea-view terrace.
For great storm and lake images, a dedicated 'Gales of November' photo workshop held at Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior, Minnesota. These take place in Nov, the stormiest month and the one offering best opportunities for photographing the explosive weather of this inland ocean.
Pacific storm-watch package, combining exhilarating adventure with winter comfort, enjoy beach-side and fireside storm viewing. Cox Bay suite and lodge accommodation, on the edge of the Pacific Rim National Park.
Luxury B&B in Ucluelet, south of Tofino, on Vancouver Island, world famous for its winter storm watching. The inn is in a prime spot on a cliff above rugged Pacific coastline. Book a room with an ocean view, where you can relax by your own fireplace or on your private deck and watch huge waves as they pound the shoreline.
Storm watching from the privacy of your own ocean front suite at the He-Tin-Kis Lodge in Ucluelet, on Vancouver Island.
| storm watching | Canada |
Oregon Storm Tours based: Oregon, USA website:oregonstormtours.com
Short tours experiencing the power of North Pacific storms. Visit beaches and headlands, see crashing waves, old storm damage and places where the wind can reach over 100 mph.
| storm watching | USA |
located: Isle of Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, UK
DEFINITIONS FOR TOUR OPERATORS WISHING TO BE LISTED:
The Travel-Quest weather categories lists tours, holidays, vacations, weekends and short break packages either chasing the weather (including tornados, hurricanes and lighting storms), or storm watching from the comfort of a fixed base in a hotel, bed and breakfast or self-catering holiday accommodation.
Video centre, storm chasing article top: tornado chasing highlights by TornadoVideosdotnet live.tvnweather.com
Photo centre, storm chasing article second picture: Catatumbo lightning by English Wikipedia user: Thechemicalengineer
Photo centre, storm watching article: Stormy weather at Porthleven, Cornwall. by flickr user: Lawrie Cate