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Storm chasing in the US

Thursday, September 11, 2008
Oklahoma, in the south-central region of the United States, has small mountain ranges, prairie and forests. It has a prevalence of people with German, Irish, English and Native American ancestry and more than 25 Native American languages are spoken. Most of the state lies in the Great Plains and the US Interior Highlands, a region prone to severe weather.

Oklahoma's storms, involving tornados, hail and lightning, attract not only scientists and meteorologists, but tourists! For many of us this would be a situation to avoided at all costs, but storm chasers actually pay to go on storm chasing tours which are classified as 'risk tourism'.

The single biggest objective for most chasers is to delight in seeing cumulonimbus structure, watching a barrage of hail and lightning and seeing the skyscapes that unfold. This can involve driving thousands of kilometres to witness severe thunderstorms, though there is no guarantee that will happen.

Tornado Alley, one of the angriest weather corridors on earth, cuts a swathe through the United States, with Oklahoma at its centre. Each year 1000 tornadoes wreak havoc, claiming an average of 60 lives.

Cloud 9 Tours started in 1996 and is operated by Charles Edwards. They allow you to safely travel around Tornado Alley in search of the spectacular acts of nature. They have a two-week trip in the prime storm season, covering 4000-5000km during that time.

They say what you will experience includes tornadoes, supercells, hail, lightning, high winds, dust devils, damaged sites left over from tornadoes and hurricanes, beautiful scenery, bizarre local attractions that most people have never heard of and much more. Cloud 9 chases storms they think have the potential of becoming tornadoes and find the best and safest places to photograph them from. If there are none, they target the most severe or photogenic storm within reach.

Obviously, sightings are not guaranteed but no matter the weather pattern, they provide interest and fun.

If this sounds like something you would like to do, the chasing season peaks between May and June.


Tornado Alley from Texas to Minnesota in the US.


Cloud 9 Tours has 14-day Storm Chasing tours from Oklahoma City through Tornado Alley. Tours include accommodation and transport and cost around $3200 per person.

Air New Zealand has flights to Los Angeles. Connections to Oklahoma City are available.

Fares from:

  • Sydney $1897
  • Melbourne $1987
  • Brisbane $1998
  • Perth $2168
  • Adelaide $2184

Valid for travel between November 1-12, 2008. Conditions apply.

Prices correct at September 11, 2008.

For further information

Cloud 9 Tours
PO Box 3631
Shawnee, Oklahoma 74801
Ph: +1 405 323 1145

Air New Zealand

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