By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor
Want an Exciting Vacation? Then, become a Tornado Storm Chaser. As soon as I spied the Extreme Tornado Tours booth at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show this past weekend, I knew I had to get more information to share with the readers of my weekly Travel Tips of the Week Column and my blog, Jeanne’s Entertainment & Travel Tips. If you enjoyed the Helen Hunt movie “Twister” and yen to emulate her and Bill Paxton, here’s a chance to experience that kind of thrill. Meet Extrme Tornado Tours, which since 1998 have intercepted over 400 tornadoes; in 2010 it was over 40 tornadoes. Their tour guides, Reed Timmer, Chris Chittick and Dave Holder have been featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers.” In fact Extreme Tornado Tours guests will have a front row seat as the TornadoVideos.net team penetrates tornado core flows with the Dominator 2 to record valuable data and high definition videos.
All storm chasing guides have a meteorology degree or are working towards one, with Reed Timmer working on his Ph.D at the University of Oklahoma. The Extreme Tornado guest will ride in SUVs and spacious vans fully equipped with state-ofthe- art tornado tracking technology, including mobile satellite radar, GPS and mobile Internet. Guests can looks directly up at the storm, even as huge hail is pounding the van, because of the huge, bulletproof Lexan sunroofs. The guides will stream live video from their tour vans to their sister site, Tornado Videos.net where your storm chasing adventures can be viewed in real time.
In order to provide the most comfortable ride only six guests will be accommodated in a 15-seat van. The tours are conducted from April through June, which corresponds to the peak storm season in Tornado Alley. In the early part of the season the severe weather is focused in the Southern Plains (Texas to Oklahoma) and then shifts northward to the Central (Kansas and Nebraska) and Northern Plains (the Dakotas). During June, they might venture into the Canadian Prairies. In 2012, guests will arrive at the base city, either Oklahoma City or Denver, where a pre-tour orientation will take place.
The following morning, guests and guides will reconvene to begin the storm chase of a lifetime. After experiencing storm chasing action and visiting local tourist attractions, you’ll return to the original base city hotel to spend the evening of the last day. The chase will begin while on your way to the target area. The tour guides will continually analyze and discuss the everchanging weather conditions using their state of the art mobile technologies. Once the storms develop, the chase begins and the guides will select the cell with the highest tornado potential. Their GPS tracking software will be used to put the storm chasers in the best possible position to observe the tornadoes and awesome supercell structure. The tour includes gas and lodging for the entire sevenor 10-day tour, including the night before and after the tour at the base city hotel, as well as a customized photo book documenting your adventure, and an Extreme Tornado Tours t-shirt.
Guest expenses include your own meals and snacks, any additional souvenirs, memory cards or film for your cameras, and any other incidental personal expenses. During 2012, tours 1-4 will meet at Oklahoma City with the first tour arriving on April 9 and departing on April 20; Tour 2 arriving April 20 and departing May 1; Tour 3 arriving May 1 and departing May 12 and Tour 4 arriving on May 12 and departing on May 20, 2012. Tours 5-8 will meet in Denver with Tour 1 arriving on May 22 and departing June 2; Tour 6 arrives on June 2 and departs on June 13; Tour 7 arrives on June 13 and departs on June 24 with the final tour arriving June 24 and departing July 2. You’ll note that Tours 4 and 8 include only seven chase days. All other tours have 10 chase days. Cost for seven-day tours is $2,600 per person with a discount of $150 per person for two guests who share a room; 10-day tours are $3,500 per person with a discount of $150 per person for two guests who share a room. If you would like to witness the beauty and power of a tornado from close range with the most experienced storm chasers then an Extreme Tornado Tours is for you. For further information go to www. extremetornadotours.com, email Chad Cowan at chad@ extremetorndaotours.com or call (913) 221-8878.