World's Top Storm-Chasing Destinations
Dave Chapman / Alamy
storm-chasers can experience mind-blowing tornadoes, sandstorms, lightning, and
other natural thrills from a safe distance.
December morning, a 30-foot wave and hurricane-force gales pummeled British Columbia’s Chesterman Beach. The tidal
surge brought the water right up to Wickaninnish Inn, giving guests a
spectacular view of nature’s unremitting fury—just as they’d hoped.
to storm chasing, where travelers eschew sunshine to seek out lightning,
twisters, and brooding cumulonimbus clouds. It’s a growing trend whose affordable
thrills are particularly attractive in this recession era. Credit also goes to
disaster films like Twister and The Perfect Storm, which provided
a virtual experience and drew attention to the pastime. Sophisticated,
up-to-the-minute weather data and apps like Storm Spotters have made it easier
to track storms. And more and more, enthusiasts want to experience the real
we first opened in 1996, winter occupancies in Tofino were in the 30 percent range,”
says Charles McDiarmid, managing director of the Wickaninnish Inn, a T+L World’s
Best Hotel award winner in British Columbia. “But as word of mouth of our storm
watching spread, our winter storm season occupancy rose to around 55 percent,”
he continues. What’s more, the “off-season” hotel’s rates have jumped from $100
to $300 a night for a chance to witness the arctic blasts that swoop across the
have been intrigued by thunder and lightning chasing throughout history, most
famously Ben Franklin, whose key and kite experiments answered several
mysteries about electricity. But modern storm-chasing began as a scientific
pursuit in the American Midwest in the 1940s with Roger Jensen, considered the
pioneer storm chaser. His data led to new understanding of storms and climate.
Our perspective continues to evolve, as do storm patterns themselves.
of storm-chasing companies in the Midwest and southern U.S. are well
established in the business—even attracting international visitors—but there’s
a recent uptick of storm-chasing tours in Europe, Africa, and Australia in
response to interest in new and unusual storm weather phenomena. The Namib
Desert, for instance, provides the ultimate conditions for wraithlike
sandstorms that whirl over its red curvaceous dunescapes.
thunder in Antarctica, Spanish hailstorms, and giant rolling fog banks in Maine
prove that Mother Nature has no shortage of creativity when it comes to staging
an electrifying show.