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                   Thursday, January 14, 2010 - 11:25AM CST

Convention or 7 days of spring observing?

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The annual dilemma for many storm chasers.

Since its inception, the annual Storm Chaser Convention has been held in Denver, Colorado. The convention's traditional location is the result of its organizers residing in the Denver area. And rightfully so, as without their much appreciated hard work, the convention would not exist at all. However, the cost of traveling to Denver has always been a major obstacle for many storm chasers who wish to attend. An individual coming from the eastern and central US could spend upwards of $700-$900 for transportation, hotel and registration fees to be there. This amount of money could cover around a week of storm chasing in the spring - making convention attendance a difficult decision for a storm chaser with limited leisure funds. (Actually it's a no-brainer for those who have to make the choice - observing wins out every time, but a decision made nonetheless.) As such, the convention's demographic has been limited to those with high expendable income or those willing/able to share hotel rooms and transportation with 3-4 people.

The most dense concentration of active storm chasers is without question in Oklahoma and Kansas, with a significant number residing in the Midwest, in the northern Plains and in Texas. If one were to plot a point marking the most central geographic location for all active US storm chasers combined, it would probably fall somewhere in eastern Kansas or Oklahoma, with either Kansas City or Tulsa likely being the closest major city to that point.

As an illustration, I threw together this quick map which shows which locations in the USA are closer by automobile to Denver, and which locations are a closer drive to St. Louis. I use St. Louis as an exaggerated comparison point, as it is likely much farther east than the 'storm chaser centroid', and therefore better demonstrates Denver's much greater distance from the storm chasing community as a whole. I used travel mileage data from Google Maps to plot the boundary in which Denver begins to be the closer drive (by highway, not 'as the crow flies').

click to enlarge

So even if the convention was all the way over in St. Louis, it would still be a closer drive than Denver for the vast majority of USAn storm chasers. If Kansas City were used as the comparison point, the map looks like this:

click to enlarge

So the question arises, why not look at having the convention somewhere closer to where storm chasers actually reside? Kansas City, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Wichita would all be ideal. Kansas City is the least expensive of those cities to fly into. The most obvious answer to this question is because, as I mentioned before, the organizers live in Denver - making that area the only practical option for them. It is hard to organize/coordinate a major event remotely. No organizers means no convention. But what if a group was willing to take on some or all of the organizational tasks to help in bringing the event closer to where willing participants actually live - potentially halving (or more) the travel costs by making it a reasonable drive for the vast majority of storm chasers? It seems that if that were done, participation in the event would be many times higher than what it is in Denver - resulting in a greater financial success for the event and more logistical possibilities. For example, what if by moving the convention to the Plains region, registrations/vendor tables doubled?

Agree, Denver is to far for a Michigan observer like myself and many others I know in and around this area. Kansas City I can make in 10hrs where as Denver would take 20hrs.
- Posted by Kurt from Grand Rapids

Have it in Grand Forks, ND lol j/k nothing exciting ever happens here except for flooding in the spring.
- Posted by Jessica Syverson

The organizers live in Denver, hence the convention being in Denver. Want it someplace else? YOU do the leg work to get it done.
- Posted by Bryan from Minneapolis

Bryan, that's exactly what I said in my post. I hope some of us 'closer to home' can someday do just that.
- Posted by Dan R. from New Baden, IL

Whoops, I missed that line in the last paragraph. My bad. Someone was complaining about the same thing on another board I was on, except he wanted it in Norman, but didn't want to do any of the work. I'd like to go too, but distance is also a factor for me.
- Posted by Bryan from Minneapolis

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