How will the Corona virus (COVID-19) affect the storm chasing tours in 2020?

corona virus storm chasing

There is not much needed to say about the Corona virus as I am sure you are quite well informed about the health situation. The effects of this pandemic are obviously vast and it affects (most importantly) the health of people, the World economy but also storm chasing. Most chasers are US based and may not experience much effects of the pandemic unless certain states end up in quarantines. For international travelers, such as myself, it is very uncertain if we will be able to chase this season as the US has closed the borders for most European countries. How will the tour companies handle the effects of the pandemic and what policies do they have? I made a sendout to the following storm chasing tour companies:

  • Cloud 9 Tours
  • College of DuPage (did not respond)
  • Extreme Chase Tours (did not respond)
  • Extreme Tornado Tours
  • F5! Tornado Safaris (did not respond)
  • Silver Lining Tours
  • Storm Chasing Adventure Tours (did not respond)
  • StormChasingTour.com (did not respond)
  • StormGroup Chasers (cancelled all tours, see answer below)
  • Tempest Tours
  • Tornadic Expeditions (did not respond)
  • Twisted Sky Tours (did not respond)

There may be several reasons not to respond to my email (some I have very infrequent contact with and they may disregard my emails – and should not be seen a sign of ignoring the issue. Also, there could be legal implications of publicly stating a policy at the moment which could be a reason not to answer (although some answered by saying they could not answer).

Considering how fast everything changes considering what we know, the precautions made, and the regulations our Governments are putting into place it is important to know that the questions were asked on March 12th and I explained that they had until March 15th to answer. The answers from each tour company is thus based upon the situation at place when they answered the email. I explicitly asked the tour companies to answer the questions based on a (hypothetical) similar situation as today – as no one knows how the Corona situation will be when storm chasing season really starts. The questions were asked with the (obvious) assumption that no one with a confirmed virus is on the tour.

My questions

  1. If guests cannot attend the tour because of the borders being closed – what is your current policy in terms of refunds?
  2. How will your tour company limit the risk for passengers getting sick? Will you handle the tours in any way differently?
  3. Do you have a policy of how to handle things in case a tour guest shows symptoms before arriving (coughing, fever) without having been tested? 
  4. What is your policy if any of the tour guests gets symptoms while on tour?

Cloud 9 Tours (Updated 2020-03-30)

Charles Edwards of Cloud 9 Tours reported to StormChasingUSA.com today that they have cancelled all tours of 2020.

Extreme Tornado Tours

Extreme Tornado Tours respectfully declined to make a public statement due to the uncertainty of the situation.

Silver Lining Tours (March 12th)

“Unfortunately at this point in time, we’ve been advised to not make any public statements about the situation. My apologies.”

StormGroup Chasers (update March 16th)

StormGroup Chasers have cancelled all tours for 2020 with the following statement given to their guests:

Things are starting to move rapidly now with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic re: the States and the upcoming 2020 storm chasing season:

1.       Air New Zealand has pretty much suspended long haul travel to North America until June 30th. Since I need to come through a “safe” country or fly direct, to avoid the other travel bans imposed for inbound air travel to the States, it’s going to be extremely difficult to make it to Dallas to start the season on May 9th – how do I, and some of you, get there? There will be, at best, limited options that fit with the timeframe and allow immediate entry into the States.

2.       The health risks are escalating – and it’s becoming apparent that the US healthcare system is wholly unprepared to deal with a severe increase in cases needing critical care treatment <ref: the Netflix documentary, Pandemic, for background – as well as numerous current online analyses> – so even if we practice all the hygiene measures and then someone gets ill for any reason, how do we get them adequate healthcare on the Plains, where hospitals are few and far between?

3.       Most countries are now advising against all non-essential travel overseas, including from New Zealand – how long before this becomes an absolute ban?

4.       A few states have started closing down restaurants – this will make it impractical to run a tour group while storm chasing – where do we eat? I’ll die anyway if I eat takeout fast food for the entire season. 😉

5.       Trump apparently discussed with Trudeau the possibility of shutting down domestic air travel in the States – how long before this happens, and more restrictive measures emerge for other non-essential interstate traffic?

6.       Some countries have also instituted bans on ANY non-essential travel within their borders – how long before this affects the States?  And, apart from personal risk, what are our individual responsibilities not to move about and quite unaware, potentially infect others?

Sadly, I think that the 2020 storm chasing season is a non-starter.

So, I’m going to make a decision to cancel the 2020 storm chasing season for StormGroup Chasers, to give you time to make arrangements for any other bookings you may have.

Of course, you’ll all be entitled to a refund of your tour deposit, less any charges levied by the payments systems for returning these funds to you.

Tempest Tours (March 12th)

1. If guests cannot attend the tour because of the borders being closed – what is your current policy in terms of refunds?

“We refund a tour if we cancel it. We have never had this happen before and will try to do what we can to rebook their tour and if we are able to we might be able to refund their balance minus the non-refundable deposit.”

2. How will your tour company limit the risk for passengers getting sick? Will you handle the tours in any way differently?

“We will provide hand sanitizer to our guests and have a nightly wipe down of seats, handles, etc for the vans.”

3. Do you have a policy of how to handle things in case a tour guest shows symptoms before arriving (coughing, fever) without having been tested? 

“Anytime a guest becomes ill on tour we try to get them to a minor emergency clinic and have the experts give needed treatment, this will remain the same. If the virus is found we follow the advice of the professionals.”

4. What is your policy if any of the tour guests gets symptoms while on tour?

“We do not have a policy since this has never happened. We do get our guests to a medical professional if they are ill.”

Tempest Tours have also made the following public statement:

STATUS: OPERATIONAL

In consideration of the global COVID-19 challenge, we are taking precautions to assure the health and safety of our guests and staff. Although our operations take place in one of the least affected areas of the US, a region that is mostly rural, we choose to be vigilant and will employ the following measures:

– Thorough cleaning of our vehicles.

– Making hand sanitizer available to guests and staff during tours.

– Delivery of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 prevention protocol to all guests and staff.

– We will continue to monitor the situation and evaluate additional measures.

Thank you to our guests and staff for their continued dedication to safe operations.

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