Welcome to our October 2023 edition, Gregg!

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Hi Gregg: I love the newsletters; it's always compelling to read what an expert has to say about a subject that has fascinated me since I was a kid. You've made reference several times to the bizarre weather we've seen in 2023. Given that, have you considered using other jumping-off points for your tornado safaris?

-- Jack Eppert (Little Rock, AR)

If I'm reading between the lines correctly, Jack, you're referring to the widespread theory that Tornado Alley has shifted hundreds of miles to the east. In which case your timing is Halloween scary. In the last few weeks, I've had a few casual discussions with members of my F5! team about that very subject: Is Oklahoma City still the best place from which to launch our tours?

There is plenty of evidence that there has been an eastward shift in large tornado outbreaks, when numerous twisters touch down on the same region on the same day.

This year has epitomized the trend: A violent twister with wind speeds of 170 miles per hour emerged from a group in Rolling Fork, Miss. on March 24, killing at least 26 people. A week later storms in the southeast killed more than 30 people, and another group on April 4 damaged more than 80 structures in Bollinger County, Missouri. As we reported in a previous newsletter, 2023 has seen the widest tornado ever recorded in Delaware, the first January tornado on record in Iowa, and a historic upsurge in tornado activity in New Jersey.

According to Scientific America, the swarms are clustering in a tighter geographical area than the traditional Tornado Alley, which extends north-south roughly from the Nebraska-South Dakota border to Dallas and approximately occupies the whole of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and north Texas from east to west. And the outbreaks may be getting "fiercer and more frequent."

“It looks as if we may be having fewer days in the U.S. with just one tornado and more days when there are multiple tornadoes,” says Naresh Devineni, an associate professor at City University of New York, who co-led a 2021 geographical analysis of large tornado outbreaks.

For those tempted to think that the eastward migration of Tornado Alley is a product of climate change . . . they may be right. If so, it's been a nearly four-decade process. See the AccuWeather map below comparing the traditional and contemporary versions of Tornado Alley.

As to your question, Jack: Yes, the day may soon come when it might be advantageous to launch our tornado safaris from, say, your town of Little Rock, Ark. But that would likely accompany a shift in our chase windows to earlier in the year. As long as we're launching in May, our chase window since 1998, Oklahoma City remains our home away from home -- for now.

Questions? Ask Gregg!

Let's face it: There's a lot of down time between our adrenaline-pumped chases each May. Half the fun is revisiting old road haunts and discovering new locations to eat, drink and be merrily entertained. Because F5! goes where the wind blows, we've cataloged hundreds of towns, restaurants, bars and hospitality venues over approximately one million square miles of the Great Plains in the past 24 years. Each month, we'll revisit some of our favorites.


September 2023 Issue: Garden of Eden (Lucas, KS)

August 2023 issue: UFO Capital of the World (Roswell, NM)

July 2023 issue: The Big Texan (Amarillo, TX)

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad, NM

Last F5! visit: 2018

While on the road, the F5! crew goes where the winds take us. In order to keep on schedule, our entertainment options are often limited to an hour or two. But when we find ourselves crossing the border from Texas into New Mexico, our thoughts naturally turn to spending the better part of a day at Carlsbad Caverns.

In our 24 years of chasing tornadoes, we've taken eight trips to explore Carlsbad's ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cactus and desert wildlife -- and that's just the stuff above the ground in the scenic Chihuahuan Desert. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves, formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes.

Because our tornado safaris occur in May, we don't often get to see Carlsbad's famous Brazilian free-tailed bats (below), which begin to emerge from the caverns at twilight in late May. But we've gotten lucky a couple of times, and it's a sight we won't soon forget.