How southern Arizona is turning into a popular destination for storm chasers

Lori Grace Bailey
Posted at 3:13 AM, Jun 21, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Storm chasers looking for a money shot may not have southern Arizona on their list.

But that has changed in recent years.

“When I first got started, there were no storm chasers here. I mean, very few,” says Greg McCown, a local storm chaser.

McCown started chasing storms in 2009, which led him to pave the way with other early storm chasers here in Tucson.

But what makes Tucson and southern Arizona as a whole so special for this group?


“One of the reasons Arizona is so good for photographic, photogenic lightning, is because we have high cloud bases. Our cloud bases are way up there,” says McCown.

And the lightning shows up more in monsoon but it is not as easy as tracking a super cell in the midwest.

“Storms have a habit of popping up and dying with all within five minutes…..generally speaking, when we start forecasting, we got a 50 to 100 mile radius of an area that we're just kind of hoping to be in that general area when something happens,“ says McCown.

Further south, Lori Grace Bailey also chases storms, but her relationship with lightning started long before her storm chasing career.

“This giant bolt of lightning just lit up. It was this white, this almost fluorescent colored, purplish light all around me. And I just felt my entire body shutter," says Bailey.

She was struck by lightning in Nogales in the 90's.

And while she doesn't have the scars to show it, she still feels the affects to this day.

"I found out later what the, the side effects you know, headaches and short term memory loss and some of the other things. But yeah, I was really grateful to be alive. And then years later, I would become a photographer and decide to chase the same thing that almost killed me," says Bailey.

Her storm chasing career takes her all around the United States.

But like McCown, when she chases lightning, Southern Arizona is her first choice.

“We have this beautiful mission, the southwest, the Southwest look and feel to it. We also have the saguaros. We have the Sonoran Desert, we have a beautiful landscape," said Bailey.

Bailey posts many of her highlights on social media like YouTube and X.

McCown showcases his work on his website, Saguaro Pictures.

More KGUN 9 team monsoon coverage:

Monsoon Watch 2024

Blake Phillips is a reporter for KGUN 9. Originally from St. Louis, Mo., Blake grew up in Sierra Vista. During his college tenure at the Missouri School of Journalism, Blake worked for the NBC affiliate KOMU-TV in Columbia. He is excited to return to a place he calls home and give back to the community in which he grew up. Share your story ideas and important issues with Blake by emailing