Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tornado Videos

Hello all,

Here are videos of the 6.5.09 tornado! I had to make it a little smaller to fit in this format.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Picture This

Hello all,

I finally have the rest of my V2 pictures uploaded!  Enjoy!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Closing Time

Friday Night

The storm that produced a tornado followed us back to our hotel as an MCS.  That was exciting.  We spent the evening dodging between gas stations on the highway as tornado warnings went up all over the place.  I felt so bad for one town when all the CSWR vehicles as well as NOXP pulled into a gas station while the tornado sirens wailed.  Probe11 ended up punching the core (bad idea) trying to hurry back to our hotel.  They ended up with no damage--very lucky!


Saturday was one of those fun days where we drove all over Nebraska to see pretty much nothing. I guess following a tornado day you can't ask for too much. I did scare away a baby cow, however, as I ran up to it while taking pictures behind DOW7 during a deployment. The photogrammetry team got it on camera.


Sunday was interesting because we actually got a littttttle too close.  We were in Missouri, and it's pretty hilly to begin with.  The storm we were targeting looked pretty meh to begin with, then morphed into something pretty decent.  After our second deployment, DOW7 encouraged us to take an "ambitious" pace eastward.  Well, for some reason one vehicle in our rushing armada pulled over to wait for DOW7 to lead, so the rest of the CSWR Probes and DOW Followers pulled over as well.  Panicked, Jeff Frame called out over the radio, "All vehicles proceed east!  We have baseball-sized hail on our tail, move EAST EAST EAST!!!"  Well that understandably caused a panic in which vehicles pulled out all over the place in our hurry to outrun the storm.  But it was pretty exciting.  In the end we ended up with a good null case, although there was a tornado report in the same area two of our probes encountered a wind shift with debris.  The radar indicated a couplet at the same location, although the general consensus was it was most likely a gustnado.


A precious down day.  We took our time moving from Topeka, KS to Salina, KS.  Probe11 and I grabbed lunch at a Chinese buffet, then once the rest of the group made it into town we did a laundry trip.  That was exciting because my friend, Sunny, called me frantically in the laundromat.  "Please tell me you're near a radar."  "Well for once I'm actually not." "Ummm...I'm driving down the highway with sirens wailing, no electricity, hail, and all cars going the opposite direction of me."  She was in Illinois heading towards St. Louis, so I hopped in one of the probes and turned on the internet.  It was very slow, so all I could pull up was the NWS home page which showed a severe thunderstorm warning.  She then began to assure me that she thought she was fine and would let me know if anything exciting happened.  A few minutes later she texted me that the tornado warning finally came over the radio, and Jacob said he was curious at this point.  He pulled out his cell phone radar and on the screen was a perfect little hook, right over the road Sunny had been driving on.  She'd driven right through the hook!  I called her back to tell her we were all very impressed with her intercept, and she let me know she was already in St. Louis.

That evening was karaoke night at the hotel bar.  After much persuasion, I convinced a good amount of CSWR people to sing.  Those that didn't sing stood around for moral support and blackmail pictures/videos.  The DJ very suspiciously claimed he'd never heard of Journey's Don't Stop Believing (appropriate for our tornado season, I would say), and had us all sing Love Shack.  It was a lot of fun--a good bonding experience, haha.


Tuesday was my last day with the crew.  We moved towards Greensburg, KS, which is now known for its previous devastation by tornado and current attempt to rebuild as a completely "green" (read: eco-friendly) town.  I'm sure we frightened the townspeople as the armada charged through.  We set up on a storm to the west of Greensburg.  That day I was with the photogrammetry team again, and we followed DOW6.  For once DOW6 was in the heart of the action, as the meso moved straight towards us.  We watched the inflow whip dust towards the storm, then shortly thereafter we watched the outflow push dust and "debris" from the cattle feedlot right over DOW5, which was parked relatively nearby.  

We were given instructions to move away as hail began moving towards us.  As we were running to our cars a woman came bawling out of her own car.  She ran up to Rachel saying "I'm from Greensburg; is everything going to be ok?!"  Rachel calmed her down and got in the car just as we watched the first bit of hail hitting the road...and the photogrammetry car.  I was driving and hightailed it down the road as quarter-sized hail chased us.  We began following DOW Pickup towards the location of DOW7, and the wind was ferocious!  As we pulled onto the main "highway" I noticed a wall of leaves and branches flying across the road in front of and through us.  I tend to get excited very easily, and began saying "Uhhhhhh....uhhhhh....Rachel....?"  Rachel is quiet by nature and was watching the wind as well.  As I turned to look to my left, a swirl of dust was in the middle of the field, growing larger.  I kept driving while going "Look! Rachel! Is that...?  Uhhh....what is it??"  At which point someone else came over the radio to report it, and after a moment DOW7 assured us it was nothing more than a gustnado.  My camera was sitting in my lap, and because I was with the photogrammetry team, my first words before DOW7 gave us the "It's ok" were "Do you want to pull over and set up?"  Nevermind that whatever it is is swirling right next to us, I'm thinking, "Ok that means we need to set up quickly."

After that things became much less eventful and operations were eventually called off.  There was a report of a tornado 4 miles WNW of Greensburg, but our radar data (last I heard) did not agree with that.  From our final viewpoint behind DOW6 we watched a nice anticyclonic couplet (rotation in the opposite direction of how a northern hemisphere tornado would normally spin) both on the radar and visually on the back of the storm.  As we moved back to Wichita I was informed that I should make my departure the next day since we were already at a big city with a decent airport.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Look At This Photograph

Thought I'd post my "Tornado" album for all to see:

Tornado Pictures

Friday, June 5, 2009


My first

Finally!!! We moved into Wyoming, not far from the Nebraska border and saw our first tornado of the season, and my first tornado EVER! I was riding with CU, so I actually participated in deploying both pods and disdrometers. The pods measure atmospheric variables like wind speed and direction, temperature, and relative humidity. The disdrometers are unique to CU, who are interested in measuring the size of the raindrops, hail, and other particles that make it to the ground near the storm.

Classic hook echo, indicative of rotation

We deployed two pods and two disdrometers to the south of DOW7, then hurried up to the top of the hill to join DOW7 and its followers to get a good view of the wall cloud and rotation. And man did we! Not long after we parked the funnel attempted to reach the ground, failed…then succeeded! Despite our orders to “not cheer for tornadoes,” you could hear the crew cheering all up and down the road. As I sat there in the field (really, I took a seat) watching it grow, I looked at Rachel and said “…what’s it doing?” She goes “What do you mean?” “Well, a minute ago it was just hanging out right there, then it moved there…and now it’s just getting bigger.” A couple minutes later we all jumped in our cars and moved north to safety, because at that point the tornado was moving towards us and was only 3km away! As we took off Rachel said “A general rule…when the tornado isn’t moving right, and it isn’t moving left, and it appears to be getting bigger…that usually means it’s moving straight towards you.”

The tornado was on the ground for about 15 or 20 minutes! It was the first tornado intercept by the DOWs in Wyoming. Afterwards we recollected our instruments and moved after the storm again. We took some “hen egg” size hail and deployed the pods and disdrometers a couple more times. Some curious people followed our vehicle, and the last time we got out to deploy a young 20-something couple sitting behind us yelled “You guys rock!!! How do you get your jobs?!”

Same storm, dying.

Now we’re waiting for a potentially tornadic storm over Ogallala, NE to pass through so we can continue our 3-hour journey to our hotel.

Rehab (Recap)


Wednesday was yet another “down day” that was not really down. That afternoon the CSWR probe vehicles had a *van-nado* practice. You may have seen this on Discovery Channel’s “Stormchasers”…because it’s one of Josh’s things. The idea is that Josh and Karen scope out an area near where we’re staying that has a good road network, and we have a practice session to deploy the tornado pods. The fun part is, one vehicle (typically the cargo van) acts as the tornado and travels down the road as the deployments are happening. If the van-nado catches up with you, you’re dead. We had a good time with it; I just rode along with Probe 12 and got some pictures of them doing deployments.

That night was another missions summaries presentation, then dinner at a Chinese buffet, free root beer floats at Sonic, and “crack Uno” with Matt, Jacob, and Jeff. It’s fast-paced and I still don’t know all the rules. :)


Thursday was another marginal day. One of those days that just kind of blurs together. We left right after the briefing for Colorado, then moved north into Wyoming. First time in Wyoming! My favorite thing that happened that day was at a gas station. We were waiting for word on what we were going to do while Josh was in the Field Coordinator vehicle. Eventually he got out, looked around, and started running towards his vehicle. At which point the rest of us started and began making the move towards our cars. Then Josh started laughing and said, “I just wanted to see what everyone would do.”

We target a cell near Cheyenne, which got some good photos (sorry that the pictures are delayed awhile after the text is posted; with over 100 people on a single small-town hotel internet connection at once it slows things down). I poked my head into DOW7 to see what Josh and Karen were doing in the back and they invited me up there to sit and watch. Then we moved to another cell nearby, but it was very cold outside which disrupted the storm’s updraft.

As we began heading out, Herb asked me if I wanted to switch out of DOW Van and move into one of the radars for the trip home. Justin was very kind and gave me his seat in the back of DOW6, so I got to ride back in the “Purdue DOW” with Kevin and Jacob, who gave me the inside scoop on Indiana.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Watch the Sky


We went AWOL! The principal investigators decided it would not be in the best interest of the group to wake up at 5am, drive to Texas, AND chase all in the same day, only to move back near our current location the next day. So we had a very lax departure, at which point I heard rumors that a couple of probes wanted to break off and pursue some “photo opportunities” in a promising area to our south. I write this from the back of Probe 12, as we move towards Wichita, KS. Josh and Karen were fine with us breaking off as long as we didn’t deploy any pods. Josh was only concerned that P12 doesn’t have an anemometer still, so we can’t take any wind data. Chris from the NWS in Wichita is in the front seat looking at weather maps, Andrew is asleep across from me, and Matt is looking for a good radio station. We’ve got Probes 11 and 14 as well as the Medic with us. Wish us luck!


Today was awesome! We stopped for lunch at Golden Corral in Wichita, KS, then went over to the NWS office where Chris has connections. As we were getting ready to leave, we heard of reports of tornadoes in Dodge City, KS and hightailed it west. As we were moving towards the storms we got word that DOW6 and Probe 13 were leaving the armada to our north and heading towards us, and the TIV team was following us! We intially planned on targeting Greensburg, but Chris and Tim Marshall decided the north of Pratt was our best opportunity.

We stopped a couple of times, all the while checking the radar. After one stop we noticed some fairly tight rotation on the velocity scan, and once we pulled over again we watched as the clouds swirled and began descending over our heads! We raced away from that area, only to stop about a mile away, where the rotation visually tightened even more right over our heads. At this point, a tornado warning was issued…for the cell right over us! We jumped in the cars and sped off to a safer distance, pulled over, and watched some funnels in the distance. At that point the rain/wind caught up with us again and we moved further.

I felt badly as a poor woman pulled over to our mini-armada and asked if it was safe for her to drive back into the storm, because her house was that way. At that point the storm was really outflow-dominant and Tim assured her it was mostly a hail threat at that point. After more repositioning Probe 12 decided to drive into the storm to verify the NWS severe thunderstorm warning, at which point we took some small hail (mixed in with larger clunks) and a probably 60mph wind gust (recall that we have no anemometer). Chris’s buddies at the NWS said someone else reported a 70mph gust at the same time, and think it may have been a microburst. After that we watched lightning set multiple grass fires.

All in all………….the best chase day so far!

The Formal Weather Pattern

A recap of the week between my last recap and this past Tuesday


CSWR was responsible for the second set of missions summaries for the project. We picked the three most interesting cases from the time period since Texas Tech presented missions summaries and began analyzing data. Karen told us to block out our days from noon to 6 P.M., and honestly we could have gone longer (some people did). In three separate groups we worked on the following cases:

May 20th Alliance, NE Supercell
May 23rd Ogallala, NE Multicell
May 26th Dallas, TX Supercell

We then joined the mesonet group at Boss Hawg’s BBQ in Topeka, KS for dinner. Afterwards a group of us hung out in the hotel’s game area playing pool and watched Andrew and Josh win all the stuffed animals out of the crane game. The night before they’d won 24 animals and the hotel had to refill the game!



Friday…what a day. We drove 615 miles from Topeka, KS to Grand Island, NE……..then further to go after our best target. Some decent pictures, and I figured out that I have a panorama option on my camera, so that was what I got out of that day. Haha. Otherwise just a very exhausting day.

Not too bad.


Saturday was supposed to be a down day, but we (CSWR) had to work on our presentations. Try analyzing all the available data from the largest tornado field experiment in history in two days and see how long it takes you. The presentations went really well! Afterwards I joined some of the Penn State and OU kids for dinner at Balz Sports Bar (they answer the phone: “You’ve got Balz.”). After dinner we went back to the hotel and hung out in the hotel bar with the rest of V2 (professors and principal investigators included) and eventually wandered around hanging out in different people’s rooms. At some point we ran into Katie Tur from The Weather Channel and a couple of the Discovery Channel camera guys and hung out in the hallway with them for awhile.


My first trip to Iowa! We left Grand Island, NE and stopped at a truck stop to await convection. While we were there the IMAX crew worked on getting shots. Apparently they have to do the sound and video separately, so we were asked to continue our conversations as if they weren’t there with a large mic in our face. Karen eventually jumped out of DOW7 going “We’re leaving!” at which point no one moved. She looked at us and goes “We’re leaving, really! What’s going on?” Everyone was like “…They’re trying to film…can we move yet?” The camera guy yelled “It’s ok, it’ll be good! Hold on…………ok you can go!” and we scattered. It was very funny to watch! So that should be a good scene, hahaha.

From there we caravaned towards Iowa, where we hung out in a Hardee’s parking lot. Everyone got a milkshake, so I don’t think they cared too much that we invaded. Mike Bettes walked over and taped a banana peel on the ground next to Chris…….not sure what that was for. Then we went after a storm…and it was lame…so we undeployed towards our Hilton hotel in Omaha. So nice! Most of CSWR then wandered around in downtown Omaha looking for an open restaurant at 10 P.M. on a Sunday night. We split up but eventually all ended up at this place called M’s pub, which was no pub. I was glad I changed into a nicer shirt since the first one got sweaty from 3 hours in the parking lot, because it was a little more upscale than we expected. I had a Caribbean Shrimp Satay on fried basmati rice with a creamy mango sauce and salad with blueberry vinaigrette…fancy! But less than 15 bucks with tip.


We left the Hilton in Omaha, NE and moved toward York, NE. There we spent another couple of hours in a Walmart parking lot. Which was convenient because I was running out of shampoo, haha. A few of us attempted to throw the frisbee around for awhile, but I’m bad enough as it is, and the wind kept grabbing it. Others tossed the football around, but most of the time spent laying around on the grass. I have a nice sunglasses tan now. After that we moved south towards what visually appeared to be a promising storm, but we abandoned within the hour.

Salina, KS was our destination for the evening. There were rumors of an early (5 A.M.) departure the next morning so we went to fill up in the gas station next to us. The owner came out and told us she thought she was out of gas; I laughed and warned her that there were about 45 vehicles following us that would want to fill up. What a business loss! We then invaded Chili’s. I got my meal for free because they messed it up, but I left a $5 tip anyway since I didn’t have any smaller bills and didn’t want to leave nothing. We got texts that we would not be leaving early on Tuesday, which bothered a few people that were afraid we would miss a good opportunity in Texas on Tuesday.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Put Your Picture Away (Or On Facebook)

Hello all! Just posting my first photo album for public availability.

VORTEX2 - Exhibit A

Enjoy! Many more to come! Haven't uploaded everything yet!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Never Too Late

Mammatus clouds north of Dallas, TX.

Well it is definitely possible to be a little too late. Although the past week has not been overwhelming with chasing, we've been doing enough to keep me busy. I'm online on my computer long enough to check email, Facebook, and Twitter, then I'm off to do something else. So let me briefly recap the past few days, with promises of pictures being filled in and more detail at a later date and perhaps with a better internet connection.

Saturday: North Platte.
Sunday: Drive to Texas.
Monday: Killing three supercells.
Tuesday: Dallas supercell.
Wednesday: Travel to Kansas and laundry.

Saturday: Saturday we left Hot Springs, SD to head back to North Platte, NE. Along the way, the CSWR team stopped in the Walmart parking lot for lunch, because we're classy like that.

It's like a family reunion, complete with pickup trucks.

About 100 miles away from our destination, we received a report of a sighted tornado in North Platte. We were not happy, and many people were skeptical of the report judging by the radar images and other information available to us at the time. Once we got to North Platte, another cell had developed and we deployed...DOW7 deployed in somebody's driveway.

They later showed up with a new stove in the back of the truck. They unloaded it and let the children run around without saying anything to the massive blue truck scanning in their driveway.

I was in the DOW Van, and was sent away from the storm to avoid any damage on the rental.

That night we stayed in a nice hotel, and saw The Weather Channel folk having a party in one of their rooms. Haha.

Sunday: On Sunday we drove from Nebraska to Amarillo, TX. The drive was long but we drove past and through some good storms. We saw a rainbow and some dust devils; all in all it was a very scenic drive. We kept ourselves entertained on a private radio frequency with bad puns and stories.

It's bad when you've gotten tired of seeing rainbows.

That night we ate at the Big Texan, famous for their 72oz. steak. The deal is, if anyone can finish the steak AND side dishes in one hour, the meal is free. Otherwise it's something like $70. Quite the incentive to finish! We saw two guys try and fail. They looked pretty miserable towards the end too.

Mother of All Steaks. Actually I guess that would be a cow.

Monday: Monday we killed three storms. There is no other way to put it. We had our sights on three individual promising-looking cells. As soon as we got to them and began to deploy, the storm began dying. No fair! I also got lost somewhere in either Oklahoma or Texas after ferrying someone around in the DOW Van. I never even caught up with the team for the second deployment/third storm (we didn't deploy on the first storm). I was too busy getting lost with a bad GPS and little radio contact. Probe12 eventually found me and we headed back to Childress for dinner. I ate dinner at 12 A.M. EST that night.


Tuesday: Tuesday was a decent day. After awhile of "hurry up and wait" in a gas station in Gainesville, TX (where it hit 100 degrees with a 70 degree dewpoint...think hot and humid), a cell suddenly developed near the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro area. Now our problem was, do we go after a cell we can't get around in a huge city? Or do we wait for the theoretical next one?

Thankfully the cell split and we had a very interesting situation where we followed the "left-moving" cell and it turned out to be a good opportunity. The cell developed an anticyclonic hook (also interesting) and there were reports of golf ball-sized hail, although we only received pea-sized. I was in Probe 14 that day and was able to participate in transects.

Not dead.

Ok that was a lot of terminology in that paragraph. I will explain in detail later when I go into depth about that deployment.

Severe-warned and thunder all over the place.

After ops were called off because it was 9 P.M. and dark, we headed towards Norman, OK. Some of us stopped at Chili's on the way and I think we got into the hotel around 1 A.M.

Wednesday: Yesterday was a travel day. Only CSWR left Norman to head into Kansas. The next couple of days will be down days. Yesterday a few of us got our laundry done (my first time at a laundromat!) and today we will be working on missions summaries to present tomorrow.

My first ever laundromat.

Speaking of which--that meeting is in 45 minutes and I still have to shower! Pics posted later! I will be making a Facebook album (or 6) and will post public links here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Can't Hurry Love (or Tornadoes)

I'm posting this late and without any pictures from the day because...well...we didn't really do anything. Before the weather briefing even started one of the hotel women announced to the room that we would be staying in the same hotels tonight that we did the night before. Dr. Paul Markowski took over as the designated leader today and gave a more optimistic discussion of the next few days than Josh had. Yesterday Josh had ended his tenure by saying that we could expect more hope from Markowski than we'd gotten from him.

Our initial departure time was 11:30 A.M. MST...which became 12:30 P.M. MST...which became...1:30 P.M. MST. Around 1:15 P.M. a few of us suddenly became aware that we hadn't had lunch and asked Karen if we had time to run to Subway. We did! Sadly, that was the most in-a-rush we'd been since I got here.

Of course we were in a rush with so many delicious options available to us!

Before that we spent our time tossing the frisbee or football around (I did so poorly with the frisbee I wasn't about to try the football) and...well that was about it. We talked too. As soon as the four of us (Probe 12 team and myself) got back with our Subway meals we headed west for about half an hour, then pulled over to watch DOW7 scan for, well, about half an hour. I managed to get on one vehicle's wireless and entertained myself that way. We then turned around and went completely the opposite direction, passing back through the town we started in.

We pulled over for DOW7 to scan to a bee farm. I am not fond of bees. I managed to jerryrig the wifi again and made that comment on Twitter, which resulted in Mike Bettes (who is following us from The Weather Channel) letting me know he had his epi pen ready if I needed it. After awhile we moved back towards the hotel while the CSWR probes went with the TIV crew to do shots for the Discovery Channel. As they began filming, a bull went to charge at Probe 14.

Probably a different bull.

Thankfully Lindsay hit the gas and no one and no vehicle was harmed. I guess they wouldn't have been able to put the "No animals were harmed in the making of this film" if that had happened, huh? They probably don't put it anyway since I'm pretty sure tornadoes harm a few animals.

Anyway, then as the probes headed back the mobile mesonets took off to do their shots. I'm in the DOW Van (read: I ride in the vehicle that holds everyone's luggage) so I didn't get to do any film shots. I did, however, end up in a one second spot on The Weather Channel today:

Did you catch that? Me neither.

Tomorrow is likely a travel day. Hopefully within the next few days I'll have some weather to report on. And I'll try to give a little background explanations on some of the terms I use/will use frequently in here.

Til then!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

Bet you weren't expecting this.

"Oh my God!!!" That was our greeting as Probe 11 and Probe 12 pulled over at a scenic spot near Mt. Rushmore. Two elderly couples stared in awe as our fully-equipped VORTEX2-labeled vehicles stopped in an area most definitely out of our domain:

The theoretical domain of the VORTEX2 project. The area was determined based on climatologically favorable areas for tornado development and regions in which the road network is close to ideal--a simple grid with paved roads.

As we got out of our cars one woman apologized to us as they took pictures, saying, "I'm sorry but we can't remember all of your profiles that we've seen on The Weather Channel so we're not sure which ones you are!" I laughed and assured her that was fine since there are over 100 of us. I didn't point out that only the steering committee has full profiles on and only a handful of the nine of us in our mini-convoy had been interviewed otherwise. :)

I don't know how this could be distracting to tourists.

So yes, we were in South Dakota the Black Mt. Rushmore...where the chance for a tornado was even slimmer than in the rest of the area we've covered. Today was a travel day, and we are awaiting further instruction at tomorrow's morning weather briefing about whether or not we are going to target anything. On the bright side we got to check out a cool part of South Dakota. Including the Crazy Horse monument:

Pretty crazy, right?

The Crazy Horse monument was started back in the day by the same man who carved Stone Mountain in Georgia. He was hired by a Native American tribe to sculpt a 3D monument of Crazy Horse into a mountain relatively close to Mt. Rushmore. The Crazy Horse monument would be much larger than Mt. Rushmore...unfortunately, it would also be finished roughly sometime in the next 300 years. Essentially, the original man started it, got married, and together they made a lot of babies. Those babies then became children, whose chores were more focused around blowing up mountainsides than taking out the trash. Those children then ran off and found their own spouses, made their own babies, and turned those babies into the people working on the monument today. Because they have refused federal funding (if I remember the story correctly), the project is taking significantly longer than Mt. Rushmore. I am sad, however, that not only will I never see the monument completed, but neither will my children...or grandchildren...or great-grandchildren..........ok I don't think anyone will ever see it. Someone will probably conquer the United States and destroy all national monuments before it's completed.

But that's just my Orwellian opinion.

So yeah, that was today in a nutshell! Hopefully a cooler update tomorrow!

Our mini crew for the evening.

That's me!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dust In The Wind

Taking pictures of the media taking pictures. Blows your mind, right?

Dust in the wind is SO not a good thing! I had to put my sunglasses on in the middle of a storm tonight to keep the sand out of my eyes. I couldn't keep it out of my mouth though...might still have some grit in there, haha.

Today was pretty cool. I was put with the photogrammetry team and was assigned to man the HD video camera. Also, I was in charge of driving. Which was good, because it gave me something to do. We took a couple of hours to reach our initial target in northwestern Nebraska. We found a nice picnic area to have lunch. It was near a school, so lots of small children and high schoolers wandered around looking at everything--especially the TIV. Today was my first real experience with media everywhere! It was very intimidating; I am much more aware of how awkward I am when faced with a video camera.

So then it was go time, and I'm sure we looked pretty cool running to our vehicles and taking off at once. Of course I ruined the sequence of the photogrammetry/mobile mesonet row by not getting the memo that a camera wanted to get all of us pulling out one after the other. Everyone else was flawless; I had to wait until the end after staring at the camera awkwardly for about a minute.

So we took off towards the east to get in front of this bugger:

The aforementioned bugger.

Unfortunately after travelling for about an hour, we decided to give up on the storm. A severe thunderstorm warning was later issued for the same storm... that's life. Meanwhile, some of the leaders discussed whether or not we were going to call it a night or aim towards another cell northwest of our hotel location. The cell began to blossom on the radar as we moved towards it, and we actually were able to semi-deploy many of our instruments.

NOXP Radar moving towards our new target.

Tony and I got out to set up the photogrammetry equipment, and I brought along my own camera. As we were setting up the tripod for the HD camera, this started happening:

Tumbleweeds and dust

A still of the same time period.

And it was followed shortly thereafter with intense downpours and small hail. Needless to say we had to hurry to get the photo equipment back into the vehicle so it didn't get ruined. After some time the radars continued with their scans and most of the rest of the crews headed to the hotel for the night. Tomorrow doesn't look too promising, but what's new?

We saw two rainbows today. One after each storm. :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blowin' In The Wind

A wind farm in northeastern Colorado

Today has been quite the day for me. I woke up at 3am EST, rode two hours to BWI, flew for four hours to Denver, waited two hours to get on my next flight, then spent an hour on my way to join the V2 crew. After I got to the airport, I waited another hour for my ride, then spent an hour riding to the actual location that everyone was stationed at. Ten minutes after I got to the crew, I was in the Probe 12 vehicle driving towards a potential microburst...

...It has been a LONG day!

When I got to Denver, I was excited to see the mountains off in the distance. The sky was pretty clear and I could see the snowcaps. Two hours later, as I walked outside to the plane, storms were brewing:

Storms developing over the mountains in Colorado

Curiously enough...this was the same group of storms that we were later aiming for in northeastern Colorado!

First good shot of the storm

We were pretty impressed with how high the cloud bases were for the developing storms:

Imagine a tornado popping out of the bottom of this cloud. As one person put it: "Tallest Tornado EVER"

To make a long story short, the storm was more impressive for photo opportunities than for microburst data.

Ok fine another picture.

The DOWs set up and the mobile mesonets ran a couple of transects, so it wasn't a total loss. I was just happy to be there and get a feel for how things work.

Another interesting thing in the area was the wind farms. Colorado is one of the top producers of wind energy in the United States, owing largely to consumer interest in renewable energy that started before going green was "cool." The U.S. Department of Energy determined in 2008 that 20% of our electricity needs should be met by wind power by the year 2030. With the rate that technology is improving in the arena and the need to update the transmission grid for all forms of power, I argue that this is a feasible goal. The physical area needed to produce that percentage of energy is smaller than the state of Rhode Island. Many projects are beginning offshore and in regions that are not highly populated (such as the area we were in today). Most states (the Department of Energy counted 35 in 2008) are already meeting a good portion of their energy needs by wind power; now it is time to go national.

Please be green. :)

Anyway that is my two cents on wind power. Today really was Wind's Day; high winds all day and overnight tonight too! Early to bed for me now, because I've been up for about 20 hours and have my first full day with the team tomorrow--woot! A woman stopped me in the elevator a few minutes ago and asked, "Are you with the stormchasers?"

Yes ma'am!


Friday, May 15, 2009

Highway to the Danger Zone

Welcome to my humble little contribution to the blogging world!

My purpose here is to relay my experiences in the field to friends and family that are interested in knowing the nitty gritty details they can't find elsewhere. What field is that? The Great Plains! For the next few weeks of this summer and for a good portion of the next, I will be joining the largest tornado field experiment in history: VORTEX2 (Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment 2). The data collected in V2 will be used to help us understand and better predict these forces of nature. For the general population, that means (hopefully) an improved warning system and fewer false alarms, so when that siren goes off, you know it means business!

I will be graduating from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in Environmental Science with a concentration in Atmospheric Science this Sunday. Following that, I will be going on to Purdue University for my M.S. in Atmospheric Science. Because I am between schools as this project begins, I am still not exactly sure what my role in V2 is going to be this summer! You will find out when I do!

VORTEX2 is all over the media right now! The Weather Channel is hyping the project with Mike Bettes out in the field with different crews, which I think is awesome because it makes the research more accessible to the general population. I will join the group in the field this upcoming Tuesday and will be posting plenty of pictures and even video of our activities. That's right: graduation on Sunday afternoon and an early-morning departure Tuesday morning! I am hurrying to tie up all my loose ends at home! Until then, keep yourself busy with all the information available online, especially:

Stay tuned....