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!