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.

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