Author Archives: vtmet

Six weeks…and counting

txstormMay 2013, west of Denton TX.

Signs of severe season awakening have begun, and the Gulf of Mexico opened her doors as moisture streamed northbound on April 3 for a decent outbreak of severe storms stretching from Texas to Illinois.   Incidentally, this marks the anniversary of the 1974 Superoutbreak, which devastated portions of the country some 40 years ago.  Many lessons were learned that day, from the science and understanding of tornadoes, to the impacts and awareness of populations affected.  Six weeks, and we are underway.  It will be here before you know it.   -Dave

2014 Trip Meeting: Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 7:00pm in 102 Major Williams!

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NOTE THE LOCATION CHANGE!

We will have a meeting on the 2014 trip details, as well as the status of alternate crew members on Tuesday evening at 7:00pm in 102 Major Williams.  The meeting should last less than 1 hour.  We will cover expectations, what a typical day is like on the road, and departure-return details.  If you cannot make the meeting, make sure you send me a note via e-mail.  (carrolld@vt.edu)

From this point on, time will fly toward departure.

-Dave

The 2014 Virginia Tech Severe Storm Field Course

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If you are interested in joining the crew in the Great Plains for 2014, please read the information below and on the application very carefully!

The 2013 severe weather season took a toll on researchers and weather enthusiasts in pursuit of storms in the field.  High-profile events and tragic loss of life are still seemingly fresh memories from being on the road in 2013 as we were there during that time.  For us, our emphasis on safety and education will continue unabated. and once again we will roll westward in search of severe storms.

You will find the updated application and trip information in the attachment below.  If you are considering applying for a position with the 2014 chase crew, please keep these things in mind:

a) This trip is NOT for everyone…only those with a true passion for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes should apply.  It is a long and arduous journey, and if you are not committed to the study of severe storms, then you may well feel as if YOU should be “committed” by trip’s end!

b) Keep in mind the nature of the trip:  it is an academic exercise…not a vacation.  Every crew member will serve various duties on the trip, and full cooperation is not only desirable, it is mandatory.  When entering a severe weather set-up, everyone must be “dialed in” for efficiency as well as for the safety of the entire crew.

c) Expect some “down time” between storms.  It is impossible to forecast what type of pattern we may see any given year, but most years we do experience a lull in the action which may last for a day or two…or maybe a week.  PATIENCE is a prerequisite for this trip.  Forecasting and intercepting storms can be a frustrating affair:  busted forecasts, unfavorable terrain, unreachable storms, or dangerous locations can all play a role in whether we can safely reach a storm.  Be prepared for adjustments on the fly that are dictated by conditions in the field.

d) If you fear storms, please do not apply, and don’t undertake this trip for therapeutic reasons!  The near-storm environment is a volatile place, and most crews have to weather some intense or occasionally even frightening moments during their shifts out there.

So, if  you are certain this field course is for you, fill out the application form and either drop it by 101 Major Williams, or send it via e-mail to carrolld@vt.edu.

We hope to complete the selection of the 2014 field crew before the end of the semester.  Applicants will be selected based upon their response to the application question (why do you want to join the chase?), and background coursework in meteorology.  If you lack the background courses, those interested are still encouraged to apply, as the primary prerequisite is a driving passion for severe weather and everyone is given full consideration (the plan is to keep an “at-large” space or two open for non-majors).

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me carrolld@vt.edu,  or stop by 101 Major Williams,  or call 231-5469.   I’ll answer any questions you have to the best of my ability

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-Dave Carroll

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KS storms & moving east

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A time to rest.

We are located in Guymon in the western panhandle of Oklahoma (our GPS tracker still has us pegged in the central part of the state as we haven’t successfully pinged any digipeaters with our APRS system out here in the high plains).  After a flurry of days when we were on storms each afternoon and evening, we took advantage of a welcome break in the action and visited Palo Duro Canyon in Texas topped off with a hearty dinner at the Big Texan in Amarillo.  Both stops have long been mainstays of our adventures out here.  In future times I hope to return with hiking boots and backpacks in-tow with my family.

Below is a picture of the Ripley OK tornado from Thursday as it moves behind the roadside treeline.  Intercepting storms in this area is much like catching storms in central parts of Virginia:  rolling topography and lots of trees.

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We are still trying to digest the events that unfolded in the Oklahoma City area on Friday, and how it re-affirms our commitment to safety first when engaging storms.  Located a few miles south of the storm, we could see the extremely dark cloud bases/wall clouds, and I imagined what a turbulent place that would be, crowded with people in their cars, many of them stuck in traffic with no place to go as mesocyclones and their accompanying tornadoes moved eastbound close to I-40.  Baseball-sized hail and flooding rainfall also pounded residents, chasers, and travelers under those ominous cloud bases.  As traffic began to increase from our vantage point from fleeing motorists, continual scanning of radar forced a move southward as the storm began to encroach on the road, and we moved southward to maintain our distance.  The picture of what happened in the Oklahoma City area is beginning to unfold, and I will let that evolve over the next several days with some follow-up.   The storms that we pursue are non-selective in who they impact or what they destroy.  The tragic events on Friday remind us of that, whether it is a local resident returning home from work, or a long-time storm researcher who dedicated his life to the study of those very storms.

OK storms 5/30…

Just a quick post.  We intercepted a supercell west of Guthrie OK today, and followed it through multiple RFD cycles until it produced a tornado near Ripley OK.  Great wall clouds with this storm and a later cell that tracked on a very similar path.  Will try to post higher-quality photos from my good camera when time permits, the tornado shots are on that camera.

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KS & OK

imageimageTwo active days of difficult chasing…netted on mini-supercell north of Salina (and north of the big, nearly stationary cell near salina that produced a tornado we couldn’t reach).   The bottom photo shows this storm.  The top photo shows a tornado-warned segment of an intense line of storms in the TX Panhandle and westernmost OK area. It is interesting in that the structure of the storm showed more of a wall cloud-like structure in the distance, not unlike many HP storms we have seen. Storms lined out today, minimizing the tornado threat but ramping up widespread wind damage potential.  Managed to catch an awesome shelf cloud with a bowing line of storms in the TX Panhandle and western OK.

An assortment of pictures…

A few photos shot by Trevor White on our crew.  The first two show the storm near Hayes KS as the wall cloud crosses very close to our location.

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The photos below come from Wichita KS, as the tornadic supercell roars toward the western edge of town.  Note the ground-scraping wall cloud in the photo below.  Inflow winds were screaming inward toward this feature.  We were forced to bail off of this storm as we began to become pinned in between the storm and the outskirts of Wichita.  The bottom photo shows the precipitation core that is being wrapped around the mesocyclone, as it moves eastbound toward us.

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Our day in Oklahoma was busy, with the funnel pictured below and the dark wall cloud located west of Purcell OK early in our day.

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The cell east of Waco was the anchor cell in the system, and continued to be the most impressive storm in the region.  Wall clouds, green coloration, and spectacular shelf clouds highlighted this storm.  Here, the menacing shelf cloud approaches the roadside as we stop to observe it on the rural roads of Texas.  The bottom photo shows the storm closing the gap at an intersection of roads in a small town southeast of Waco.

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Will be posting additional photos here.   -Dave

Catching up

A number of tough days in a row, and gearing up for another.  Intercepted a number of different supercells over a couple oaf days in Kansas, including the storm below near Hayes…multiple wall clouds and funnels, but no obvious touchdown.

 

Sunday was spent in southeast Kansas, and we intercepted a tornadic cell near Clearwater/Wichita,  and additional cells to the east.

Monday put us in Oklahoma, just south of  the Oklahoma City area.  We were on the cell south of Moore, which produced the powerful tornado that moved through the populated area.  What tempting to intercept storms in more urban areas is simply too frustrating and dangerous, with traffic  stop and go traffic and congestion on the roadways.  We spent several hours working around storms producing wall clouds and funnel clouds, but poor visibility prevented definitive tornado sightings.  The Moore storm serves as a reality check on the power of these storms.

Long mileage and Texas storms

Resting in Salina Kansas tonight after a couple of tough days.  A long first day drive put us in Conway Arkansas on Tuesday night.  We had our eye on north Texas for a number of days as a first chase target, and our forecast certainly proved accurate.   On our drive westward out of Arkansas, we ran into thunderstorm cells east of Oklahoma City.  Any potential route down I-35 south into Texas was blocked or slowed by extensive coverage of hail-producing thunderstorms, so our only option was a route southwestward through Lawton OK and Wichita Falls TX.  We rolled through some storms, and cruised past some nice structure on the backside of the thunderstorms.  Nearing the Red River we noticed a particularly well-defined cell and opted to veer off course to play tag with it for awhile.  The base of the storm continued to organize and produced a nice wall cloud with a distinct funnel under it.  Due to hills and trees, we could not determine whether any tornadic circulation reached the ground under the funnel. The shot by Trevor White below shows the wall cloud and funnel.

985V8982As this storm moved into an area where the road network became poor, we continued southward across the Red River into Texas.   The location of the dryline became obvious over time as clouds to the west became moisture starved, while robust development continued to the east of our route south of Wichita Falls into Wise county.  We targeted a cell that was the southernmost cell at the time in a loose line of relatively discrete storms.  Winding roads an trees obscured the low-level view of the storm at times, but we pressed onward, continually trying to maneuver around the storm.  Several times the storm appeared to produce possible tornadoes under the wall clouds, but we weren’t able to confirm it with terrain and poor contrast under the storm.  Below is another shot taken by Trevor White, our photographer, of the storm as it approaches the town of Alford in Wise County TX.  A tornado was reported with this storm shortly after this photo was taken.

TSW_4677We were able to position ourselves very close to the rotating updraft at dusk, and observed rapidly rising and rotating cloud tags under the cell.  If we had other travel options southward this day that would have saved some time, we may have targeted the storm further south that produced the Hood County tornado this day.  Will post more as time permits.   Setting up for a multi-day chase period coming up.   -Dave