Evening severe storms greet our arrival in the Plains

After 2 hard days of driving we arrived in North Platte, Neb., late Tuesday. The day’s storms were farther west,  yet, but did blow over us late in the evening with striated shelf clouds, frequent lightning and 60-mph wind gusts propelling dust across the parking lots outside our hotel. It looks like very similar supercells — produced largely by upslope flow against the higher terrain of the High Plains/Rockies and then spun by strong winds aloft changing direction and/or speed with height — are likely over the next 3 days in this same general region, perhaps sinking southward with time.

We hope to have more photos posted in days to come.

– Kevin Myatt

Hokie Storm Chase 2014 begins …

The 2014 Hokie Storm Chase is scheduled to leave Blacksburg about 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.

The weather pattern we face headed to the Plains will likely produce some periods of severe storms on a regional basis, but is unlikely to produce a widespread tornado outbreak. That’s just fine. We’re looking for one special supercell in open terrain — hopefully on more than one day. The farther we are from major central U.S. cities, the better, especially considering the storms on both of our 2013 trips continually passing through the Oklahoma City and Wichita metro areas. We don’t have to see a tornado to be successful … but we’ll do all we can to forecast where one might occur and be there ahead of time … hopefully where it’s doing nothing but swirling dust and tumbleweed.

I’ll update more on the trip from the Plains states. Meanwhile, wave at us if you see our 3 antenna-laden vans rolling west Sunday morning.

– Kevin Myatt

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

vt-storm-chase-application1a

-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.