Tornado or not? Sometimes it’s blurry

Tornado or not? Sometimes it's blurry

On our first real chase day of 2014, we followed a couple of rotating storm cells — mostly high-based, but with rotation and some nice structure — from eastern Wyoming into western Nebraska. One of the most interesting events was this whirl of dust that developed beneath a wall cloud — or lowered base of the storm. Tornadoes do not always have to have full condensation funnels from cloud to ground, and the High Plains areas of Wyoming and Colorado are often noted for producing brief tornadoes of this nature even when cloud bases are high and temperatures/dew points are relatively low (many of us were wearing sweaters and jackets as the easterly inflow winds raced into the storm). While from our distance this appeared to be a rotating cylinder of dust beneath a possible a funnel above, some other chasers of my acquaintance who were closer said the dust whirl did not rotate and was likely dust kicked up by an RFD — a rear flank downdraft, a feature common to supercells. So was it a tornado or not? It’s not often a straightforward question. Whether it was or not is an academic question, though, with no damage/injuries in open terrain, and what was a good first chase day with excellent positioning on a somewhat sparse road network and some good storm features. We’ll be looking for even more spectacular supercells and possibly some no-question-about-it tornadoes today, probably in Colorado.

– Kevin Myatt

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!



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.  (

From this point on, time will fly toward departure.


The 2014 Virginia Tech Severe Storm Field Course


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

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,  or stop by 101 Major Williams,  or call 231-5469.   I’ll answer any questions you have to the best of my ability


-Dave Carroll


KS storms & moving east