Author Archives: vtmet

Small storms, big country.


We tracked storms across the high country of northern New Mexico and close to the Front Range of Colorado, taking in spectacular views of storms over stunning landscapes.  Our venture included Capulin Volcano National Monument, and we spent the entire afternoon atop the high mesas east of Raton NM.  I will let the pictures speak for me this time.

(photo above:  storms frame the view across the top of the mesa, at an elevation over 8,000′)


The view eastward from the high mesa:  a lonely road crosses the top, where we only saw one other car all afternoon.  Pronghorn antelope grazed near the roadside, and a coyote ran across the road in front of us at one point.  At this elevation, temperatures remained in the 40’s all afternoon.


The view greeting us as we entered Colorado.  Billowing storm clouds and breathtaking landscapes.  These areas are nothing short of national treasures, period.  And we MUST act as responsible stewards of these incredible places.


Our view of the Spanish Peaks.  Nothing I can add here. Stunning.


A fast start to the 2016 trip.

Cisw4ZJUYAIHfzlPhoto taken by Samantha Wright.

The first few days of the 2016 trip were long ones:  900+ miles driving on the first day followed by another 600 miles and a storm intercept on the second.  Going in we knew that the best chance for storms was in southwestern portions of Texas, so we decided on a marathon drive from Blacksburg to Texarkana for the first night, arriving in Texarkana around 1:30am EST (12:30am CST).

The marathon didn’t end there:  our second day we arose early and hit the road, aiming for San Angelo Texas in hopes of making it there in time for a day-2 intercept of a storm.  We made it, and intercepted a cluster of storms south of San Angelo.  Road networks were limited, so our time on the storm was laced with constant analysis of its motion relative to the single road that would dictate a safe retreat.  We would stay with the storm as long as we could in one location before being forced to retreat a distance and start the process over again.  A very low wall cloud accompanied by strong inflow winds greeted us on a narrow one-lane (but paved) road.  As the storm closed in on our location, we moved east and then south to stay close along the one road that could lead us to safety if needed.



Heavy rain and hail rapidly approach, and we depart in a hurry.  The heavy precipitation core enveloped the road a minute later.


The menacing storm continues to move ever closer, and we linger as long as safely possible.

This was not a big tornado day, and we didn’t expect one.  The ingredients were simply not in place for a greater tornado threat this day.  We did accomplish a couple of very important things though:  1) we safely made it back to the plains   2) the crew made the most of the opportunity to learn the forecasting, navigation, and storm analysis needed for a successful intercept.

If the upcoming pattern is any indication, this day of training on a storm will be a valuable asset in the days to come.





The Countdown.


Lightning highlights a dramatic wall cloud near Union City OK in 2013. This storm produced a tornado a short time later.

Less than one month now until the first trip departs for 2016.  Everyone should begin making final arrangements/logistics for each trip departure:  make sure you have transportation to campus on the departure days, have a flexible pick-up upon return (which may vary by a day or two depending upon the weather pattern), and have your gear lined-up according to the attached packing list.  We will have one meeting in the next couple of weeks to go over last-minute details.  Fasten those seatbelts.



Welcome 2016 Crew!


Looking forward to rolling toward storms with everyone, and that time will be here before you know it.  A few more details need to be worked out with logistics, and you will receive periodic updates over the coming months.  We will have a meeting with the crew early next semester.  Enjoy winter break, and remember…as each day passes severe season creeps closer.   -Dave

Time to apply for the 2016 Severe Storm Field Course!

20150605_020314025_iOSPhoto:  Kevin Myatt.

Applications for the 2016 Virginia Tech Severe Storms Field Course are now available!  If you are interested in joining the crew in the Great Plains for 2016, please read the information below and on the application very carefully!

The time is now upon us to begin planning for the 2016 course, and we hope to have the crew finalized before the end of the semester.  Our emphasis on safety and education will continue unabated. and once again we will roll westward in search of severe storms.  The tentative window(s) for the 2016 trip will range from May 16 – June 3.  Depending upon the mix and number of applicants, we may run two tripsThe storms dictate the trip, and if a favorable weather pattern is occurring, we may extend a trip to take advantage of it.  Flexibility is key, therefore each applicant must have this entire window of time available!

You will find the updated application and trip information in the attachment below.  If you are considering applying for a position with the 2016 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 2016 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.

Application links:  (Word document or PDF)



If you are interested in the 2016 trip, be sure to submit your application no later than Friday, December 4, 2015.


-Dave Carroll

Big days in Colorado and Kansas…

Will have to default to Trevor White’s posting while we are on the move again.  Multiple chase days in a row are great for storms, not so much for sleep and time to post summaries of our days.  This photo is from Kathryn Prociv and shows our evening wall cloud in Kansas, and the link to Trevor’s blog post.  More when time permits…


High plains storms and why we love them.

With limited time to write, I will link to Trevor White’s blog and his photos…

His thoughts echo those of many of us, and enjoy the pictures!