As many of you may know, just two weeks ago I was chasing storms throughout the Great Plains.
I was given this opportunity through a program at Mississippi State University where I am currently a distance learning student working toward my Certificate of Broadcast Meteorology. It was an unbelievable experience and I want to share a few highlights from the trip with you.
The adventure began in Starkville, Mississippi, where the Mississippi State University campus is located. It was there that my professor, his PhD assistant, two undergraduate students, and I piled into a large van equipped with a computer and radar tracking gear. From there, we hit the road!
May is very active for severe weather in the Great Plains. We started off with a few quiet weather days, but we didn't just sit back and relax. We explored Castle Rock, which is south of I-70 near Quinter, Kansas. It's an old structure formed by an ancient inland sea…the entire formation used to be underwater! The highest point on the formation is 70 ft.
We also visited Rocky Mountain National park in Estes Park, Colorado. It was a breathtaking experience. Literally! The pressure decrease with altitude was really an adjustment as we headed up the mountain. Once we were at one of the highest elevations you can reach in the park, it started snowing! Very light flurries, but snow none the less! I was amazed by the amount of snow pack that was on the mountain tops.
The most exciting days, of course, were those spent chasing. On our first day chasing, we saw a beautiful thunderstorm form and blow right over us near North Platte, Nebraska. The entire formation erupted with constant lightning. This particular storm dropped golf ball sized hail that my classmates and I were pretty excited about.
The next day we chased a much bigger, stronger storm. watched an EF2 tornado form near Elmer, Oklahoma and travel for over an hour tracking 35 miles. It spit out baseball sized hail that cracked our windshield, (video of hail, pic of windshield) sheets of heavy rain, and explosive thunder and lightning. As we made our way to Wichita Falls, TX, sirens during a tornado warning scream as hail began to fire back up. We had to seek shelter under a gas station, waiting for the hail to pass. It was an experience that I will never forget.
The knowledge and hands on experience I took away from this trip has undoubtedly made me more valuable as a forecaster. I cannot thank my professor Mike Brown, his PhD assistant Barrett Gutter, and my fellow classmates enough. They truly made the trip an unforgettable experience.