Friday, May 23, 2014

Wrapping Up: SWIFT 2014 "Nothing's normal about this.."

Looking back over these past weeks of SWIFT, it has probably been one of the best leadership and academic training evolutions I have been part of. Not only have I gained eight more friends, but I have also been able to meet numerous people and got to see the impact these storms have on their lives. The highlight of SWIFT for me was the clean-up we did in Beaver Crossing. Seeing the damage and being able to help out with the clean-up was refreshing. Although I was limited in how much I could do, being able to give back was something we all needed after chasing that specific tornado. It’s one of the hardest things when you realize that the same storm you were rooting for was wreaking havoc in someone else’s life. Not only did this help our morale in giving back, but was also humbling for us as future leaders. Someday there could be numerous people under our command who will have family experiencing that devastation and from SWIFT we have been able to more directly learn the impact of these super-cells.

From a leadership perspective, the highlight of my trip was the 11 May tornado that we were chasing. That day I learned a lot more about myself than I realized I was going to. Being head of logistics, I was doing pretty great on my job of giving time sensitive directions. However, when things went absolutely wrong and we got stuck in the mud, everything could have gone downhill quickly. I was quick to try and fix the problem of us being stuck and I did it the whole time with a smile on my face. This situation made me realize that no matter what happens at the academy and no matter how cynical it seems to make me, when facing adversity, my natural optimism takes over. One of the best things a person can learn is about themself. The ability to know your weaknesses and strengths is one of the best tools an officer can own. I can definitely say that I have come to know myself a lot better than I did before.

On the weather side of things, I have augmented my knowledge to no end and I want to learn more. It’s easy to get burnt out on academics after 15 straight years of school, but now I’m excited to learn more. With the knowledge I have learned about severe weather and tornados, I now feel comfortable with talking to my family on what to expect weather wise. I have also become more fluid and knowledgeable when giving weather discussions and answering basic questions. I still have a lot more to learn and am excited about learning it. That is powerful in, and of, itself. 

“No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.”
                                                                                -John Locke

Over and out,
“Rear Flank” Rebecca

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Always Chase in May

Yesterday was the last time I will chase supercell storms for a very long time.  Coming into SWIFT for the 2nd year in a row, I figured the storms this year would not be as incredible as last year.  I could not have been more wrong.  The weather and chase days in SWIFT 2014 were way more intense, beautiful, and at times scarier than the chase days of 2013. 
The best chase day of SWIFT this year was definitely Sunday, May 18 near Newcastle, Wyoming.   We did not expect much to happen that day.  We saw a blip on radar early and decided to take a long drive to go after the storm.  The storm did not look impressive when we first got to it, but as we got closer and closer she started to get organized and more powerful.  Every 10 minutes the storm changed form and got even prettier.  After about 30 minutes of being right next to her, this supercell formed into a picturesque mothership mesocyclone.  It was by far the most beautiful storm I had ever seen.  Dr. Barrett told me earlier that day that the high plains in Wyoming do some magical things and this baby sure did some magic.  Besides the incredible beauty of the storm, the SWIFT team was able to see the entire storm from formation to dissipation.  Seeing this high based supercell from start to finish with low precipitation and a perfect viewpoint made this chase day the best chase day I have ever had. 

I did not expect to learn much from SWIFT this year because of the huge amount I learned from last year’s SWIFT.  I was completely wrong.  This year I learned just as much as I did the year before.  I feel much more confident in my ability to predict and recognize severe weather.  One specific thing I learned about this year was the structure and components of a tornadic supercell.  I can now look at a radar signature of a storm and see where the inflow, mesocyclone and outflow of a storm is located.  I can also look at the storm and visually distinguish these specific parts of the storm from random scud. 

One leadership lesson I learned from SWIFT this year is that you have to stay energized, excited and keep everyone around you active and involved when your team is feeling tired.  SWIFT chase days are extremely long, tiring and are an emotional roller coaster.  During the calm moments in a chase, everyone on the team tends to get overwhelmed with fatigue.  This is when group leaders need to remain focused, excited and keep everyone around them energized. 

SWIFT 2014 gave me so many funny, fun, exciting and even some adrenaline filled memories.  I absolutely love weather and everything about it.  This internship for the past two years has been the best part of my summer.  I am really bummed that I will not be chasing storms for a long time.  I hope the future years of SWIFT have as much fun and see even more incredible things than SWIFT 2014.  Always chase in May (except when I graduate next May).

-Anthony “Triple-Point” Borrego

Chasers get remembered....SWIFTers never die...

After a thrilling two weeks, SWIFT is sadly coming to a close. The knowledge we all have gained through this experience is incredible.

The highlight of SWIFT for me personally was the last chase day. I was the weather lead and Doctor Barrett let me ride shotgun. I had the best seat in the van and I was able to help make all the calls (where/what to chase). I must say I felt a little bit of the pressure that Doctor Barrett felt during all of our chase days. The storms we chased that day didn't produce a tornado but it was still my favorite day. It was a truly awesome way to end SWIFT.

Coming in to this internship I honestly had no clue how or why tornadoes formed. I knew there had to be a super cell and somehow a tornado came out of it. I now know a lot more on the weather conditions needed to produce super cells and tornadoes. I can look up to the sky and pick out the updraft and the downdraft part of a storm. I am the only one in my family with any interest in weather and so it is nice now that I can actually talk intelligent on different weather phenomenon. Some of the things I learned include how to pick a chase location. The most important places to look at are boundary positions (dry line/triple point). Its a pretty cool feeling to know that any day this summer I can check a few websites and radar models and give a good estimate as to what locations will be favorable for super cell formations and tornadoes.

Great leadership was the key to our more successful chase days. Each of us were weather and logistics lead multiple times and we definitely learned the most on those days. I was logistics lead on the first day and I quickly learned how hard being a lead would be if I was unprepared. Thankfully I had a cool team behind me and within a few minutes things were running smoothly. Logistics lead was a more tedious job and it really took the whole team to keep things flowing. Weather lead was more exciting, especially on chase days and with so many things to keep and eye on (SPC updates/surface conditions/hrrr) it was easy to keep the whole team engaged. When I was lead for both teams I knew that it would take a team effort to be successful, no one guy or girl could do it alone.

SWIFT was every thing I imagined and then some. Every day brought new and fun experiences. We saw two tornadoes, one inch hail, and great super cellular structures. Even on are down days we had fun, from seeing movies to playing home run derby in the pool. It was my dream to chase tornadoes and finally got to live it, I can't wait for more opportunities like this.

Lawrence "Wall Cloud" Wilson III

Dantaun's Last Day of SWIFT

Out of the many memorable experiences on SWIFT, I would have to say the highlight of SWIFT for me was getting an extremely close view of the 11 May wedge tornado in southeastern Nebraska. I had never experienced a thunderstorm of that strength or winds like that before. I had seen TV shows about the danger and destruction severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can bring, and finally seeing that first-hand gave me a new perspective on it. The adrenaline rush that it brought too was an experience in itself. In addition, getting a chance to see a new part of the country that was so different from New Jersey was interesting. 

After the two weeks of SWIFT, I have learned not only a plethora of new meteorology terms, but also how to apply them. I’ve also learned how to recognize points of interest on weather radar and what to look for when analyzing different weather models. I’ve also learned a lot about the structure of a thunderstorm. A lot of parts of a thunderstorm that used to look threatening to me I have found out are actually harmless. Lastly I now know a lot more about what is needed exactly for a thunderstorm to form and what conditions make that favorable. Before SWIFT I didn’t really know much about thunderstorms besides the fact that lightning and thunder came from them.  During SWIFT we were about to track and follow thunderstorms before they were even formed, which was awesome.

As a team leader, I have learned how to distribute the workload efficiently. I have also learned what it is like to have the fate of the “mission” rest on my decisions (i.e. choosing a target area). Also, after experiencing the quick switch from laughter to storm mode in the van, I have learned about both knowing when to be in serious mode and how to switch from a relaxed atmosphere to a more serious one at the drop of a hat.

-Dantaun "Bear Cage" Bernstein

The Trip of a Lifetime

It is hard to believe that SWIFT 2014 is already coming to an end. These past two weeks were some of the most memorable, knowledgeable, and challenging of my life. My most memorable experience from this trip was the Mother's Day tornado on May 11. Going into that day I knew it was going to be an important day because all of the weather models and data had great predictions for supercells and possibly tornadoes in Nebraska. The day started off exciting as the cumulus clouds began to build and small blips on the radar began to appear. As we raced to a developing storm, excitement was high and we were ready to see our second tornado in two days. The sunshine quickly turned to darkness as we neared the supercell. We continued to track this storm and experienced some issues navigating the dirt roads of rural Nebraska. The stops we made to get out of the van to see the supercell's rotation was exhilarating. We kept getting closer to the storm and experienced strong winds and rain. Watching the supercell, and tornado located within the supercell, pass to our North was the experience of a lifetime. Only being three miles from an EF-3 tornado was the biggest adrenaline rush. Never could I replace what I learned and experienced that day.
This day was also the most knowledgeable for me. While tracking the storm, we periodically stopped to get out of the van and observe the storms rotation, updraft, downdraft, path, etc. What I learned that day can never be replaced by textbook diagrams or lectures. Learning how storms and tornadoes behave and grow up close and personal makes me want to learn even more and makes me proud of my major. 
Also on May 11, I was the weather team leader. What an experience that was trying to put together the weather brief when I knew ahead of time that this day would be an important one in observing storms. It was challenging to analyze the data and pick the right target area with such a big day ahead of us. The day became even more challenging while the storms were developing. It was hard to track the storm we were interested in and navigate the dirt roads of Nebraska. This challenge did not end until we were finished with chasing the storm for the day.
Overall, SWIFT was a very rewarding experience. I never thought looking at clouds could be so exciting. What I learned from this trip can never be replaced and I will cherish the memories forever. 

-"Hook Echo" Hank Glenn

Merrill Dean - Post Swift Post

During this very awesome experience of swift, the event that highlighted this experience for me was the wedge tornado on Mothers day on 5/11/14. This was the most influential to me because we experienced the greatest storms of the entire trip. This day was also my first experience of seeing house damage from a severe storm. This day, as a group, we experienced many problems  but the thing that I enjoyed as that we got through them together as a team and we did it we little to no arguments and at the end of the day we were all safe and able to laugh about the experiences that we had. This day was a day that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life and an experience I know the swift team of 2014 will always remember.

Over this journey I have learned so much. Before going on this internship I knew little to none about tornado or severe weather and how these things formed. There was a lot of things I learned in a very short 3 weeks, at some points it felt like too much but it was always worth it and made for better chase days. I learned how to read the data that was given by numerous sights such as Twister Data and Hazwx. I also learned what storm structures are going to be more probabilistic for the formation of a tornado. This internship has given me a new respect for storms and the weather in general.

Swift has taught me more than just about tornado's and the weather, it has also helped me with my leadership skills as well. During this trip the swift team grew very close, but the thing is we were able to flip the switch from friends to colleagues when we entered storm mode or when a task needed to get completed. Swift has also helped me with public speaking skills. One of our tasks was to speak at Stevens High School in South Dakota. There I was able to explain my knowledge about storms to people who were less knowledgeable in that field. This trip has taught me how to better work with people when we all have the same objective. Swift definitely taught me skills that I will carry over as an officer in the future.

My SWIFT Experience

Hello! I am 2/C Alexis Kelm and this was my first SWIFT experience. Unfortunately, SWIFT is coming to an end. We are heading east right now, hoping to return to Annapolis by noon tomorrow. I applied for SWIFT for two reasons - I am fascinated by weather and wanted to learn how severe convective storms form, and secondly, I was dying to witness a tornado up close and personal. Let's just say I got exactly what I asked for! The highlight of my trip was our second day in Orrick, Missouri. I remember experiencing hail at first. I didn't know exactly what was going on at the time but moments later, we were parked on the edge of a field watching as a super cell developed and tightened. She was beautiful. After a few minutes, we spotted debris rotating on the ground. The tornado chase (might be more accurate to say it was chasing us) was one of the most thrilling and incredible experiences of my life. Despite the fact that this was not the largest tornado we had experienced on SWIFT, it was by far the highlight of my trip. It was my very first experience with one of these monsters and it ignited a desire in me to chase more! It was also the first time I realized that these storms affect the lives of so many people. We saw families in the streets, desperate to know what was going on, if they would be okay. My heart broke for them. Barely any warning and minutes later, their homes and lives could fall apart. However, I believe this was good for me to witness. I felt sympathy for these farmers and their families, and it encouraged me to continue serving my community after SWIFT, leaning towards helping those who have been affected by natural disasters.

My experience in Orrick, Missouri was just the beginning. Over the last thirteen days, I have learned more about weather and severe convective storms than I could have learned in a semester-long class. I was able to practically apply the material taught in my first couple oceanography courses at the Naval Academy and obtain new knowledge throughout the internship. I have learned about the roles of fronts and dry lines, CAPE and bulk shear, wind speed and direction. I have witnessed the importance of weather conditions in order for a super cell to form. And if necessary, I could locate a rotating wall cloud in my sleep. I am now able to pull up models online from Storm Prediction Center (SPC) and Twister Data, analyzing the data presented quickly and efficiently. Not only have I learned to analyze and understand these models, but I am now able to confidently relay the information I obtain to others around me. The most fascinating part of my learning experience during SWIFT is the formation of a tornado. It's structure looks so simple, yet it so complex. The conditions must be perfect for a tornado to form. I never knew the significance of low level clouds, relative wind speeds and motion, and the tightening of the super cell. But now I do! And I feel so privileged to have been able to not only experience these storms first hand, but gather the knowledge necessary to detecting, tracking, and locating their exact positions.

I have learned so much about oceanography over the past two weeks, but I have also gained a new confidence in my leadership abilities. SWIFT was an incredible opportunity to develop as a future leader. There were endless opportunities presented and it proved to be a very valuable professional development training. I feel confident in picking up brand new information, comprehending it, and relaying it back to my team. I feel confident in designating tasks as a leader, and depending on my team when I need their help to make processes quicker and more efficient. SWIFT has been one of the greatest leadership training I have partaken in at the United States Naval Academy.

Chase on,

Alexis (High CAPE) Kelm

Bailey Colon-Waite- Post Swift

2/C Bailey Colon-Waite Overview

Well Swift is coming to a close and it is truly bittersweet. This trip has taught me a lot about understanding our atmosphere and how a beautiful sky can become an EF-3 tornado in a matter of hours. But besides the training, I learned a lot about myself and my leadership style. As we drive towards Annapolis, I keep wishing we were heading towards Colorado for the convective storms developing out there for one more chance to prove my skills as a leader and weather predicting. 

When I showed up to the first brief for SWIFT, I thought there is no way I will be able to do weather reports. The words cape, helicity, and bulk shear went right over my head, and now I can log into weather sites and have a understanding of their meaning and what that means for the sky outside. My understanding of storms has drastically changed over the last two weeks. When I showed up in Beaver Crossing, NE and saw the destruction of some homes and some homes stood untouched it motivated me to continue my passion for weather. Beaver Crossing was not a highlight but a wakeup call for me. I loved helping those people but it made me want to do more research for the prediction, early warning, and building of stronger structures.  

As a leader, I went from having to be in control of everything to learning to truly delegate by the end of the trip. SWIFT teaches you to make quick decisions and be comfortable with that decision. I learned that being in a van with ten other people tensions can rise but at the end of the day we are a team all just wanting to see storms. I truly loved SWIFT. I learned a lot about myself and can honestly say this is the best training I have ever received at the Naval Academy.

Parole is almost over, Marino

As things wind down, we are sad to be making our way back to Annapolis. There are many experiences from this trip that I will always remember, especially 11 May 2014. On this day we followed a EF-3 tornado across Nebraska. As we watched the storm form, little did I know that we would soon be inside it. As we blasted across the dirt roads of Nebraska we continued to watch the storm intensify. With the storm 3 miles just to our North, we headed East. As we crossed the county line, the road suddenly changed to mud and power lines went down 150 yards ahead of us. Core Punch Cooper braked on the muddy road. As soon as we stopped, we saw the line of sprinklers to our left flip over. Within the next 45 seconds we saw a the roof of a farmer's barn, 300 yards to our starboard, blow across the field. Nearly 15 seconds after that we saw a brief (15-second) tornado touch down 200 yards to our port. All of this was in the "rear-flank downdraft" part of the storm -- but only 3 miles to our north, this storm produced an EF-3 tornado. Once the winds died down, Hank, Anthony and I got out of the van and ran ahead to confirm that the power lines crossed the road.We saw they did and that we could not proceeded further East. We then turned and started running west, back to the van. As soon as we turned we were hit by the strong winds of the next storm. We could barely make forward progress on the muddy road because as we ran forward the wind kept blowing us back. Finally we got back to the van to find that we were stuck and the storm was headed just North of our location. As everyone piled back into the van more rear-flank downdraft winds reached us. The wind was blowing the door open so hard that it took two of the strongest men, Hook Echo Hank and I, to close it. After the storm subsided, Downdraft Dean and I sprinted to the house where we saw the barn fly away from. We checked the property to see if there were any hurt people. We did not find anyone. Soon Triple Point Borrego came running over telling us we needed to get back to the van because another storm was headed toward us. We sprinted back across the muddy corn field and got back into the van. Once the next storm went by us, we spent the rest of the afternoon in the intermittent rain and mud moving our van back to the gravel road. We ended up calling for a ride into York, NE. The walk from the van to the truck reminded me a little bit of the "trail of tears", walking through the cold pouring rain and ankle deep mud. Overall I will always remember this experience because it was a great adrenaline rush and the I saw the team grow. As we spent the next two days in the hotel waiting for the muddy road to dry, we all became much closer and laughed about our past experiences. I also found that even when things seem tough, we just have to make the best out of them. This is important in my profession because I will face many hard situations and I must be able to make the best of them.

Since the start of the trip I have seen myself grow in scientific knowledge. At the start, I knew some of the basics about the atmosphere but now I feel that I have a strong base in predicting severe weather. One prime example of this is that one day after looking at models, the team decided to go west of the NOAA tornado contour for the day. As we were waiting for storms to form, NOAA issued a tornado contour for the area we predicted. In a way, we were a step ahead of NOAA, at least that is the way I like to think of it. I will continue to use the knowledge I learned on this trip to watch for the probability of storms at my home this summer. I have always seen severe storms but now I know what actually makes them what what to look for.

Lastly, I feel that this trip helped me significantly grow as a leader. Each day one student lead weather and one lead logistics. It was up to these students to choose a chase area, watch for updates on the weather, plan gas/food stops, and book hotels for the night. I feel that these opportunities helped to prepare me for my future as a leader in the military. I will be faced with similar situations as a officer. My favorite day as a lead was on 10 May as the logistic lead. We passed through my home town of St. Louis and proceeded to the Orrick, MO tornado.

This was by far one of the best experiences of my life and I want to do something similar again soon.

Very Respectfully,

Mammatus cloud Marino 

Below is a picture of us and the van on the muddy road after the tornado.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SWIFT 2014 Day 13: Champaign, IL

Today we traveled east across the great state of Illinois. Finding a target area for today was a lot more challenging than previous chase days. We had a defined boundary, however it was very large and covered many states. We decided to head east towards the Illinois/Indiana border. Convective initiation began before 4 p.m. Storms to our east were blowing up fast and creating a large horizontal line. But we decided to head west because the storms developing there were more discrete and forming in a vertical line. We chased a couple super cells, one of which produced 4 inch hail. Overall it was a pretty good chase day, both cells we saw had decent structure and it was a good way to end a successful two weeks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

SWIFT 2014 Day 12: Des Moines, IA

Last night the SWIFT team stayed in Lincoln, Nebraska and headed east today to Davenport, Iowa. Today's storm chase was pretty crazy and unexpected! SWIFT's original target area was an hour west of Des Moines, IA. After a couple storms had dissipated around the Iowa capital by early afternoon, SWIFT decided to keep heading east towards the "Quad Cities," where we would stay at night. While traveling east, Dr. Barrett recognized a storm forming north of the interstate. SWIFT decided to follow and track the development of the storm. Right before sunset, we watched as clouds came together to form an incredible super cell. SWIFT enjoyed a strikingly beautiful show of lightning on the rest of our drive to the hotel in Davenport. What a sight for the second-to-last day of chasing!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Great Day for a Chase?

Today the SWIFT team was looking forward to a day with possible supercells and maybe, just maybe, tornadoes. After the brief at 0715, the team decided to stay in Scottsbluff, NE to wait for storms to develop along the cold front and move Eastward. While waiting, the SWIFTers decided to hike to Chimney Rock and pass the time waiting for the potential afternoon storms. Our hopes for storms along the cold front were dashed when new models put more storm development in Central and Eastern Nebraska. However, no storms developed in our new target area and the team ended up staying the night in Lincoln, NE. Maybe our new target area in Iowa tomorrow will be better!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

SWIFT 2014 Day 9 (18 May 2014): Beautiful supercell Newcastle, WY

Today we started our journey leaving from Cheyenne, Wyoming. We saw two blips and chased the northern storm into northern Nebraska. We then tracked a rotating wall cloud to about 15 miles west of Newcastle. We experience little rain and very small sized hail. At 5:42 MT time we reported a funnel cloud that was rotating about halfway between the wall cloud and the ground before dissipating. We later learned that the southern storm in Scottsbluff, NE had formed into a tornado. There was also a tornado in Montana close to the city of Belle Creek.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hike and Chase

Today the Swifters took to the mountains and went hiking. The team hiked Arthur's Rock of Ft. Collins. Before the hike they enjoyed a picnic lunch given to us by the lovely Dean family. The Swifters wanted to kill time by hiking before a line of storms near Cheyenne, Wyoming took them on the hunt. After several down days, seeing storms in Cheyenne were a great treat. With snow on the ground in places of Cheyenne the team chased the storms back across the border into Colorado before they dissipated. The team is resting in Cheyenne after a great dinner of hamburgers and bottomless fries, before heading out for hopefully a red letter chase day tomorrow.