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