Thursday, May 22, 2014

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

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