Friday, May 22, 2015

Olivia's final thoughts

After almost 2 weeks in a van with 10 (almost) strangers, I will be going back to Annapolis with an entirely new set of experiences, an expanded understanding of severe weather, and whole new understanding of peer leadership and followership.  It has been one thing to talk about how you’ll react under pressure, and how you’ll respond to failure, but it is an entirely different thing actually testing it out.  While we didn’t face any life threatening twisters, and stayed far away from the suck zone, we had plenty of edge-of-your-seat moments, and plenty of long uneventful hours in cramped quarters. 

SWIFT exceeded my expectations as far as what I gained outside of severe weather experience.  I acquired 7 new life-long friends, I learned how to stay motivated after an un-motivating day, and I learned how to learn from our mistakes. We had some incredible moments, and made memories that will last a life time! From the arguments and disagreements, to the comradery and bonding, to the close calls and tornado-on-the-ground’s, it has been a trip I’ll never forget. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Closing thoughts from Carman

Last night of SWIFT 2015. It was a quick two weeks. I wish it was longer and I could spend more time with everyone and learn more even after learning so much. I applied for SWIFT under the impression that I would learn so much in such a short amount of time. The in field training was a great idea and it was a blast. I feel so much more confident in predicting where severe weather will be and where to go if I am chasing more in the future. Chasing before SWIFT was exciting and difficult, but now I understand more and I can hopefully learn more soon. I can't wait to go on my own again and I'm even looking forward to going with a small group. I have learned a lot throughout the trip and I have a general direction I can take for my capstone during first class year. As much as severe weather and tornadoes fascinate me, I am also excited to start on such a big project. Tornadoes are so unpredictable and dangerous. This gives me yet another challenge in my life. I believe SWIFT will be in my life for several years to come and I look forward to learning all that I can.
To the other 10 who were on the trip: Thank you for helping me grow in leadership and knowledge and for the memories we shared!

Molly's Final Post!

I can absolutely say I will miss this experience! We have become such a family over the past 2 weeks, probably because of the hours upon hours spent mushed into a van together. Seeing severe weather form and produce tornadoes was an incredible experience. I learned so much about the way severe weather forms, but also a great deal about peer leadership, cooperation, teamwork, and patience. My goal coming into this was to learn all I could, regardless of whether I saw a tornado. This mission was definitely accomplished. Seeing several amazing tornadoes was a cherry on top!

Punkin Says Goodbye

As we cross the Tennessee border into the best state in the Union, we draw closer to the end of SWIFT. After seeing three tornadoes on the first night of chasing, I definitely had the wrong impression of the challenges of chasing naders. Since then, we’ve seen the model be completely wrong (and right sometimes), and we’ve seen storms predicted to have little chance of producing tornadoes prove their predictions wrong. One of the coolest non-tornado moments of the trip came last Tuesday when we finally saw a capping inversion. CDR Cooper and I could look out the window and see where the different clouds had built enough energy to finally bust through the high layer of stability.

Even if we had not seen so much wild weather over the last two weeks, travelling the Great Plains with the rest of these goobers would have still been a blast. Being cooped up in a van with the same 11 people for 2 weeks provided us with a few challenges, but it’s also provided me with 7 new friends and strong relationships with 3 great professors. I loved seeing all the new states and the crazy weather. Though this trip is over, I will definitely chase tornadoes another day.

Megan's Closing Comments

It's hard to believe that SWIFT has already come to an end! This internship was certainly an experience that I will never forget. SWIFT is by far one of my favorite summer training opportunities that I have experienced at the Academy. I am extremely thankful for the new friendships that I made throughout the countless hours of driving, laughing, and learning from each other. Each day, the SWIFT crew grew tighter and I now have 7 new friends that I will be able to hold close throughout the rest of my time at the Academy. One of my favorite memories from SWIFT occurred on our first actual chase day. We were following a storm in Kansas and we were able to watch a tornado develop from birth. In fact, we were actually the first team to report a tornado in the Gove City, Kansas area. Looking back, it was absolutely incredible that we were able to watch a crystal clear blue sky develop into a dark green and gray super cellular mass. This storm ended up producing 3 tornadoes by the end of the night, which surpassed the team's expectations. Usually, chasers go weeks without seeing any tornadoes, and we saw three on our first day of the chase. Not only did I observe severe weather and gain incredible friendships over SWIFT, but I was also able to develop my leadership skills along the way. Over the course of the past two weeks, I was able to hone my communication skills. The first day on the road, I was the logistics team leader and I was very unsure of my duties as such. At first, I was extremely nervous to let my voice be heard due to the fear of being incorrect or bossy. It finally occurred to me that I should not be afraid of being wrong because I can lean on my classmates for advice and support throughout the decision making process. I also realized that in order to make a cohesive team with a new group of people, there must be an unspoken level of trust. As a team leader, I learned to trust that my teammates had all of the skills necessary to get the job done in a timely manner. Communication must be clear and omnipresent in order for a team to be successful. We struggled with this at first, but we were able to overcome our communication issues after a couple of team discussions. I can honestly say that each day on SWIFT I learned something new. Whether it was a leadership skill, a meteorological term, or a people skill, each day was spent growing and developing as a leader while having a bit of fun along the way. 

If They Have Passion, SWIFTers Never Die

Well another year of SWIFT comes to a close and I was blessed enough to come with the group on SWIFT 2015. Having prior experience, I was extremely excited and couldn't wait. My goal for this year was to see a few major storms but most importantly help the others learn as much as they could by passing on what I learned. While seeing a major storm up close was a goal for me it was a selfish one. While this was in the back of my head, I focused my efforts on the group. I knew that everything that they learned this summer will put them ahead next school year. I remember being in the same position they were and I couldn't wait to show them to a great adventure. The chase in Oklahoma on  perfect hook echo will always stand out in my mind because I feel it was a negative for the team on what should have been a rock and roll day. We missed a perfect storm and I felt that we were not as excited as we should have been. All we can do now though is learn from it and we learned a lot! It did not happen again!
The thing that I will remember the most though is the great group and the growth I saw in each individual. I remember how excited I was for the first meeting. At that meeting I tried to address some of the basics of tornadoes and excite the group. The next times we met we started looking at data and making plans. This is where I saw the most important thing, progression. At the first few meetings I was able to go around and provide help to each individual. This was a great opporuitnity for me beacause it helped me to teach what I learned. Over first week of SWIFT I provided alot of help to each group every morning. As we advanced through the internship, I provided less and less help in this area.  Things that I often pointed out on charts or in the storm, others started to point out to me and ask about them.  The day when the group put together a great weather brief by themselves I was very proud!
Overall, I am extremely proud of the group and what they accomplished! It was my opportunity to pass the torch and hopefully then can keep the flame burning strong. There is always something drawing me back to chasing and I cannot wait for my next opportunity to chase (hopefully some members, past and present will join me). 

Ashley's Final Thoughts

I cannot believe it has been two weeks since we embarked on our journey Friday, May 8! Not only have I seen more than 10 states, bison and cows, and beautiful terrain, but also several tornadoes! I can honestly say I've met some great people on this trip and have made 11 new friends. It's amazing what two weeks and endless hours in a van can do to a group of people who previously did not know each other too well. We made great memories and have plenty of inside jokes as well as a few silly nicknames. It's amazing when I reflect on these two weeks and think about all we've accomplished in such little time. We got to say hi to Air Force, visit SPC and even teach elementary students about science through our STEM outreach program. More importantly, I got to see my first tornado! Coming from California, I have only experienced very minor earthquakes that I could count on one hand, so severe weather was very foreign to me. I was in complete awe when I saw my first funnel create a tornado. Even more amazing than that was our process of finding these tornados and how we could pinpoint their location from just several models, weather reports and GPS systems. If technology didn't already impress me, it sure does now! I can watch the weather channel now and not just look at pretty colors and numbers. I actually know what they are talking about when they say dew point temperature, dry line, or shear. Though I am not a professional by any means, it is nevertheless exciting to have a basic understanding of the complexities of basic weather dynamics. SWIFT has only encouraged me to continue my path of understanding severe weather formation. The leadership opportunity was amazing as well. I got to lead the weather team and logistics team twice each. Being a leader came with great responsibility for that day. I was in charge of making and presenting a PowerPoint brief each morning and pinpointing a location based on the weather models. We had no idea where we were going to end up each day, which made the experience both exciting and challenging. I got firsthand experience on what it feels like to lead a team and how much they depend on your command. It was a challenging role, but also the reason why I came to the Naval Academy in the first place. I had a great time on this trip and am honored to have gotten to represent the SWIFT team of 2015.

Libby's Closing Remarks

SWIFT has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at the Naval Academy so far. I was able to make so many new friends, travel to an area of the country I have not seen before, and experience severe weather first-hand. Before SWIFT, the biggest weather problem that I have ever experienced in trying to drive in the snow, but now I have a much better imagination of the power of mother nature. When I was weather lead, I learned so much about how to track storms using radar combined with a number of other sites, such as SPC and Twisterdata. I feel that weather lead was a rewarding position to have because it helped me learn a great deal about the actual storm course and allowed me to have a one-on-one discussion with my professors, allowing me to learn in high intensity situations and make spur-of-the-moment decisions based on the weather. Logistics lead was also an amazing job because it allowed me to work with my navigational skills using written maps, which is not something that I am used to. As logistics lead I was also in charge of finding hotels and gas stations at quick time intervals. SWIFT has been such an awesome experience, not only for the in-field training and opportunity, but also because I have made such memorable friends! I love each and every SWIFT 2015 member and feel that we have become a kick-butt team over the last two weeks. The team dynamic has developed greatly from the first day, filled with awkward murmurs about having to use the bathroom, to the final days, where tasked are eagerly volunteered for by members of either the weather or logistics team, even when the task is not under their assigned domain. Despite my excitement to not drive upwards of 5 hours each day, I am sad to be parted from my SWIFT family!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Unfortunately, yesterday was our last scheduled full chase day, and although we did not catch any "naders," it was far from disappointing! We began our day in Midland, Tx, and traveled to Denton, Tx. From Midland, we headed northeast, passing through Post and Spur, and making it all the way to a storm right outside of Fort Worth. There were recorded tornadoes in the storm, but due to the distance we had to drive and the path we had to take in order to avoid large storm centers filled with 4 inch hail stones, we ended up on the wrong side of the storm and had little visibility through the precipitation core. Despite not confirming a tornado ourselves, the team had an awesome last day and a beautiful drive through some of the back roads of Texas! The team also ate a wonderful dinner together at BJ's Bar and Grill in Denton!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Friends

Beginning the day we left from Lubbock, TX and headed for Ft. Stockton, TX, where we met up with another Severe Weather team from the College of Du Page. USNA SWIFT took part in launching a weather balloon with Du Page and watched as we collected data making a new skew-t diagram! The students and faculty of Du Page were very welcoming and helpful.

After connecting with them, chase mode began towards Pecos, TX. Carefully watching the gathering storm, we briefly saw our next tornado sneak down which was confirmed by another spotter. Following this storm that had the potential to produce more tornados throughout the night, we had to travel faster and smarter because the roads were long and not many options were available.

Soon, the storm turned HP and we could no longer see inside the core. We still hoped to catch a glimpse of another tornado near the hook echo that formed on radar.

Getting ahead of the storm and avoiding severe damaging hail, we enjoyed the lightning storm that followed as we headed back to Midland, TX for the night. Overall, after not expecting much out of the storms with no helicity, it was a success! Our last chase day is up next, let's see how it goes!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sunday Funday

After being in the van for over 12 hours on Saturday, we started Sunday off slowly with a late-morning weather brief and departure from the hotel at noon. We left Lawton, OK and ate lunch in Wichita Falls, TX at Texas Best BBQ & Burgers, who have excellent BBQ and service. The owner of the restaurant treated us all to peach cobbler and brownies as an expression of appreciation; his southern hospitality was incredible.

Next we headed to a local park to relax and watch the cloud development in the area. We hung around Wichita Falls until 5:30 P.M. After no significant storm development, we headed west for Lubbock, TX to set up our chase on Monday. We finished the 3 hour drive with a late dinner and debrief at Texas Roadhouse.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Running the Line

After a long, 10+ hour drive in the van from North Platte, NE, Day 9 came to a close. Once the team left Dodge City, KS, we had to decide where to go whether it was the Eastern border of the Texas panhandle or the Western border of Oklahoma. The line of storms we were watching initiated in the Texas panhandle and we had our eye on a particular one. After getting to the Eastern border of the Texas panhandle, the storms were getting to close and we pulled East into Oklahoma. At this point, we realized we were in a race against a long line of powerful, tornado producing supercells. We continued to drive South and East to stay out of the cores. Finally making it to the leading edge of one of the storms that had a recognizable hook echo and surely producing tornados, we stopped for a brief break to watch, near Altus, OK. In order to not get hit by the other storms, we continued moving southeast to hopefully get another view and possibly see a tornado. Again, we stopped, this time just South of Cyril, OK to watch the storm pass us by, only maybe 1-2 miles North of us. Unfortunately, most of the day we might have seen a tornado from the storms, they were rain wrapped and visibility fell to zero. Soon, our chase became more difficult and light was not on our side. Fortunately, our hotel was only a few miles away in Lawton, OK. With maybe only 3 chase days left, the team is excited for more storms and ready to continue chasing!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Day seven recap

The SWIFT team had some great adventures during our travels from Woodward, OK up north to Nebraska. We knew we had over 8 hours of travel ahead of us so we decided to make it an early start and make some fun stops along the way.  The first stop was in Garden City, KS for lunch at the Traditions Soda and Sandwich shop. 

With root beer floats in hand we enjoyed our meal and then headed towards Lake Scott State Park.  With the sunny cloudless weather, there wasn’t much storm chasing going on so we took the day to enjoy nature and look back in time at some ancient Indian pueblos at the park.  We saw ruins of the El Quartelejo, the northernmost Indian pueblo in the U.S, the battle ground where the last stand between the Indians and white man occurred, and a spring fed lake(glorified pond).  After some hiking, swimming, and exploring, it was back on the road!
 We took one more stop along the way to get a view of some clouds and a potential storm.  While the storm didn't end up producing a tornado, it was still exciting to see some development even on our down day!

 We headed towards North Platte Nebraska where we expected there to be good conditions for storms the following day.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Day 8 Review!

Our chase in the Cornhusker state certainly did not disappoint. Our chase day began and ended in North Platte, NE. We left North Platte around noon and headed toward Sidney, NE where we spotted our first tornado of the day. 

Then, we continued following the radar until we reached Dalton, NE where we saw a second tornado. Funnel clouds and numerous other storm chasers were quite common this afternoon which kept us engaged.

After stopping in Dalton, we quickly stopped along the highway in Broadwater, NE in order to examine the hail from the previous storm. Most of the hail was bigger than the size of a quarter! 

As if the spectacle of two tornados was not enough, we also discovered a spectacular shelf cloud formation in Brule, NE. 

Our chase ended just after sunset with a large thunderstorm viewing on our drive back to North Platte, NE where we settled for the night. We are feeling very lucky that tomorrow will bring us similar conditions in Kansas. We will see what the Breadbasket of America has in store for us in the morning! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Day six debrief

We are almost half way through SWIFT and already we have seen multiple tornadoes, been through 10 states, and even been ahead of the SPC predictions! Today was a great day for learning as we had the opportunity to choose a destination and watch the storms form from birth.  While we didn't get to see a tornado, one of the storms that we had our eye on did produce one! It is a testament to the ability of our leaders and of the new-found knowledge of the group that we were able to estimate that a storm would be likely to produce tornadoes even before SPC included the areas in their risk zone. We had a great stop in Jayton, TX where the only gas pump was a co-op, and the cafĂ© was big enough for the whole town and almost big enough for the SWIFT crew! 
We did a little bit of back tracking but ultimately got to experience first-hand the strength of the storm when driving through it! We took many stops along the beautiful Texas roads and watched as storm systems transformed from individual blips, to mature storms, and sometimes into large squall lines. 

We started in Childress, TX and after a trip down south and then back up again, we are in Woodward, OK!  We are staying the night here and recuperating before our travel day tomorrow to Nebraska where we will be positioned for possible storm outbreaks on Friday!!

The group is excited for the upcoming adventures and energized by all of our exciting experiences so far! We’ll keep you updated on the journey to come! 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Day 5 in review!

Despite it being a down day weather-wise, nothing about today was down! In fact, the SWIFT mids actually went up, as they climbed up the mountain peaks of Wichita Mountain! There was a wide array for critters to be seen in their natural habitat, including bison, prairie dogs, lizards, and even a rattle snake! The mids also took a visit to the SPC to gain a better understanding of the maps and models they look at every day to help predict tornado locations. They are currently staying in Childress, Texas and are ready to begin chasing tomorrow!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Day 4!

We spent this morning doing STEM outreach with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Between Vandever, Roy Clark, and Francis Scott Key Elementary Schools, we used activities such as building straw rockets, making catapults, and completing circuits to get over 200 kids excited for SCIENCE.

Around noon we said goodbye to the kids and headed for a relaxing rest of the day. The atmosphere was too stable for severe weather, so we took advantage of the sunny conditions by eating lunch and hiking at Turkey Mountain Park on the Arkansas River.

We ended the day with a cookout at Carman's sister's house. The Lewis family welcomed us with open arms, so we swam, ate, and played charades for the rest of the night. Thank you to the Lewis family for making us feel at home for the first time all week.