Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tuesday in Review

­            The last chase day for SWIFT 2016 was the epitome of ‘saving the best for last’. It started out as any other chase day, departing mid-morning after our weather brief for our target city. This time, the target was Buffalo OK, a town near the Oklahoma-Kansas border north of Woodward. We stopped for lunch at a 1960’s style diner in Woodward before proceeding to Buffalo to wait for initiation of storms.  While waiting in Buffalo, we linked up with Dr. Barrett and his team of students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and we chased as a two car team for the remainder of the day.
The intersection of the dry line and outflow boundary along which we expected storms to form pushed north, so we decided to transited north on Route 283 toward Mineolla, KS, but we never made it to our destination. Just to our west, we could see updrafts starting to form, so we stopped to watch the development.  One cell turned into four individual updrafts, and then the four combined into one massive supercell thunderstorm.  Reviewing our radar screenshots, the evolution from 4 individual cells to one supercell took just 10 minutes.

 It seemed that everyone understood how primed the environment was in this area as SPC immediately put a tornado warning on our supercell.  We followed behind the storm as it slowly paralleled 283 north.  As we pulled off to observe for the second or third time we found ourselves in perfect position to watch as a wall cloud began to develop and eventually drop a nice cone tornado (the first of many tornadoes). After the first tornado roped out, continued behind the storm towards Dodge City (from a safe distance).  Over the next hour and a half we were treated to a spectacular display of Mother Nature’s power.


The second tornado to form was a large stovepipe that was videoed from much…much closer than our vantage point (link:  Eventually, a second wall cloud developed, and we were treated to the catalog of tornado types over a total of approximately 7 different tornadoes (depending on how you count).  These ranged in size and structure from rope to stovepipe, wedge, and multiple vortex tornadoes, including multiple times where there were two tornadoes on the ground simultaneously.


As the tornadoes passed over the western outskirts of Dodge City, the storm developed a hail core to our north and we decided call off the chase and head southeast towards our hotel in Pratt, KS for the night. On the way to Pratt, the excitement continued as we encountered a powerful gust front of undetermined origin that was carrying a lot of dust and tumbleweed.  The gust was either a downburst from a collapsing storm or inflow to a newly forming updraft in our area.  Either way we pulled over to the side and safely watched the gust pass over us and continued toward Pratt.  Then as the sun set behind us we were treated to a beautiful and impressive lightning show in the storms to our north. Then to finish off one of the best days in SWIFT history, Dr. Henderson and CDR Cooper treated us to the traditional “first tornado” steak dinner before we turned in for the night.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Saturday's Chase

Saturday was our first "classic" chase day, in that we were able to position ourselves when the storm started rather than trying to play catch-up the whole day. We spent the day watching the radar and clouds near the town of Sublette, KS in order to decide where we would head to have our best chance of seeing some serious storm development. With those mid-day observations we chose to drive towards city of Marienthal, KS and stationed ourselves in a farm field near some fellow chasers. Around 7pm we were able to watch a beautiful supercell develop in the distance. It continued to grow as we watched, and several tornadoes were reported by other chasers to the west of the storm. At one point, we saw what appeared to be a short-lived tornado, but not everyone agrees that it was actually a tornado! The rain that was present from the storm cleared up just in time for sunset, yielding some amazing photos and panoramas. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tuesday in Review

So, the day started out with a little road trip from Pampa, OK to Ozona, TX. This took around six hours, and we ended up arriving around 1:00 pm central time. At this point, storms were already stirring up, and we were preparing the route to take in order to get the best view of the next set of incoming storms. We headed north east to a small town of Big Lake where we saw our first run of heavy rain and wind. We headed back south with short stops in order to observe the incoming weather along the way. The observations took us in a loop back to our initial destination of Ozona, and from there we took off again into the next set of storms.We headed east with the intention of staying in front of the storm but ended up riding the edge of the core for around the 10 miles. With the storm on our heals we had to head south immediately on an unmarked road. With strong winds and rain we took the road all the way until a dead end. At this point the intensity of the storm had past so we headed back to our original route and left for our hotel in Del Rio, TX. On the way to our hotel, a hail core became visible on the radar and, with no alternate route, had to let the hail around the size of a quarter pass over us. Once this last chunk of bad weather passed, we were on our way to our hotel with a stop for food to end the busy day.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday in Review

Today was a very busy day for the SWIFT team! We started the morning in Norman, Oklahoma at the Storm Prediction Center, where we got to tour the weather deck and interact with some of the severe weather forecasters working there. We also had a presentation on the history of the SPC, as well as the development of tornado and severe weather forecasting methods and technologies. At the end, we even got to see Dorothy and some of the other props from the movie Twister!

We then drove to Clark Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma to do some STEM outreach with over 90 4th graders. They enjoyed learning about helicopters, catapults and the interesting properties of water through a number of experiments and demonstrations.

After leaving the school, we hit the road for our first chase day with a target area along the Oklahoma-Texas panhandle border. After a few hours of driving, we arrived at the edge of the storm about an hour before sunset. Although we didn't see any tornadoes, there were some great photo opportunities of mammatus clouds, as well as a shelf cloud and lots of lightning. Tomorrow looks to be another promising chase day, with our target area just to the northwest of San Antonio, Texas.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Introducing Kellyanne

Hi everyone! I am Midshipman 2/C Kellyanne Hurst and I am from Plant City, Florida. As a golfer, I spend almost all of my free time outdoors which gives me a huge appreciation for the weather. Golfing during Florida summers meant I had to pay attention to the weather in order to dodge lightning bolts on more than one occasion. I also enjoyed tracking hurricanes when I was younger to try to predict when we would get a "hurricane day" to miss school.

I have always been passionate about the ocean and weather, which is why I chose to be an Oceanography major at the Academy. When I found out about SWIFT I knew it would be an awesome opportunity to experience another weather phenomenon I have never seen before. I am excited to travel to new states with new friends and get into chase mode to find some tornadoes!

Introducing Casey

Hey everyone! I'm 2/C Casey Densmore and I am from Inwood, West Virginia. When I was little, my family helped me get over my fear of thunderstorms by having "thunder picnics" with my favorite snacks when storms were approaching. This transformed my fear of thunder into a love of severe weather. When I was five, I got a VHS copy of the movie Twister in my Easter basket, kicking off my interest in tornadoes.

Growing up, I found I enjoyed thunderstorms with lightning and downpours more than sunny days. I would check the radar on hot summer afternoons, watching for thunderstorms to pop up. I pursued these interests in high school with multiple science fair projects on tornado physics, sparking my interest in a career in meteorology.

When I came to USNA, Oceanography was the obvious choice for my major. I was ecstatic when I found out there was an internship to go tornado chasing in May each year. I am bringing a cheap go pro as well, so I'm hoping to get some awesome video, I'm looking forward to spotting tornadoes and other severe weather, as well as gaining valuable meteorology experience for the future.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Introducing Colin

Hi everyone! My name is 2/C Colin Hackbarth from Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Since I was quite young, weather has fascinated me, especially thunderstorms and tornadoes. Growing up, I would always get super excited whenever a thunderstorm rolled through my town, and would run outside and watch the lightning and listen to the thunder until my mom called me back into the house so I wouldn't get struck by lightning! When I got older, I joined my local fire department as an Explorer and later an EMT, and would fly down to the fire station whenever a severe thunderstorm warning was issued so I could hop on a fire truck to respond to any lightning strikes, or stay at the station to spot for tornadoes.

When I got to the Academy, I learned that oceanography majors had the opportunity to go storm chasing in the spring, and at that point I knew I had to major in oceanography. I was ecstatic when I found out I was selected for SWIFT, and I'm looking forward to seeing some tornadoes, learning a ton about severe weather, tornado formation and prediction, and making some awesome memories with the other Midshipmen and professors over the next two weeks!

Introducing Jessie

Hey everyone! I am 2/C Jessie Sharp from Gatlinburg Tennessee! Although I attended high school in Tennessee I was raised on a farm in South Alabama. There have been some wicked storms pass through my town in the past, and that is when my love for storms took off. I remember being in elementary school with my face glued against a window watching a passing tornado while my teachers yelled at me to get down near the wall with a textbook over my head with the rest of my classmates. Nothing can compare to seeing the wonders of nature first hand for the first time. After that, if there was ever a storm or other bad weather coming through, it was almost certain I would either be outside watching on the porch or in the yard playing in the rain. 
SWIFT is giving me the opportunity to actually learn and observe from these storms and tornadoes that I have been fascinated by for all of these years. I can't wait to be able to learn and use the tools needed to track down storms and see the results of our work and preparation through a tornado passing by our van. I am so thankful to work with the wonderful professors and the great group of mids during this experience of a lifetime. I hope to bring back new knowledge and skills to improve my future in meteorology as well as memories from the trip that will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Introducing Rachel

Hey y'all!

I'm 2/C Rachel Boushon, and I'm absolutely over the moon about getting to do SWIFT this summer. Ever since I could talk, I've been obsessed with the severe weather that I saw rolling through my neck of the woods (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). In fact, when I was little and a blizzard was raging outside, I squished my face to the window and said one of my first coherent sentences: "mama, look at the big bad 'bizzard'!" By fourth grade, I had developed a special interest in tornadoes; I even gave a voluntary presentation on mesocyclones to my class. They weren't very amused, but I thought it was a ton of fun.

Now that I'm older, I try to follow the weather models whenever I can and predict where severe weather will be happening that week. Also, Storm Chasers is my favorite show on Netflix (no surprise there). We don't get very many tornadoes where I'm from, so this is honestly a dream come true to be going chasing in Tornado Alley. I can't wait to see some killer wall clouds, intense lightning, and some gorgeous tornadoes. 

Overall, I just want to see some amazing weather and have fun with these great people that I've been blessed to go chasing with. I've been told that we'll get to go hiking, and I can't wait for that. Also, I randomly found a kite in my room, so I'm definitely gonna be flying it at some point.. I think the wind will be strong enough for it. Haha.

P.S. I am bringing my little knockoff GoPro along for the ride, so it will be my mission to get you all some spine-tingling weather videos over the next two weeks. :)

Introducing Ashleigh

   Hey Yall!
   I'm 2/C Ashleigh Keister and I'm a spontaneous, full-of-energy, fun loving 21-year-old from Louisville, KY. I look forward to spending the next two weeks with some of the coolest and most fun people I know!
   So a funny story about me, and my parents can attest to this...when I was younger, I had the biggest fear of storms. I'm serious, it was so bad that when I saw the storm clouds rolling in, I would start to freak out. Any time I heard thunder or saw lightning, I would immediately grab my blanket, a flashlight, a few dozen candles, a bell to ring, my cat, and run down to the basement. I'm not talking a fast walk, here, I truly mean that I would sprint down to the basement and plop myself down on the bed and curl up in the corner until my parents got down there. It didn't matter if the tornado sirens were going off or not because if I was scared, that's where I would go. Now, as embarrassing as it may be, this phase lasted until the summer before my freshman year of high school. It was all thanks to my dad for helping me out with my fear by providing some silly analogy that is far too embarrassing to write about on here. If you ask me in person, I will gladly share that with you. 
   After this phase passed, I began to enjoy the beauty of the storms that rolled across my city and actually looked forward to the severe weather. Because I live in a city, storm-watching isn't very easy to do unless you enjoy watching through skylines or are fortunate enough to live above the city. For me, the latter was how I did my watching. We lived on the 17th story of an apartment complex facing north so we got to see 180 degrees of horizon from the comfort of our balcony. I believe that living up in the sky before coming to the Academy gave me the love that I have for storms today because I was able to watch a storm develop in the West, feel the temperatures drop and the wind speed pick up, watch it zoom across my city, then pass to the East. This was incredible! I could never get enough of it and I always wanted more. So because of this, it was a no-brainer to choose Oceanography as my major because I wanted to learn all I could about the weather and get my feet wet out in the field a time or two.
   With all of that said, I cannot wait to go wheel up on Friday the 13th and start the journey out West to find the storms I am hungry to chase. I'm excited to learn how to predict severe weather and tornadoes and go out to see if my predictions were correct. I can't wait to get in the area of the storm, chase it, and then help the people who have been affected by the storm because I am always ready to lend a helping hand. I will have my camera with me at all times (it's my baby...she goes everywhere with me), so you can look forward to some exciting pictures of the storms and the team! 
   It's going to be a great time and I hope you can follow us and our adventures on the page!

Introducing Carman

Hey Guys!
I'm back!
I am Midshipman 1/C Carman Arnold from Oklahoma City, OK. I am 24 years old and I hope to select Naval Pilot in November! This will be my second time on SWIFT and I hope to teach all that I know to the incoming Midshipmen.
Growing up in Oklahoma forced me to become accustomed to severe weather and tornadoes. As I started getting older, I became more and more interested in severe weather. My friend's dad would occasionally take us along for some unofficial storm chasing and see what kind of trouble we could get into. I'll admit, it was obviously not the best of ideas but it caught my attention. When I became old enough to drive, I started chasing on my own. At first, it was the adrenaline rush that hooked me, but then I started to become fascinated by how severe weather and especially tornadoes actually worked!
I have seen numerous tornadoes that I have either chased, watched or been chased by. I have been in two tornadoes and have luckily never been seriously hurt. Unfortunately, I have also seen the damage tornadoes and even straight line winds can cause. Most of my chases always end in helping the victims and volunteering any time I have to clean and rebuild. The good side of storm chasing is knowing that someday you can make a difference by creating an earlier warning system or even knowing ahead of time where exactly the tornado will go and what time. As much as I like surprises, the unpredictability of these things when it comes to tornadoes is crazy. I hope to one day be a professional tornado hunter/ storm chaser when I am not serving in the Navy.
I took a particular desire to be an Oceanography major when I was a Plebe because of meteorology. Not only do I want to learn more about weather and climate in general to help with my future career in aviation, but I also want to solve the mysteries we still don't understand about severe weather and tornadoes. I look forward to learning more about how to predict severe weather and taking a leadership role among the SWIFT team this year. As always, I am also prepared to spend time in helping those affected by the weather, wherever we may be.
I am excited to learn more about everyone on the team this year and have some exciting and memorable times once again. I will be using 2 different GoPros this year along with my phone to help get a few of the moments we share together once again.
Don't forget to follow us on FaceBook: USNA SWIFT
We will go LIVE a few times so stay posted!
It's gonna be a great year!