Friday, May 28, 2010

Black Hills, South Dakota

We went to South Dakota last night, with a destination of Spearfish - we were planning to deploy just north of there today. Although it was a 6 hour drive from Loveland, I was totally pumped - refreshed from seeing more friends in Colorado, to be targeting another area where I have friends previously-from-Alaska. It's pretty fabulous hopping from one spot in the country to another and being able to visit friends - hitting two birds with one stone... I'm doing my job, but at the same time, getting to catch up with those who don't live in the same town as me anymore. It's actually amazing how my energy level skyrocketed with these visits, despite not getting much sleep. I have to say, the group I am working with in the field are a blast - I am enjoying the time with them - but nonetheless always happy to see old friends.
Winding through southwestern SD made me a little homesick, with all of the pine trees, one-lane winding roads, cold streams, waterfalls. I'm kind of glad it did, because that makes me feel a little more human. It's hard to feel homesick for Alaska when you are in the middle of wide open lands, which have beauty in their own way. The two just aren't comparable. When I go somewhere with similar outdoor scenery and log buildings, that's when I feel the burn.
Spearfish is a really nice little town. I expected less, so was pleasantly surprised.Josh and Debbie came up from Rapid City to have dinner with me. It was really nice to catch up with them!!
!!!! Watermelons for less than $4! This is what I'm talking about... they cost three times that on a normal day in Fairbanks. :(

Today, we got the word that the storms that would develop today were marginal at best and way up north, too far for us to go to and then back. So, we headed back south, but on the way turned into tourists.. first destination, MOUNT RUSHMORE!!!
I spy an Alaska flag - do you see it??
The Rock-dudes. I was wanting to climb up to them but I'm not sure if that is allowed or not. Plus, it was 92 degrees so even walking was strenuous.
Fa la cool and the gang.
What's up, Washington?
So we went to Wind Cave, to find out we were 45 min late for the last tour - bummer!!
Prarie dogs were chirping all over the place.
And buffalo were all over the hills.

We started a hike on a trail called the Cold Brook Canyon trail - in trying to find a water source on the hot hot day. But, there was no cold brook, and the trail ended up in a wide open field in a quarter mile... so we turned back.
That was our short stint in SD - probably the only one for V2. Southwestern SD is a pretty sweet little spot.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Colorado, Again!

"...we will be staying at Loveland, CO." Loveland! I know where that is! Well, I knew it was near Boulder or Fort Collins. I remembered there were two "L" named places in the Denver metro area. All I knew, was that I got to go back to the Denver area sooner than I thought.. and that I had some more friends to see. :)
Funny thing happened when we hit the mountain-view. I suddenly forgot about this storm chase mission, and just went back into the comfort I felt a month ago in this same place. Felt at home in a place that I have never called home - I felt that I could drive around and knew where to go. Maybe being able to call up a friend and tell them you are stopping by has that effect on the mentality of a place. Maybe it's just a pull for whatever trails are waiting for me out there. Maybe it's all the cyclists and the separate bike lanes which create this Utopia for my lifestyle. Maybe it's the nice town areas and the chill mentality. Maybe I'm just a little obsessed with exploring this place a little more. And maybe someday I'll get my chance for a longer period of time.
But as you see, everyone was still working. I have been told that I got in with the best job in V2, working with the mobile mesonets, but there will always be a special place in my heart for weather balloons!That night, Craig, Dave, Leigh and Joe came over from Ft. Collins and Boulder, and had beverages with us V2 people. Two of them I didn't get to see last month, so even though it was such a short visit, that night was probably one of my favorites of the project so far.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Somewhere in Kansas

Total tornado count: 6
Today's mileage: 801

Just some photos, as I'm completely wiped out.
Maybe not a tornado? We didn't count this - it could just be a lowering to the ground without a funnel.
Rainbow over the Great Plains
Funnel coming down - this one produced a brief twister.
Another funnel.. or two?
One of my fav pics - hail-covered land with a rainbow in the background.
Sunset, mammatus and a rainbow all in one.
There's a wild, wild whisper blowing in the wind..

Friday, May 21, 2010

Three States in One Day

Last night, I was sitting with a bunch of friends from the project, and found out that one of the guys joining our group for the last 3 weeks needed to be picked up from Denver airport at 10:30 the next morning. I jumped on it, like a dog on a bird, with the thoughts that I bet one of the Coloradoans could meet up with me that morning. :-)

With less than an 8 hour notice, I was in luck as Marcie had the day off from work. (YAY!) She met me just off of the highway for a half hour, but for even that half hour, it was totally worth the 4 hour drive from Kansas. It was great to see her and Max again!
After picking Casey (our newest mesonet driver) up from the airport, we joined the rest of the Armada in Nebraska.
And tried to avoid cows, as they were plentiful on the road-less network we tried to chase in today.
It turned into more of a safari adventure, with cows on the road, running over dead snakes, and driving through grass to avoid getting stuck in big mud puddles. My navigator hooped and hollered when I drove the van through the field - and I reminded him, that I do live in Alaska. Things like this are not abnormal.. even though this terrain in a 2WD minivan is not what I would normally suggest.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dover-Guthrie Tornadic Supercell

Today we went after a tornadic supercell in the vicinity of Dover and Guthrie, OK. Though most of the mobile mesonet team had a relatively uneventful day, my vehicle ended up on the north side of a tornado in a no-visual-rain-wrapped-hurricane-force-wind position. It was easy to feel safe since we were surrounded by other chasers, who may have been following us, but in reality we were not in the best spot since we couldn’t see what was going on. Just because we are with a big project doesn’t mean we can’t get in bad positions. This was the first day I got really nervous, for good reason. We had a close call with some debris. "Debris! Debris! We've got debris!" (sorry.. Twister quote opportunity!) I'm ok with hail, but not debris that could eat our van.
Somehow we came out of that storm without further damage to our windshield (go figure.), and I with a new perspective on tornadoes.. and how I don't really want to be that close to them. I no longer desire to be in a hurricane...

I'll be beginning to post videos on youtube when I get the chance. Here's a video of the sketchalicious conditions.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dumas, TX Supercell

I found another buddy from undergrad in NEW MEXICO! Mario was actually leading his class from PA on a chasing trip. Funniest thing is that he came up to me at a gas station, where everytime I get questions from people.. and I didn't recognize him with his shades on and thought he was another shmoe wondering if there were any storms coming or what was on top of my car. Once he said "Hi! How are you doing?" I asked, "Mario?!" and could not believe he was there. Awesome!

"Stop Stop Stop! Go Go GO!" Those were words yelled in many of the mobile mesonets today, as we intercepted a spectacular supercell near Channing and Dumas, TX. The supercell was incredible, though the tornadoes were very brief and unorganized.
We were in this town as the tornado sirens were going off - tornado sirens are potentially one of the most unsettling sounds I have ever heard. I heard someone say "tornado sirens are so soothing". I wanted to smack them, because tornado sirens make me cringe.
We took a smack to the windshield from some baseball sized hail. We were lucky the hail didn't take the entire windshild out. This could be a common occurrence, since my probe's storm-relative mission is in the hail core of a supercell. On this storm, we were at one point caught in a small buffer between baseball-sized hail on all sides and the south end of the meso (center of rotation where a tornado could pop out of). Kind of a scary situation as the inflow from this storm just scraped along the ground at a rushing speed. Needless to say, we got out of there.
In time to see a good sunset...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Midland, TX, Artesia, NM, and Lubbock TX

For the sake of me remembering where we were, I'm noting the places we have spent time in.

We spent a total of 3 nights in Midland, and spent some time chasing in New Mexico (new state!).
Here's Jess and her pup, Molly, in Midland
Some flowers in near Artesia, NM
Dave (from Toronto) taking a snoozer in NM
Rainbow in a storm near Artesia, NM
You can see the hail core - the white part of the storm. This storm took out 3 vehicles' windshields..
Big anvil!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Old friend, first tornado, golf ball size hail, and a cow in the road

This morning I had no idea what I was in for. I woke up sluggish, and expecting a non-action packed day. But, when the Canadians told me "today was going to be a good day", I got kind of excited.

To start off my day, I put myself together enough to go to the daily weather briefing. Afterwards, I hear my name from a familar voice but I couldn't place it til I looked to see it was my friend Jess from undergrad! What the heck was she doing here?! Jess works here in Midland now for a tv station, and found out I was on Vortex2 and that we were in her town - so she came down to say hi. :) What a super-pleasant surprise!! It surprised me, because I have been gone from undergrad long enough to not expect to see these familiar faces pop out of nowhere, especially in a foreign place. People from my past have been popping out from all over the place on this project, so I should just brace myself for anything. After a brief catchup with Jess, I had to get on my way as we were being deployed earlier-than-usual today.
The past five days have been action-filled (which I will be back-blogging), but no tornadoes that I have personally seen yet. All of the other days we didn't start chasing until 3 or 4pm though, so this morning's 12:30pm target threw off of my schedule. We were going, and then we were driving and chasing the entire rest of the day.
And then, not even 15 mins into our chase, tornadoes were popping out of the mesos! The mobile mesonets were cruising down the highway at 75 to be announcing funnels on the ground. Holy crap! It was all happening so fast, and I was still trying to wake up for the day. So here it is - my first tornado! We were far away - maybe 10 miles or so? But here it is. I was taking photos while driving and the tornado was on my left, so bear with my crappy photos. These are in chronological order.
Below is a video I took.. remember, I was driving ;)

And then, it was over. We crossed back and forth over several storms today - the entire chase lasting about 5.5 hours - which is a long time to be driving through marble to golf-ball size hail, sometimes brutal winds, and low visibilities. But totally fun at the same time.

Kristin took me down a road that turned to gravel mixed with dirt. Our leader took the road so we figured it would be ok. :-) After sliding around a bit in a sketchy part of the road and encountering lots of hail, I thought I could speed up a bit, to just have a COW walk in front of me. "COW!" I yelled, as the van was stopped in time. Here is a shot of the friendly cow behind the vehicle, crossing back over to join her friends.
After our hundreds of miles of driving through severe storms, we were graced with a spectacular view of cumulonimbus mammatus clouds - my favorite!
Yeah - today ended up being a good chase day. For sure.