Sunday, May 20, 2012
Day 9 Storm chasing: My first tornado!
They say that the last day of storm chasing is magic. But the way Saturday started didn't look good. We started the day in Hays, KS doing meso analysis - mapping pressure, temperature, & winds by hand on maps - to forecast where the best place might be to chase. Professor Paul uses technology, but he teaches us to forecast the old fashioned way because he said that computers can overlook little idiosyncrasies that hand-mapping would reveal. There wasn't anything outstanding on the weather maps that would have indicated that this chase day would hold any promise of seeing a tornado.
Around lunchtime, we pulled into the Walmart parking lot in Pratt, KS to grab some lunch at nearby restaurants, and to look at the latest weather models. Sean Casey's TIV - Tornado Intercept Vehicle - & the NSF radar vehicles were already there.
Amy, our awesome driver for the trip, had been talking for days about wanting to get shoes and socks to make it look like the legs of the Wicked Witch of the West were hanging out of our van. I recently posted a photo of Amy's creativity on Facebook. She also took the witch's legs over to the TIV to make it look like the TIV landed on her! Storm chasers sure have incredible senses of humor - I think being cooped up in van for so many hours must affect their brains.
At this point, the storms still didn't look promising. Professor Paul wanted to stay in the Pratt area and see what developed. The students nearly mutinied, because the computer models (notice I said computer, not hand drawn maps) showed potential tornadic activity in OK. Some intense discussion followed as to where we would go. Professor Paul finally asked if we were going to trust him, his newly hand drawn map, and his 23 years of storm chasing experience - or did we want to trust a computer model. More discussion ensued, and we finally came to consensus to trust our professor. And are we glad that we did. There wasn't any mesoscale storm, no super cell, yet the storm spawned 4 or 5 small tornadoes. I video taped several of the events. After looking at the replay of the video last night, one of the events that we were calling a landspout actually looks more like tornado. I posted videos of the tornadoes on my Facebook page last night, if you want to see them.
Friday, May 18, 2012
Friday was a positioning day. We started the day at NCAR - National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO. We got a tour of the facility & one of their research airplanes. Very cool.
After having lunch in Boulder, we drove to Hays, KS to be in position for predicted storms on Saturday. We spotted a couple of dust devils near Burlington, CO. Here is some video of one of the dust devils.
Friday, May 18, 2012
Day 7 Storm chasing/sightseeing: Another sunny day with no storms on the horizon. Thursday morning, we returned to Garden of the Gods to do some more hiking. Then we went to the Rockies & Diamondbacks baseball game at Coors Stadium. The Rockies didn't win, but it was a great afternoon in the sun with my classmates.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Day 6 Storm chasing/sightseeing: Yesterday, the weatherman said it was going to be a severe sunshine day! So off we went to sightsee again as we continued traveling north toward Colorado Springs.
The first stop was Capulin Volcano National Monument in NM, where we had a picnic lunch. We drove to the 7,877 foot elevation, then hiked the mile circumference of the volcano another 305 feet up, as well as hiked down into the crater. What an exhilarating experience! I posted lots of pictures on Facebook yesterday. We didn't realize it at the time, but we all got pretty sunburned.
Next stop was Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs, CO. We arrived there late afternoon, so didn't have much time to explore, but I sure got a lot of gorgeous photos in a short time.
We ate dinner at the Stagecoach Inn, a quaint restaurant with a view of Pike's Peak. I could live here. This is such beautiful country!
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Day 5 Storm chasing: Tuesday was another "getting in position" day. We had severe sunshine in the Del Rio, TX area, so we started driving north toward Amarillo, TX. We stopped late in the afternoon at Palo Duro Canyon to commune with nature for awhile. Palo Duro is called the " Grand Canyon" of TX. It was beautiful - especially as early evening shadows changed the colors of the rocks.
We had dinner at Abuelos restaurant in Amarillo, where they serve 18 oz. Margaritas. They say everything's bigger in TX!
I'm reading the book "Younger Next Year." Great book for baby boomers. The authors say that we need 6 days a week of exercise to keep our bodies from aging prematurely. Except for the 30 minute hike at Palo Duro Canyon, I've pretty much been sitting in a van since Friday - not typical for me. I had good intentions of swimming when I got to the hotel last night, but I was so full from dinner, I was afraid I'd sink.
I got up early this morning and got in 35 minutes on the elliptical. I feel so much better. I practiced on a high elevation to get ready for Colorado Springs today.
Photos are posted on Facebook at Nancy Leary Haines. I can't figure out how to post them here with this smarter-than-me phone.
PS - In the weather briefing this morning, Professor Paul, not to be confused with UK Paul who is also on this trip, declared this an "alcohol-free day." At first I thought that meant he was buying! But then he added, "It's not that you guys are overdoing it. It's just that every day doesn't need to include alcohol." I need to show him the book I'm reading - alcohol in moderation is ok.
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