2009 Severe Weather Field Experience

Monday, June 1 (10:00 EDT)

Asheville, North Carolina

We safely returned to Asheville last night after covering a total of 5198 miles, or an average of about 347 miles per day.

Sunday, May 31 (00:50 CDT)

Evansville, Indiana

We made a valiant attempt to find a tornado on our last day. We covered a total of 780 miles and found a supercell north of Evansville, Indiana. After driving all day to find it, the storm fell apart about 20 minutes after we positioned ourselves under its base. It did produce a weakly rotating wall cloud before it completely evaporated. Three tornadoes were reported today: one north of Indianapolis and two near Cincinnati, Ohio. Both of these locations were too far for us to travel in time given our departure from southwest Arkansas this morning. Oddly enough, my wife Elaine was under the tornado warning in Cincinnati. Go figure.

Thunderstorm at night
This storm southeast of Evansville, IN produced a nice intra-cloud lightning show after dark.

After our storm died, we headed south toward a developing cluster of storms, one of which looked quite nice visually and on radar, but the Sun set before we could intercept it. It did produce a nice lightning display. We are staying at the Hampton Inn in Evansville, IN (812-473-5000).

Friday, May 29 (23:25 CDT)

Hope, Arkansas

We drove northeastward today with the idea that we would be in position for either a possible chase or a lazy drift toward Asheville tomorrow. We are staying at the Best Western of Hope (870-777-9222) in Hope, AR. With no tornadoes so far on this trip, and a possible chase tomorrow, the irony of our location is not lost on me.

Friday, May 29 (01:25 CDT)

Brady, Texas


We headed east this morning toward Del Rio, TX and found the Laughlin Air Force Base WSR-88D (KDFX) along the way. After an authentic Mexican lunch in Del Rio, we found a road along the Rio Grande river so that we could see Mexico. Note that we did not actually go to Mexico, although a few students donated some American rocks to the Mexicans by throwing them across the narrow river.

Rio Grande Border
Standing on the banks of the Rio Grande. The green plants in the background are in Mexico.

After chasing northward into a developing cumulus field, we located a storm near Mertzon, TX that ultimately produced nickel-sized hail and strong outflow winds. We reported the severe hail to the National Weather Service; our report shows up at 0000 UTC in today's storm reports. We followed the storm until dusk and allowed the hail core to pass over us in several locations, much to the delight of the students (this high-based storm only posed a threat for marginally severe hail). We are spending the night at the Days Inn in Brady, TX (325-597-0789).

This storm south of Mertzon, TX produced severe hail.
The storm south of Mertzon, TX also produced strong outflow winds.

Thursday, May 28 (01:30 CDT)

Uvalde, Texas

Students watch the outflow from an approaching severe thunderstorm.

We traveled for several hours today in an effort to reach rich moisture in deep south Texas. After a quick photo opportunity in downtown San Antonio, we found a cluster of storms forming to the west of the city near the intersection of a quasi-stationary front and an outflow boundary from previous convection. One storm featured a clearly rotating wall cloud before gusting out north of Knippa, TX. We dropped southward, followed by strong outflow, to reach a newly developing storm near Batesville, TX. The National Weather Service eventually issued a tornado warning for this storm near sunset as it passed Crystal City and Brundage, but we did not see a tornado touch down. After dark, we let the storm pass by and found some 1-inch hail on the ground an hour after it fell (it must have been much larger when it fell). We are staying at the Best Western Continental Inn in Uvalde, TX (830-278-5671).

Storm over a corn field Lightning
The remnants of a once-rotating wall cloud shortly before the gust front overtook the storm north of Knippa, TX (left). Lightning from a storm with a tornado warning in Brundage, TX (right).
The Alamo in San Antonio, TX.

Wednesday, May 27 (01:58 CDT)

Cleburne, Texas

Today we picked a target area near the intersection of a line of convergence from central Oklahoma to Wichita Falls and a fine line from Dallas to Bowie, TX. We played Frisbee and waited for several hours at a gas station in Bowie before a beautiful storm exploded just to our south near Weatherford, TX. We easily caught the storm as it drifted eastward into Fort Worth with severe hail. We stopped briefly to photograph a rainbow with the white hail curtain in the background (I used my film camera, so I can't post the result yet). After catching some severe hail (about 3/4 inches in diameter) on I-20, we pulled into a gas station near downtown Fort Worth to let the storm pass over us. Knowing that the storm posed no threat for tornadoes, this would be a good opportunity for the students to see large hail. Unfortunately, the hail core just missed us, but we did experience some strong winds: the wind removed the 7-11 sign from its post and tossed it into the parking lot while several trees lost branches in one strong gust. We followed a southern segment of the storm as it evolved into a multicellular cluster. In Cleburne, TX, we experienced some very strong winds and saw several power flashes. The storm treated us to a great lightning show throughout the evening. We are staying at the Best Western in Cleburne, TX (817-556-3330).

Hail core
When I snapped this photo, this storm with severe hail was the only storm in north Texas.
Anticrepuscular rays
An impressive display of anticrepuscular rays at sunset.

Monday, May 25 (23:59 CDT)

Sweetwater, Texas

Dewpoint check
Aaron, Chris, and Thomas check the temperature, dewpoint, and wind speed.

Though shear and instability were marginal for supercells (or anything else interesting), we actively chased convection today with the hope of finding some hail. After reaching our target area, we waited within a cumulus field until convective initiation. We followed a promising storm that moved over Childress, TX until it dissipated and then we traveled southward to catch developing convection near Aspermont, TX. This storm produced plenty of lightning and some pea-sized hail. I am quite satisfied with our storm, since our options for severe weather were somewhat limited today. We are staying at the Best Western Sweetwater Inn & Suites in Sweetwater, TX (325-236-6512).

The storm near Aspermont, TX produced a well-defined rainshaft and pea-sized hail (inset).
Sunset in Texas.

Sunday, May 24 (23:55 CDT)

Snyder, Texas

Yesterday, we traveled to Abilene to visit the KTXS-TV television studio after an invitation from UNCA alumna Danielle Dozier. She gave us a thorough tour of the station and we watched the evening news broadcast from inside the studio. After the show, Danielle let us play with the chroma key and a few of us tried our hand at giving a three-minute weather segment. (Thankfully for me, it was not on the air!) At Danielle's suggestion, we enjoyed a great meal at Lytle Land & Cattle Co. After checking in to the hotel, I took several folks north of Abilene for a lesson in lightning and night photography, including a few tips on camera tricks.

Danielle Dozier describes the resources available to the KTXS meteorologists.
Camera Tricks
A laser pointer and an open shutter can create some neat tricks.

Today, we drifted around West Texas, lazily following rain showers in case something turned severe (nothing did). A field of wind turbines provided the morning's entertainment.

Wind Turbine
A wind turbine north of Abilene.

We tried finding the NOAA profiler in Jayton, TX, but ended up exploring a remote ranch instead. Near sunset, we were treated to a panoramic view of a mesa topped with wind turbines and a strong thunderstorm in the distance. This evening, we are at the Best Western Snyder Inn in Snyder, TX (325-574-2200).

A thunderstorm casts a shadow on a field of wind turbines.
Viewing a thunderstorm
Aaron and David marvel at a distant thunderstorm.

Sunday, May 24 (01:20 CDT)

Abilene, Texas

We are staying at the Best Western in Abilene, TX (325-672-5501). Since I am up late after a lesson in lightning photography, I will post a more thorough update later today.

Saturday, May 23 (00:20 CDT)

Wichita Falls, Texas

On Friday, we visited Weather Decision Technologies, Inc. in Norman, Oklahoma. We learned about career options in the private sector and the skills necessary to succeed in the weather industry. At the National Weather Center, Daphne LaDue spoke with us about research experiences for undergraduates and other internship opportunities. She offered practical advice to the students as they plan a career in meteorology.

Daphne LaDue WDT
Daphne LaDue (left) speaks with the students. Bob Fritchie (right) shows off the latest products from WDT.

We stopped at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma and found prairie dogs, buffalo, and longhorn cattle before eating dinner at the world famous Meers Store & Restaurant. We are now at the Best Western in Wichita Falls, TX (940-766-6881).

Prairie Dog
Jenny taunts a prairie dog in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.

Thursday, May 21 (23:55 CDT)

Norman, Oklahoma

Excellent advice for storm chasers (photographed within the phased array radar).

Mark Benner provided a wonderful tour of the phased array radar this morning. We saw the interior of the radome and the electronics behind the phased array antenna. We drove up to historic Route 66 in Arcadia to visit Pops for lunch and enjoyed a fine selection of odd sodas. We also stopped by the Oklahoma State Capitol building and Oklahoma City National Memorial before heading back to Norman for a tour of the University of Oklahoma aviation facilities at Max Westheimer Field. Ken Carson, chief ground instructor, graciously showed us some airplanes and discussed how pilots use weather information.

Phased Array
Mark Benner tells us about the phased array radar inside the radome. On the left is the radar antenna.
Dome Justin
Looking up at the dome (and some UNCA students) in the Oklahoma State Capitol building (left). Justin snaps photographs at the Oklahoma City National Memorial (right).
OU Plane
Aaron waves goodbye from the cockpit of an OU airplane.

The atmosphere is definitely not cooperating with our mission, but we may leave Norman tomorrow anyway to see the rest of the Great Plains.

Wednesday, May 20 (23:25 CDT)

Norman, Oklahoma

This morning, we were treated to a fantastic presentation from David Imy, NOAA Storm Prediction Center operations branch chief. He gave an overview of SPC products and detailed the wealth of information available to SPC forecasters. He walked us through the issuance of a watch, looked at model forecasts for our remaining time in the plains, and answered questions ranging from mesoscale dynamics to government employment.

David Imy discusses the role of the NOAA Storm Prediction Center.
Water Vapor
Thomas, Ben, Justin, and Aaron interpret the latest water vapor satellite imagery in the NOAA Storm Prediction Center forecast room.

This afternoon, Chuck Doswell gave a compelling argument for taking ownership of one's own education. Afterward, one student commented, "I want to take more hard classes." Then Celia Jones provided some wonderful advice on preparing for and applying to graduate school.

Doswell Celia
Chuck Doswell (left) and Celia Jones (right) speak with the students.

We traveled to KSBI-TV 52 in Oklahoma City where Brandon Chambers gave us a tour of the studio. We stayed through the first half hour of the news to see how the station works while on the air.

TV Anchors
Future television meteorologists and anchors from UNC Asheville.
Brandon Chambers
Brandon Chambers live on the air.
UNC Asheville students enjoy learning about broadcast meteorology.

Tuesday, May 19 (22:55 CDT)

Norman, Oklahoma

We began the day with a tour of the National Weather Center, which provided an overview of the various federal, state, and academic agencies within the building. This afternoon, Tony Ray provided a fantastic tour of the Radar Operations Center. As part of the tour, Felicia Woolard, a NEXRAD Field Support Hotline electronics technician, took the class into the KOUN WSR-88D radome. She moved the dish while folks leaned against the interior of the radome as the dish swung over them.

Tony Ray describes the software that monitors the nationwide WSR-88D radar network.
Inside the radome
Felicia Woolard pushes the radar dish past the students inside the KOUN radome.

Alan Free joined us for an informative discussion of the engineering aspects of the radar before Mr. Ray showed us inside the electronics room for the KCRI WSR-88D Test Radar. Lastly, I showed the class the NRMN Oklahoma Mesonet site and described the instrumentation.

Norman Mesonet Site
The class visits the NRMN Oklahoma Mesonet site. The phased array radar (blue radome) and the KOUN radar (white radome) appear in the background.

This evening, Andy Taylor from the Norman National Weather Service Forecast Office gave us an in-depth tour of the forecast office operations, followed by a narrative of the balloon preparation process and subsequent launch of the KOUN 0000 UTC 20 May 2009 sounding.

Sounding Launch
Students watch the sounding balloon rise into the clear blue sky.

Monday, May 18 (17:30 CDT)

Norman, Oklahoma

We arrived in Norman early this afternoon and checked in to our hotel. We will stay at the Best Western Norman Inn & Suites (405-701-4011) until at least Thursday. Some might refer to the current weather as beautiful (clear skies and warm), but we had hoped for something a bit different. We will accomplish some academic goals for the next several days.

Sunday, May 17 (22:45 CDT)

Conway, Arkansas

Sign in Memphis, TN relaying information from NOAA.

With 683 miles spanning the distance between UNCA and our hotel (Days Inn, 501-450-7575) in Conway, AR, we can finally get some rest. We enjoyed passing through downtown Memphis, TN to see Beale Street and Union Avenue. Memphis does a fine job of broadcasting weather information to the public as shown by the photo above. As the day progressed, we made a cross section through a cold front. Beginning with low clouds and rain in Asheville, we noted the increasingly higher clouds and dry, continental polar air as we moved westward. The atmosphere treated us to a pretty sunset with a single sundog before our arrival in Conway. We plan to meet at 8:30 a.m. Monday morning to continue our travels to Oklahoma.

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