June 12

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Tornados On Screen

English journalist Will Gray and Australian journalist Tim Anderson were riding in the HUMMER H3T as we began to deploy our instrument pods minutes before the EF2 tornado in Goshen County, Wyoming, crossed our paths on highway 85. As they jumped out of the car while we quickly set down the 130-pound pods, the two journalist passengers snapped photos of the coming twister. more

June 12

by Hummer Storm Chaser

How We Get Forecasts

There are 150 radar stations in 120 weather service offices in the U.S., all run by the National Weather Service, which is a division of the Department of Commerce and was set up to prevent damage and disruption to business in the U.S. more

June 12

by Hummer Storm Chaser

We’re Under Fire

In the Men In Black movies, the secret government agencies that track fictional aliens drive immaculately prepared Suburbans or Crown Vics. Government storm trackers, from the National Severe Storms Laboratory, a division of the Department of Commerce under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, cruise around in instrument-laden minivans. Sometimes these minivans get stuck in soft shoulders of small roads, as the CSWR team has twice pulled them out of the goo during the 2009 tornado season. more

June 12

by Frank Morris - NPR

Twister Trackers Try To Decode Tornadoes

While the entire VORTEX2 project was driving from Dodge City Kansas to Lamar Colorado to intercept last night's huge supercell, the local PBS FM station broadcast this story about us. link

June 11

by Hummer Storm Chaser

The TIV2 Takes a Hit

When the tornado touched down June 5 in LaGrange, Wyoming, the TIV2 armored vehicle had found an elevated dirt road, and with help from the mobile Doppler radar of Josh Wurman, the team decided to park in its path and film it hitting the vehicle. more

June 6

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Monster in the Sky

Sitting in the 40 or so minivans, trucks, cars, and the H3T in a parking lot in Kimball, Nebraska, Friday at 4 pm, the VORTEX2 project was waiting for a call to go mobile by the Field Coordinators in an ambulance-sized mobile office. Eric Rassmussen and David Dowell had been constantly studying weather forecasting models and radar and weather balloon data for hours, and had made their best guesses at where the team was most likely to intercept a tornado. more

June 2

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Storm Crosses Mighty Missouri

Creeping northeast toward Omaha a dinnertime May 31 was a lone cumulus cloud formation that grew with tremendous energy, attracting the VORTEX2 teams to their battle stations. “The Omaha sounding [weather balloon data] showed wind speeds of 45 knots in the upper level,” said David Dowell from the National Severe Storm Laboratory. Other data, said Dowell, was “off the charts” to produce a large rotating storm, but the storm that the teams chased never rotated. more

June 1

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Grand Island’s Tornado Hill

The worst-case scenario for a tornado strike is an attack from a slow-moving supercell, after dark, according to veteran chaser Tim Marshall. Just such a monster storm hit Grand Island, Nebraska, 29 years ago June 3. Marshall and the other VORTEX2 researchers Saturday toured the remains of the Locust Street slabs that were left by four twisters that hit the town that night in 1980, from a total of seven twisters that spun down from the monstrous dark supercell, reaching a damage level of F4. more

MAY 30

by Hummer Storm Chaser

The Only Storm in the Sky

After a day of equipment testing in Topeka, the VORTEX2 project was left with choices of two potential storm area activity in either northeast Kansas/northwest Missouri, or some areas of interest in far northern Nebraska. The steering committee deli berated and settled on the system farther away, and at the end of Friday they had chosen wisely. The northeast Kansas activity evaporated, while a large supercell brewed in northern Nebraska, and left Wood Lake with one-inch hail dropping all over like a golf driving range gone mad. more

MAY 27

by Hummer Storm Chaser

The Top Chaser

Ten years ago, professor Howie Bluestein from the University of Oklahoma’s renowned School of Meteorology was Tornado Alley’s top chaser. However, the state of the art of chasing is changing rapidly. “Howie was the first,” says Dr. Josh Wurman, one of the VORTEX2’s principal investigators, whose Center for Severe Weather Research organization has spent the past 15 years developing mobile radars and other techniques to research storms. more

MAY 27

by Hummer Storm Chaser

The “Bloom Mobile” Covers Tornado Alley

In 2003 an agreement between broadcast networks to share live video of the Iraq war also challenged them to out-do each other to get their own video scoops. NBC’s “Bloom Mobile” was a full-resolution satellite uplink truck that received live video from cameras on a tank recovery vehicle containing the late correspondent David Bloom’s reports. The communications ability of the Bloom Mobile was so successful that NBC reported that even the U.S. military used the truck’s satellite phones because they worked so well. more

MAY 22

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Moving North Toward Targets

Everywhere the armada of VORTEX2 scientists goes this May, local residents flag down the instrumented “Mobile Mesonet” vehicles and ask if they are expecting their town to get smashed by a tornado. The accurate answer to alarmed townsfolk is that the researchers and analysts and meteorological experts are positioning the mobile crews in proximity of driving distance to any weather event. Driving distance is generally about the five hours between when the steering committee of principal investigators decides where the most unstable weather is likely to occur by that evening, and about four or five p.m., when classic supercells like to form themselves into towers more massive than Mount Everest. more

MAY 21

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Where’s the Weather?

In the 1990’s there was a lot of talk of El Nino and La Nina, weather patterns that upset the normal annual expectations of tornados in the plains. These days the blame is placed on unusually short seasons due to global warming. But to underscore the unpredictability of weather in general, there has been a lack of supercell thunderstorms for the past week in North America, just as all of the best researchers are standing by to watch. And a watched kettle never boils. more

MAY 20

by Hummer Storm Chaser

The Flattest Plains in The Plains

Some people call Kansas flat, but the panhandle of Nebraska is so flat that if Columbus had landed here, he would have promptly turned back to Portugal and pronounced the earth a giant billiard table, not a sphere. This terrain, however, is perfect for studying storms. And so at the first sign of a line of convection, the VORTEX2 teams convoyed up to Ogallala to set up to follow the giant high-base cumulus towers that appeared around 3 p.m. and rose to the troposphere both to the north and to the south of Interstate 80. more

MAY 19

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Twister Museum

To show how closely knit the storm chaser community is, bring up the topic of the movie Twister, which was released in 1996, and starred Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. Nearly every experienced chaser was consulted for the film, but when the greater chaser community began to criticize its authenticity, many began to distance themselves from Hollywood. more

MAY 18

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Tornado Intercept Vehicle Two

Made famous by the Discovery Channel series “Storm Chasers” last fall, the TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) number 2 is the brainchild of IMAX cinematographer Sean Casey, who built TIV 1 back in 2001. The TIV 2 first ran in the 2008 chase season. Casey has been chasing tornados for the past 15 years with the object of getting the impossible footage of a tornado actually hitting the IMAX camera. The TIV 2 is based on a 2007 Dodge pickup with a 6.7-liter turbodiesel engine, while the similarly styled TIV 1 was a Ford F450 pickup chassis. more

MAY 18

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Two Years Later

On May 4, 2007, an EF5 tornado literally blew away the entire town of Greensburg, Kansas, taking all of the buildings, homes and schools for the 1600 residents and leaving a trail of nothing but debris. Tragically, nine residents were killed, but the 13-minute warning that the other residents received was enough that they could find shelter in basements. When they emerged after the tornado hit, the only structure left was the tall grain elevator along the railroad tracks in town. more

MAY 14

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Tornados Wednesday Night

The HUMMER H3T along with the rest of the 40-vehicle armada on the biggest tornado chase ever left the hunt at darkness about 9:30 pm Central time May 13 while studying the storms above Binger, Clinton and Watonga in central Oklahoma. Teams don’t chase during darkness because tornados are not visible. At 10:30 pm tornado warnings are still in effect for central Oklahoma, and residents are instructed by all the local television stations to take shelter, stay away from windows, and brace for impact. more

MAY 13

by Hummer Storm Chaser

The Chase Procedure

Of the ten heavy radar trucks being deployed for VORTEX2, three belong to the Center for Severe Weather Research, which is run by Dr. Josh Wurman, the pioneer of mobile Doppler radar. Two of the CSWR trucks are single-transmitter radars, and the third a “Rapid Scan” multiple transmitter unit (the large square antenna) which has the capability of “raking” the sky with six beams of radar. The result of this new technology, which was first deployed in 2005, is a three-dimensional image of a storm every five to seven seconds, which allows the scientists to see “clear air echoes” which happen just outside of a tornado, says Wurman. more

MAY 13

by Hummer Storm Chaser

A Day’s Chase Routine

To coordinate all of the groups of chasers involved in the VORTEX2 project, the steering committee of 8 well-known experts in meteorology and weather research all collaborate every morning at 9 am, and then hold a briefing for the 100 members of the project explaining where the armada of vehicles will head that day. more

MAY 13

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Chasing the Sky’s Colors

The first formal chase of the largest chase team ever started in Clinton, Oklahoma, and ended with spectacular lightning shows in Childress, Texas May 12. VORTEX2 forecasting spokesman Eric Rasmussen announced to the team early Tuesday morning that everyone needed to head to Amarillo, Texas, by 2 pm, and during the 180-mile chase an exact target would be relayed by radio to all of the chase vehicles. more

MAY 13

by Hummer Storm Chaser

Beauty Seeks Weather Beast

When she was three years old, Kaitlin Taylor remembers watching out the back window of her parents’ car as the family sped away from their home in Andover, Oklahoma one evening in 1991. A giant tornado demolished parts of the small town. more

MAY 8

by Hummer Storm Chaser

The VORTEX2 Project Begins

There are about a dozen mobile Doppler radars in the world, and all of them gathered at the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma, today, best-known as the National Severe Storms Laboratory, butthe massive seven-story curved brick and concrete building also houses severe storm researchers from the University of Oklahoma’s school of meteorology, various divisions under the federal government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Flying Cow CafĂ©. more

MAY 7

by Hummer Storm Chaser

What is HUMMER doing in the Land of Oz?

Every year in the United States, about 700 or so tornadoes touch down. A handful of these are strong enough to wipe out entire towns. Before the advent of radar, every tornado was a surprise, some killing hundreds as they wiped out small towns. The majority of these killer twisters take place in the unique environment of the U.S. Great Plains, where warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico meets cold air cascading down the Rockies at the beginning of every summer. Nowhere else in the world is there the volume of tornados as in this 900-square-mile area. Since the National Weather Service implemented its latest Nexrad radar in 1988, the warning time for predicting tornados increased measurably. When the entire town of Greensburg, Kansas, was demolished two years ago, just nine residents were killed, plus a police officer rushing toward the town to offer aid. more

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