Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 3 of Operations - Eastern Colorado

We had an early departure today with no weather or mission briefings. We left Dodge around 9:30am and headed southwest and eventually ended up in the TX panhandle around 1pm. It was at this point that we were instructed to head north to the OK Panhandle and then eventually SE Colorado. Springfield, CO was a Target Area at one point. I called my grandma really quick and she came and met us at the ga

s station. My aunt and uncle showed up too. Everyone enjoyed seeing all the vehicles. I thought it was neat I could see my family. We had to head north from there, to Lamar and then eventually west to La Junta. Funnily enough, that’s where my grandma lives!! (Well, Rocky Ford)

We got on a couple storms west of La Junta. There were some nice looking wall clouds from each, but neither produced a tornado. There was a lot of pea- to golf-ball-sized hail, though. We got some fantastic shots of the storm. I’m ok with not seeing tornadoes at this point, because the storms by themselves are just so impressive looking. My point-and-click Canon just won’t do the trick!!

We’re staying in Lamar tonight, next door to the Cow Palace Inn where I’ve had several memorable family reunions! Hahaha! We’ll be checking out the breakfast situation over there tomorrow morning.

I think my favorite aspect of this has been how interested locals are in what we’re doing. They love to see the vehicles, take pictures, and ask us about our work. That, to me, is the coolest bit.

I would like to point out now that the reason my blog isn’t getting updated with any regularity is because whenever the Vortex2 team checks into a hotel, we crash their internet almost immediately. It’s pretty ridiculous. 

Day 2 of Operations - Western Kansas

Well today had an exciting start for me. First, Dad met me for some breakfast at the hotel. Mom called while we were eating and said that Sam Champion (Good Morning America Meteorologist) was in Wichita, too! He was there to interview some Vortex2 people. I watch GMA every morning before work so the idea of this was exciting, but I knew it would be silly to go seek him out. Instead, Dad and I went down to the parking lot and checked out all the cool vehicles in the Vortex2 armada. Dad especially liked the Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV). Most people describe it as looking like something straight out of Star Wars. It’s an armored car that can withstand a direct hit from up to a EF2 or EF3 scale tornado.

After Dad left, I went for a jog along the Arkansas (ar-KAN-sas) River. As I kept jogging north, I noticed the Keeper of the Plains statue (a true Wichita landmark) and I recalled that Mom mentioned that’s where Sam was. I picked up the pace a bit and sure enough. There was a camera crew packing up. I picked up the pace a bit more. When I got there I asked if they were with ABC and if I had missed Mr. Champion. They said he just left. I was a little sad, but also a little relieved that “the time I met Sam Champion” wouldn’t be when I was a sweaty mess.

You’re probably thinking “Hey Veronica, that’s great that you didn’t actually meet him, but what about those TORNADOES?!” I’m glad you asked. I didn’t actually see any of THOSE either!! We drove out to Dodge City and then went a bit southwest of there to intercept a storm near the CO border. It was a bit of a dud, but then we got on a storm to the south of that one and it tried really hard to produce a tornado. It had a nice wall cloud and a bit of rotation. In the end the storms all joined together to form a boring line, which I later had to drive through. I got some fantastic pictures of the wall cloud and other structures. Our very tired and hungry crew went to Wendy’s and called it a night. We’re spending the evening in lovely Dodge City! 

First Day of Operations

So today we started out in Salina, KS. After our morning briefing the Target Area was Newton, just north of Wichita. From there we went to west Wichita and then down the dreaded Highway 54 - the road I've taken about twice a year since I was born to go see my grandparents in SE Colorado. We were just short of Dodge City when we came upon our target storm. It was an isolated storm, which evolved into a non-tornadic supercell. As we drove closer, I got a bit nervous because the sky had an ominous look. I knew I was in excellent hands though, so my nerves were quickly calmed. We began making a path to the side and then behind the storm. This required me to drive through some heavy rain on a dirt road. The van fishtailed a bit, but nothing too scary! A wall cloud was rotation to our north as we passed near the storm. We came across golf-ball-sized hail on the ground as we passed behind it. We had a couple deployments* shortly after that.

We’re in Wichita for the night. I’ll be having breakfast with Dad.

*Our teams are photographing the storms from two strategic locations with GPS cameras so that we can triangulate the position of certain features within the storm.  This means we stay a safe distance from the storm and may not even see a tornado if it were to happen. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Vortex2 - Day 1: "Hurry up and wait"

So my "Day 1" review will actually begin last Friday (6/5). When I showed up to work that day I still had no clue when I'd be meeting up with the crew. I just knew the change was supposed to happen that weekend. Later that day we found out we'd be heading up north somewhere sunday morning. Good, still some semblance of a weekend...and I still had time to pack!

Saturday morning I woke up to an e-mail saying a Monday departure was more likely
 but to be ready anyway. So after a bike ride around Lake Hefner and a BBQ with friends, Saturday night found me unpacked, unprepared and unsure of when I was leaving.

I woke up at 6am to see if I had gotten word. Still nothing. Finally at 11am an e-mail comes through saying a Monday departure is definite. Awesome. Another day with Mike. We spent Sunday at the OKC Zoo and Science Museum. I finally packed late Sunday night. 

After getting to work Monday I still had no clue when we were leaving or where we were going. Was it Wichita? Salina? Finally around 11, we found out we'd be meeting them in Salina and we left Norman around 12pm. 

I drove with Peter, who is an "IT guy" for OU. The drive was a brief 4 hours. It was really weird driving through Wichita, but maybe I'll stop there later this week. When we arrived there really wasn't much to do. Half of the group had laundry and the other half was too worn out to go exploring. We had dinner at a steak place called Tuscon's and we enjoyed watching the locals marvel at one of the NSSL probes which has instrumentation all over the roof and looks as though it has encountered more than a couple severe hail cores. After dinner we came back to freshen up a bit before hitting the bars. And by bars I mean the bar a
t the Quality Inn which had $3 liter beers and Karaoke. Wow. There are some things I didn't ever think I'd do. That was one of them. It was great though. I met a lot of new people on the project and got to hear some really bad singing from Salina locals.

The rest of the week is expected to be quite active. More later.