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WKU Storm Chasers document five tornado touchdowns during 2012 course

WKU Storm Chasers document five tornado touchdowns during 2012 course

A May 28 wind storm near Olney, Texas, was among the severe weather documented by WKU Storm Chasers. (Photo by Josh Durkee)

The May 2012 summer term was the third year that Dr. Josh Durkee’s Field Methods in Weather Analysis and Forecasting class set out across the Great Plains, forecasting and verifying a wide variety of severe weather. As with previous years, the WKU group accomplished much success in their mission.

This year Dr. Durkee, along with Dr. Grady Dixon and eight students, traveled 7,900 miles (nearly a round-trip drive from Bowling Green to Anchorage, Alaska) across 16 states (Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas and Tennessee) to apply various forecasting techniques with regard to severe weather, and to analyze and document the hazardous outcomes as they unfold.

WKU Storm Chasers watched a supercell near Piedmont, Okla., on May 29. (Photo by Josh Durkee)

The overall purpose of this class is to provide a unique and practical capstone learning experience for students studying meteorology that will enhance their understanding of the field beyond a traditional classroom setting.

“The majority of the time, meteorology students rarely get to experience what they learn in the classroom, unless the various principles of weather and climate come to them,” Dr. Durkee said. “In this class, we turn the tables by using various forecasting techniques to identify the given location of where class will be held and we learn in real time from current events. It’s a learning environment that cannot be beat.”

According Dr. Greg Forbes from The Weather Channel, preliminary statistics indicate that the month of May, a climatological time of year when tornado frequency is typically greatest, was 63 percent below average for 2012. Regardless of a relatively slower severe weather season for May, the WKU Storm Chasers were able to document five tornado touchdowns (one near Minot, N.D., three near Russell, Kan., and one near Piedmont, Okla.), 2-to-3 inch hail, up to 71 mph winds, and flash floods between May 20 and June 3.

“I am extremely pleased with the outcomes from this trip, “ Dr. Durkee said.  “The students were able to accurately forecast and experience a wide variety of severe weather, particularly in mostly open settings away from  most urban or densely populated areas. We are very much interested in learning about severe weather, but it is tough to deal with when communities are struck with such events.”

A May 25 tornado near Russell, Kan., was one of five documented during WKU’s May storm chasing course. (Photo by Josh Durkee)

This year’s group included students from two universities as WKU students Kyle Berry of Mount Washington, Kyle Mattingly of Owensboro, Becca Ollier of Cincinnati, Chandler Santos of LaGrange, Nathaniel Shearer of Berea, Evan Webb of Hodgenville, Emily Yates of Brentwood, Tenn., were joined by Tami Gray of Cleveland, Miss.

Dr. Durkee is already putting plans together for the 2013 course offering.  In the meantime, you can read the daily student blog entries and view more photos from their journey on the WKU Meteorology Blog and  https://twitter.com/wkustormchase

View video clips: May 25 tornado south of Russell, Kan.; May 29 supercell near Piedmont, Okla.; May 29 tornado near Piedmont, Okla.

Contact: Josh Durkee, (270) 745-8777.

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