The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, June 05, 2000, summer edition, Page 8, Image 8

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    UNL students gain experience by pursuing severe weather
CHASER from page 6
“It still looks good,” he says. “I
think Ken is wrong, the clouds
will break.”
The chasers head further into
town and file into the Hastings
Public Library to use the Internet.
Ashley wants to take a closer look
at some of the data to update his
own forecast.
The area of convergence —
where the warm front and dry line
meet — is centered to their west.
Ashley and Dewey argue a bit
about the way to approach it.
Dewey wants to stay in
Hastings, because he thought
going too far west would force die
group to play catch-up. He wants
die storms to come to him. On this
trip, the professor is only an advi
sor, not the lead chaser. He offers
advice, and won’t supersede
Ashley’s command unless the
group is in danger.
Ashley wants to go west, get
out of the overcast skies, to visibly
see the storms forming. Then,
when they do start to form, the
group to choose one to chase.
The group heads west.
2:20 p.m. - near Arapahoe
The chase team breaks out of
the overcast skies. In the distance
is the dry line and what appears to
be the beginning of development.
Dewey, a middle age balding
man who carries around a 35mm
camera everywhere, remains
unsure. “I just don’t think that
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there is enough moisture,” he
says, referring to the dew points
coming in over the small scanner
laying on the dash board of his
minivan. “They aren’t as high as
we expected, but they still aren’t
3:10 p.m. — Same
The team is positioned at
Arapahoe, just east of McCook, in
the southwestern corner of the
state. The warm front was about
25 miles to die north and the dry
line had just pushed through
McCook. Straight ahead, a small
thunderhead develops into a small
supercell - the type of storm that
produces tornadoes — within 20
3:31 p.m. Near the intersec
tion of Highways 183 and 6.
The team swings around the
precipitation side of the storm,
which reveals a large wall cloud.
As the storm merges with the
warm front, it maintains severe
structure and begins to intensify
its rotation.
Ashley, surrounded in the lead
car by multiple scanners monitor
ing Ham radio frequencies, State
patrol and National Weather
Service, drives faster toward it as
the wall cloud starts to clear off
more. At 90 miles an hour, he
spots a dirt road heading straight
toward die wall cloud and makes a
sudden turn.
After piling out of the chase
cars, everybody is excited. They
are pointing and watching intent
ly. Dewey points to the dark sky
above and everyone looks up to
see huge striations in the anvil,
which reveal rotation in the storm.
Everything looks good.
The wall cloud forms a bulge
and the seems to intensify briefly,
but nothing happens. Within 10
minutes, rain wraps its way
around the eastern edge of the
wall cloud, closing it off from
view. Dewey is still unconvinced
that the storms have enough mois
ay uus pouu, a lew warnings
start to come through the many
antennas on the chase cars. The
National Weather Service chatter
is echoing through the open doors
of all the cars. Ashley starts to
look around as the sun comes out
from behind the anvil of the
supercell as it makes its way
north. All around, there are devel
oping cells.
The question of the day
becomes, which one to chase?
4:16 p.m. - Same place
Leaving the supercell behind,
the team goes southeast.
“Nothing is going to happen
with that cell,” Dewey explains.
“It’s heading for the cold air north
of the warm front. It will become
just a rain producer.”
Dewey is wrong. As storm
progressed north, it turns severe
again, and produces a F3 class tor
nado, captured on video by anoth
er storm chaser, and splattered
across the national evening news
the next day.
5:11 p.m.
Almost directly south of
Holdrege, near Alma, another
large cell comes into view. As the
cars cross the path of the storm,
the sun backlights the clouds,
which makes the details of the
clouds more visible.
Excitement returns to Dewey
as he sees large round clouds
under the northeastern edge of
another anvil, a tell tale sign of a
severe storm. The storm keeps
looking better as they come
around the eastern edge and look
through the thin precipitation and
spot a well-defined mesocyclone,
with a pronounced wall cloud for
They stop for a brief second in
a gas station parking lot and roll
down die windows. Ashley is star
ing down his map and looking
intently around the storm. A small
funnel cloud snakes across the
front of the wall cloud.
Someone shouts, “Do you see
that!”, but Ashley shrugs it off.
“Yeah, yeah, we’re tracking a nice
As they rush out of the eastern
edge of the town to find a good
vantage point and get out of the
path of the storm, other chasers
line the roads.
“It’s nice to see the other
chasers around here, it tells us that
we are in the right area,” Dewey
A van with several antennas
sticking out of the roof and big
Tim Karst ens/DN
white signs that say ‘storm chas
er’pulls off the road in front of us.
As the storm becomes more
visible, Ashley finds a hill over
looking the city, with the perfect
vantage point of die mesocyclone.
The cars come to rest and
chasers fly out everywhere.
Before long a small crowd has
gathered along the road. The hill
top is positioned directly under
neath the anvil of the storm. A
constant dribble of rain reminds
the chasers of the dangerous area
of the storm they are in, where
lightning and hail are the most
An old, beat up ambulance
makes its way up die hill too, car
rying die storm spotters from the
town. Two older men hop out and
start to chat with the chasers.
But the storm does nothing.
Ashley, in his old T-shirt and long
brown hair, looks worn and edgy;
the storms should have produced
large tornadoes by now. He lights
up another cigarette and seems
less talkative.
As the supercell moves off to
the north, it becomes clear that die
day was a bust. Although there
were supercells, Dewey became
increasingly convinced that the
storms were moisture starved.
That day, there were two torna
does to die north and many more
in northeastern Colorado.
8:00 p.m.
Everyone arrives back at
Ashley’s apartment. After driving
900 miles over die past two days
of chasing, die team has not even
been close to a tornado. “You
don’t get a tornado everyday,”
Dewey says. “But then again, we
are storm chasers, not tornado