Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cow. 'Nother Cow. Actually, I Think That Was The Same Cow!

May 13, 2009.. Ponca City, Oklahoma Tornado
Picture by Nyssa.
(Click to enlarge)

"Predictability: Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" ~ Edward N. Lorenz

My daughter has become a free spirit, majoring in both English and Geology at William and Mary; now getting a masters degree in meteorology and going on for a doctorate.. well, in something related to both. In May, she took a two week course in storm chasing. Nyssa and seven other grad students along with two professors took off in the Mississippi State University van and headed to the state of her birth... Oklahoma. Other students, parents and the universe in general could follow their escapades on the MSU Storm Chase site. First there was a little grumbling about the much hyped Weather Channel Vortex2 project... there were going to be too many chasers... they have so much equipment and we don't.... the roads are going to be crammed with vans and trucks from this. But as it turned out... this was a very slow May for tornadoes in "tornado alley".

Nyssa called about a few near miss sightings and unusual cloud formations... but no tornadoes. They drove through Oklahoma to Texas and back again.. eventually traversing Kansas, Nebraska and up into Colorado. The web site had a handy GPS tracking map that showed where they were in real time.

They evaluated their maps and computer print outs and forecast predictions and decided to set up shop in Ponca City, Oklahoma for a couple of days. Meanwhile, the Vortex2 groups and Mike Bettis from the Weather Channel headed west, far west to Clinton, Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas in search of the elusive tornado. Then, finally, on Wednesday, May 13th, I received a text message.... "MOM!!! I just chased my FIRST tornado... COOL!!!" Pictures and a video appeared on the website later that evening.

Now, I must tell all grad student storm chasers out there... it is not a good idea to video a tornado chase with the sound on.... you could cause your parents great harm; especially when they hear..."Wow, look it's headed right for us!" Don't blog that, please!!! Another thing... it probably isn't the greatest idea to pose for a picture with the tornado still in the background... that doesn't help a mother's heart either.

May 13, 2009.. Ponca City, Oklahoma Tornado
Picture by Nyssa.
Posted by Picasa

Nyssa survived.. they all survived, they even had a mention on the Weather Channel one evening. I noticed the group was in Alliance, Nebraska and so was Mike Bettis when he came on with his update, and said.."You never know who you'll run into out here. Today, I met up with a group of grad students from Mississippi State in MacDonald's and they showed me their pictures and video of the Ponca City tornado. All I could do was stand there and cry..." You see.. the Vortex2 group with all its huge equipment and sophisticated trucks had miscalculated that day... they went west when they should have gone north, and they missed this tornado that day.

So, with Nyssa's help... she took the pictures and I cleaned them up... this is my Skywatch Friday submission for this week and I leave you with this alternate scale for evaluating the strength of tornadoes... do you think it will replace the Fujita Scale anytime soon?

Moojita Scale

M0 Tornado - Cows in an open field are spun around parallel to the wind flow and become mildly annoyed.
M1 Tornado - Cows are tipped over and can't get up.
M2 Tornado - Cows begin rolling with the wind.
M3 Tornado - Cows tumble and bounce.
M4 Tornado - Cows are AIRBORN.
M5 Tornado - S T E A K ! ! !

Addendum: Shutterday photo this week was weather and this was definitely WEATHER!

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