Storm Chasing

About Me

Storm Chasing

PECAN (Plains Elevated Convection At Night)

Posted: Monday, November 9, 2015 9:51 AM
This update is long, long overdue.

On July 9th, Frederick, Ren, and I hit the road for Kearney, Nebraska. Hunter had to head back to Hays on the 8th, but would meet us in Kearney. This time, we ended up having nearly no down time in Kearney. In fact, I think we only had one day off. It got to the point where it was decided that the Fixed PISAs would be launching soundings every night, regardless of the mission that. At first, many of us were against this idea. We didn't like the idea of having to be there and launching every night just for the sake of launching. But in reality, we would have had missions every night anyways.

My memory is a little fuzzy at this point about the specific day to day goings (I shouldn't have waited to long to type this up.) We switched shifts day to day like we had done for all the project; one pair would work the late shift one night, and then the early shift the next night. This way, everybody would have a chance to go out after one every other night. I don't remember how much we actually went out. I remember Hunter and I hit up a few bars one night. On the one night we had off, all four of us went out and did some bar hopping, and played pool.

Group 1 Part 2

On our final night, Hunter and I took the early shift, with Ren and Frederick on the late shift. Since I had the furthest to drive the next day, I volunteered for the early shift. That day, thunderstorms did develop in the area. We heard a bit of thunder and saw some lightning. I beleive Frederick and Ren said they saw quite a bit more lightning on the drive down to Minden. After Hunter and I left, I think there were only like two radiosondes left, so they had an early night as well. Hunter and I grabbed a beer, and then I went back to the hotel.

The next day, I got up bright and early and began the drive back to Illinois. I got to Peoria, and picked up the keys to my apartment. Then, I went to my office and met with my boss briefly. I stopped back at my apartment, then headed up to Dekalb and grabbed dinner with someone. Then headed home to Elgin.

As far as I know, the Plains Elevated Convection At Night field project was a big success. We collected a lot of good data on all of the targeted weather phenomena. For me, it was a great experience, and a great way to start my post-college meteorologist career. I had dreamt of participating in a large field project like this for a while, and working on PECAN was literally a dream come true. I would love to work on another field project some day in the future.

Fixed PISA 5 - Again
Posted: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 0:43 AM
My team did end up rotating to Colby, Kansas on June 30th. Just before that, we had a team member swap. Connor was going back to his school's team, and we gained Hunter in return. We made the drive to Colby, and then had a mission that night. In fact, we had missions everynight; including on the 4th of July. Being on missions everynight made the week go by very fast. We did finally get a day off on Monday, so my team grabbed dinner and went out for drinks afterwards.

The weather over the week was relatively uneventful. There were storms a few times over the week, but Brewster and Colby never really got anything until Sunday night. Sunday night there was some amazing lightning. But of course, I didn't charge my cameras battery. So the only lightning bolt I recorded was on my cell phone.

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Tonight I sit inside the FP5 trailer, on my last mission in Kansas. In the morning we will be rotating to the FP4 site in Nebraska. There we will remain for the remainder of the project, which ends one week from today. Overall, it's been a blast and a great experience, and I will be sad when it ends. At the same time, I have been here for about a month and a half now, and it will be nice to get back home. And I am especially looking forward to moving into my new apartment in Peoria.

Fixed PISA 4, and back to the Mobile Team
Posted: Monday, June 29, 2015 1:57 PM
After spending a week in Colby, KS, me team rotated to Kearney, Nebraska. I had been to Kearney once before (the night before the tornadoes in Rozel, Kansas back in 2013,) but I didn't remember very much of it. The hotel we stayed in, the Windgate, was actually very nice.

But overall, the week in Kearney was not a very good one. It started out well, with the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup. But it quickly went down hill from there. My grandmother passed away the day after the Stanley Cup victory, and a couple days after that my mother fell and broke her hip. Those events, combined with the lack of missions made the week pretty miserable for me. We did have an MCS roll through Minden (where the actual FP4 site was located,) one night when I was working, which was interesting to watch.

Sunday, our last day in Kearney, we did have a mission. I pulled the late shift, and so Abbi and I did not get back to the hotel until like at 5 AM. I stayed up for a while and packed, and grabbed some breakfast. Then, I got a few hours of sleep and then our team said our goodbyes. Abbi and Lucy were returning home, and Jon was moving to a different team. I, on the other hand, was to return to Hays to lead the mobile team again.

Team 1

Luckily for me, Monday was a down day. So I was able to catch up on some sleep. I also got the opportunity to meet a couple of my new team mates. Tuesday was the start of a road trip. Before the weather briefing, I thought that day would be a down day. Instead, they told us to pack for two nights, and be ready to leave by four. We had to stop by the warehouse to restock then MGAUS truck with helium, balloons, and radiosondes, and then we hit the road at about 4:30.

Our target was Beatrice, Nebraska. The mission was a CI (Convective Initiation,) one, though there wasn't any near us. So, it being the first mission for half my team, we all stayed up and launched the balloons together. After the mission was complete, we tried to find a hotel in Beatrice, which turned out to be a challenge. We tried several different hotels. Eventually, we did get two rooms. They were literally the last two hotel rooms in Beatrice.

The next morning we got up, and headed over to Walmart to hang out until we had a destination. PECAN did something a bit unorthodox that day, we targeted an area outside of the predetermined PECAN Domain. The target area for MP4 was Osceola, Iowa, which is south of Des Moines.

So we made the long drive, and got set up. This IOP was an MCS mission; a "once in a PECAN type event," as it was called. On radar we could see the MCS forming to our north. At first it was moving to the east-southeast. But then, it suddenly gained strength and headed straight for us. We launched our radiosondes and were treated to an amazing display as the MCS beared down on us.

Eventually, the Ops Center told me the was golf ball sized hail nearby. So, we bailed to the south to get out of the way. We waited for the storm to move past, and then returned to our previous position and launched two more radiosondes. The Ops Center and the Mission Scientist were very happy with our work, as we had one of the best positions and some of the best data that night. We called it a night and crashed at a hotel.

That night, we had been told that Thursday would be a down day for us. Then, on Thursday, we were told there would be an optional mission; which we said we would be ok with doing, we just needed more helium. Then, Thursday became an official mission, studying bores. We stopped in Topeka, Kansas while we waited for a destination.

First, we drove to Junction City to meet up with the MIPS crew, who would lend us one of their helium tanks. Then, we made a sprint to Emporia, Kansas, where we would be launching that night. As it turned out, there were at least seven bores that night, and we got some very good data as a couple of them passed over us. The Ops Center was again very pleased with us. After the mission, we went to a hotel and crashed for a few hours.

After we returned to Hays, it became apparent that mother nature had decided to no longer cooperate with us. We've had a string of down days, no end in sight. I've passed the time by hitting up the local bars and playing pool with Ren, as well as watching Cubs games.

Tomorrow (assuming there is not a mission,) my team will be rotating back to Colby, Kansas. Again, we'll be there for about a week before rotating to Kearney, Nebraska for the final week of PECAN. Then, I will drive home.

The Last Mobile PISA mission, and moving to Fixed PISA 5
Posted: Friday, June 12, 2015 0:55 AM
So, the day after the night with all the lightning was IOP-5. I started out as a Low Level Jet mission, and we were originally told to head to the same spot we were at on Tuesday, which was northeast of Otisberg, Kansas. Along the way, we stopped in La Crosse for gas. While we were there, we got the word that the LLJ mission was scrubbed, and that we would be doing a bore mission instead. While we waited for our destination, I bought a pizza to eat in our Mobile PISA.

We got our marching orders, and they were to go to Penokee, Kansas; which is a little ways west of Hill City. I think the plan was to launch four soundings that night at 00z, 03z, 06z and 09z. But, since we didn't get out destination until about 00z, we obviously didn't launch one then. As we set up the vehicle, a storm to the west of us a ways became tornado warned. As the night went on, there were a few tornado warnings, and apparently one or two stove pipe tornadoes. But we never saw any of that.

After we launched our 03z sounding, we decided to split the team; half would stay up and do the 06z sounding, the other half would try to get some sleep and then do the last sounding at 09z. Abbi and I elected to try to sleep. Sleeping in the back of a Trailblazer proved to be too difficult for me. But fortunately, it didn't matter. The op was cancelled before the 06z sounding, and we all went home.

The next day was a hard down day, as well as our moving day. During the day, we did laundry; cleaning all our bed sheets and towels. Then, at around 6 PM, we made the drive to Colby; our new home for a week. Since we had the night off, we went to a place called Twisters for dinner, drinks, and so I could watch the Blackhawks game.

The following day, Sunday, we had a little orientation with Bill on the Fixed PISA-5 site. We did have an IOP that night, but I do not remember what the mission was. Since that first night, we have been running split shifts. Two of us have been taking the first two or three soundings, and the other two have been taking the last one or two. It hasn't been bad so far, although Jon and I did have to launch a sounding at 3:30 AM one night. We didn't end up getting back to the hotel until after 5:00 AM, when the sky was starting to get light.

Being at a fixed site is a bit more easy going than being on the mobile team. We can sleep in pretty much as late as we want to. We don't have to drive all over Kansas. We've had a couple of days off here, which has been nice. And since we work on shifts, we usually only end up working for a few hours each day.

This weekend we should be moving to Kearney, Nebraska, where we will be working on the other NCAR fixed site, FP-4. There we will remain for about a week. After that, some of the team should be leaving, and new people will be coming in to replace them. And from there we will be on the mobile team in Hays again.


IOP 2, 3, and 4
Posted: Friday, June 5, 2015 3:22 PM
It's been a busy few days, and I haven't had much time to blog.

So Tuesday was IOP-2. IOP-2 was a Low Level Jet mission. We were given some coordinates, and sent on our way. The coordinates took us to a little ways northeast of Otisberg, Kansas. On this mission, Abbi, Lucy, Jon and I were on our own for the most part. The MSS truck was having trouble with its lights, and so it could not travel at night time. So the MSS sat this one out. Once we got to our coordinates, we probed around for a suitable location.

We found a little clearing off a dirt road near some big oil tank things. So we got the truck set up. The plan was to launch a sounding every 90 minutes. During the first balloon launch, as we were filling the balloon we accidently put a hole in the side, and had to fill another one instead. The other launches went off with out a hitch. After we launched our final balloon, and waiting for it to record its data, we headed for home.

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IOP-3 was an MCS mission. Our initial target area was Concordia, Kansas. The PECAN armada left early, and then set up shop in the parking lot of a Walmart in Concordia. After that, things did not go quite as planned. One beautiful looking supercell fired up to the southwest of Hays. A bit later on, some more storms fired up to the northwest of Hays, and I believe dropped a tornado. Eventually we got our target coordinates, near Olsberg, Kansas.

Unfortunately, we did not get to our target location until after dark. To make things even more creepy, we set up shop in front of a grave yard. So, we set up the truck, as well as the MSS (which was fixed at this point.) We launched our soundings as planned. Unfortunately, the MCS did not really effect our location. Although we could see lightning flashes all around, we never really got anything. The MCS went north, instead of south as planned. We spent the night in Manhatten, Kansas.

IOP-4 was a bore mission. We left Manhatten, and went west towards Concordia, Kansas. Along the way, we were diverted towards Smith Center, Kansas. A bit later on, we were again diverted to Osborne, Kansas. When we got to Osborne, we stopped to gas up and get food. While we were there, we were given our final target coordinates; a point 15 miles south of Hays.

So we made the drive south and west towards our target. Along the way, we watched some impressive lightning. Finally, we reached our target location; again after dark. We plotting around some dirt roads for a while, we found a wide part of the road to set up on. We ended up only launching two soundings that night. But we got to watch an amazing lightning show, and I got a lot of really great lighting photographs.

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Posted: Tuesday, June 2, 2015 2:04 PM
Monday night was the first mission of PECAN. IOP-1 (Intense Observation Period-1, I believe,) as it was called, started out as a shake down mission, but became an MCS (Mesoscale Convective System,) mission instead. An MCS was forecasted somewhere along the Kansas-Nebraska-Colorado borders, though the exact location was not certain. So, the plan was to head west to Colby, Kansas, and then split off the other locations afterwards.

My team, MP-4 (Mobile PISA-4,) left Hays at around 7 PM. The first stop was the PECAN vehicle garage/warehouse, where Bill was there waiting. From there, I drove the NCAR GAUS truck, with Abbi as my passenger, Jon and Lucy took their GSA Trailblazer, Tim drove the truck towing the NCAR MSS trailer, and Bill drove a sedan. Also at the warehouse, our destination changed. MP-4 was to head to Hoxie, Kansas; which is a little ways east of Colby.

Jon and Lucy got to Hoxie first, as they didn't actually go to the warehouse. Abbi and I made it there next, followed by Tim and Bill. We met up at a gas station, and we ended up setting up just down the road a little ways. The plan was for everyone to launch their soundings as 10 PM (03 UTC.)

So, once we got the MSS trailer set up, we started getting our radiosonde ready. Unfortunately, we discovered after we launched it that our radiosonde had faulty or contaminated humidity sensors. So the radiosonde was no good. So we quickly got another radiosonde ready, and launched this one at about 10:30 PM. This radiosonde worked perfectly.

An MCS did form, but further north than the higher ups expected. So we were given the order to terminate operations at 11 PM. Once we packed everything up, we headed back to Hays.
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Training and Prep
Posted: Sunday, May 31, 2015 6:29 PM
So, tomorrow is the official first day of PECAN. Since the chances of an MCS are a bit on the lower end, tomorrow we will be doing a shake down/practice run. This way, we can get some practice operating after dark, as well as make sure all our communications work.

Over the past couple days, everyone has been training and getting things ready for the research campaign. My group, the NCAR sounding team, has been learning how to launch radiosondes. It's pretty easy to do, but as a team leader I really wanted to make sure I have it nailed down; and I do feel pretty comfortable with it.

Yesterday, in addition to training, we had an open house the air little airport here in Hays. The public came out, and we answered their questions and we even launched a couple of radiosondes for them. It was pretty cool seeing just about the whole PECAN project together in one place.

Today, we had some meetings, and took a tour of one of our fixed sites. Then, teams 2 and 3 left for Colby, Kansas and Kearney, Nebraska. Team 1 (my team,) will be remaining here in Hays for one week; acting as the mobile team. Then, next week we will all rotate positions.

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