In this 4 part adventure, an Aggie weather professor and two of his not so bright students head out storm chasing in Texas. They learn many lessons and overcome many challenges before reaching a dramatic conclusion to their amazing storm chase. Enjoy the adventure!
PART 1: THE SEARCH FOR LARGE HAIL STONES
An Aggie weather professor and two students rent a university van and head out for a couple of days on a storm chase. These two students flunked his storm spotter training course so he wanted to get the students up to speed on chasing by taking them out into the field. While they are driving just south of Abilene, TX they see a huge storm firing up toward the west of their position. The Aggie decides to let the students position themselves to get the best view of a potential tornado. The Aggie figures that sometimes it is best for students to learn the hard way. The Aggie tells them to position themselves just as they were taught in storm chase training. Disappointed, the Aggie watches the students drive right into the downdraft of the storm. They get pelting with high wind and heavy rain. A couple minutes later they are caught right in the hail core. Having basically no visibility and the hail size only getting larger he has the students pull over to the side of the road under a tree by a huge ranch. Once the hail subsides, the two students make a bet with each other. It is a $20 bet to see who can find the largest hail stone in the next 20 minutes. They go off in different directions with their coolers. The first student finds mostly quarter and golf ball size hail stones. However, toward the end of his search, he looks down and sees the largest hail stone that he has ever seen. In awe he picks it up and places it into the cooler. The second student also finds mostly quarter and golf ball size hail stones as the largest ones. He dumps his hail stones out however upon finding the largest hail stone that he has ever seen. Both students rush back to the van to show off their bet winning hail stones. Upon arriving back to the van and comparing hail stones they can not decide whose is larger. Having no scale, the students decide the only way they are going to be able to determine whose is larger is to melt them down to see which one fills up a larger volume in a measuring cup. The Aggie and students drive out to a campsite to set up camp and eat. After getting a fire lit, the students decide that this will be the time to melt the hail stones. They each put their hail stone in a pan and place it above the fire. The Aggie calls the students back over to the van so that the students can look through some weather data to decide where to chase the next day. The students ask the Aggie to watch over their melting hail stones. Once back to the campfire, the Aggie decides that this would be a good time to also cook up some dinner. He gets out a few juicy steaks and finds an empty pan to cook them in over the fire. The students finish up their analysis and walk back over to the campfire. The students are horrified to see that there is no melted water in the pans. In fact, there is nothing in the pans. The Aggie calls them over saying that dinner is ready. The students question the Aggie professor about where the water is from their hail stones. The Aggie says he does not know about any water but that the steak and ostrich egg omelets are ready to eat.
PART 2: A NEW METHOD OF COLLECTING TORNADO DATA
An Aggie weather professor and two inane weather students wake up at a campsite. They get ready for the second day of their storm chase trip by going to the rented university van to do some early morning weather analysis. The professor emphasizes a few storm chasing rules which are to not look suspicious while on the chase, obey all traffic laws and police, and stay a safe distance from the wall cloud. After his lecture and finishing up some more analysis they come to the consensus that the best chasing will be in the Texas panhandle. They head out north toward Amarillo, TX after eating at a McDonalds. Just outside of Amarillo, TX they approach a rather large supercell storm. The Aggie does a readings check of all the archiving weather instruments. Mounted on top of the van are wind, temperature, pressure, and hygrometer sensors. They approach the storm from the south and notice an ominous wall cloud on the horizon. A few minutes later they spot a tornado. They have a perfect view of the tornado as they drive over large hail in the road that had fallen earlier. The Aggie tells the students to pull the van over to the side of the road. The students ask which cameras they should get out of the van to photograph the intensifying tornado. The Aggie tells the students to not take any cameras out of the van but to get out the baseball gloves, the tees, the golfing club and the shotgun. For a few minutes the professor practices his tee shots using golf ball size hail while the students play catch with a baseball size hail stone. The professor then gets the shotgun and has the students throw large hail stones into the air so that he can shot some hail skeet. The professor mentions that this is the best hail suppression technique that he knows of. Noticing the tornado is getting away they pile back into the van and head northeast toward the storm. They once again approach the tornado but after traveling a few miles they notice a police blockade in the road. The student driver whispers an interesting idea to the other student. Ignoring the road block and the officers warnings they accelerate toward the tornado and turn the radio up full blast playing, "Riders On The Storm" by The Doors. The professor faints when he sees how close the tornado is. The students flash their headlights and high beams to warn the tornado that they are rapidly approaching. Before they know it they go right into the tornado's circulation. Their van is tossed around on the ground like a van in a blender. The Aggie university van ends up severely damaged in a ditch and with all the weather instruments destroyed. The Aggie professor comes to his senses and asks, "why the hell did you guys drive into the tornado?". The students respond with that they wanted to do what the famous storm chasers could never do and that is to put a weather measuring device directly into a tornado. The students emphasize that they could really brag about this and maybe even get a research grant to use this new method of collecting tornado data. They explain how much easier it is to place instrumentation into a tornado if the driver leads the instruments into the tornado. The Aggie professor clutching his neck in the smoking beaten van responds with, "Shut up and listen carefully to me. You guys get an A+ today for this amazing work. I'll be sure to tell the dean about your great discovery when we get back".
PART 3: DISCOVERING ELECTRICITY AND FLASH FLOODING
An Aggie weather professor and the two inane students wait in an Amarillo, TX body shop for the repairs to be completed to the university van. After two long days in the shop their van is finally ready. They charge the repairs on the university credit card and then get into the van to head back to the university. As they are driving back they learn there is a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms in west Texas along and ahead of the dryline. Immediately, they change course for San Angelo, TX. The professor figures that the students have a lot more to learn. After eating at another McDonalds the professor lectures more safety rules to the students including lightning and flash flood safety. He mentions that lightning and flooding are the two main weather killers and that they must be avoided at all costs. While north of San Angelo and traveling south they notice several towers going up toward the west. The professor mentions that the cap is busting. The students check their baseball caps for damage as they turn onto a highway to travel toward the convection. The students notice some clouds above that are in the shape of a huge X. The students ask if this is an example of a vort max that they often see on 500 mb charts. The professor patiently and methodically explains that vorticity is a mathematical value that can not be viewed in the sky like clouds are viewed. They continue to approach a rapidly developing storm. The professor remarks at how impressive the beaver tail is. The students look back toward the developing storm after they see no animals on the side of the road. The professor then remarks that it is time for the cold draft. He goes on to explain the characteristics of the forward flank and rear flank downdraft. The wind changes direction outside as the gust front gives the van a stiff headwind. The students however are busy opening cold draft beers from the cooler. The professor yells to the students to immediately put that stuff away and get focused back on the storm. A few minute later the van blows a tire. They pull off to the side of the road so that the professor can put the spare on the van. Thunderstorms continue to mature around them. Just as the hot and sweaty professor finishes putting on the tire he is stunned to see the students are flying a kite with the van keys attached to the tail. The professor yells to the students who are about 50 yards away and asks them what they are trying to prove. The students explain that they want to be famous just like Benjamin Franklin and discover electricity also. The professor once again figures that sometimes it is best for students to learn the hard way. Sure enough a lightning strike fries the kite and string and gives the students a jolt that knocks them onto the ground. Seeing that they are motionless the professor runs over to the students. Just as the professor reaches them, the students sit up. We have discovered electricity, the students mention, but it really really hurts. At that point, the van keys can be heard smashing into the van's windshield. The three quickly make their way to the van when they hear the weather radio alarm go off in the van. They find out the best supercell is to their southwest but that the storms are quickly merging into a squall line. After driving a little while and within the San Angelo, TX city limits they are caught in a torrential downpour as they try to catch the largest cell. The students turn off onto a country road to try to take a shortcut. After a few more minutes of driving in the downpour the students see a nice deep trough in the road with rapidly flowing water at the bottom. The professor has the weather radio to his ear trying to concentrate on what the artificial voice is saying. The students whisper an interesting idea to each other. Suddenly, the student driver speeds and accelerates toward the flooded road. When at maximum speed they plow into the water. Their van is jolted like a boat in a waterfall. They float downstream until the van gets lodged in a large tree. The professor takes a deep breath and urgently asks the students why in the hell they drove into a flooding road and turned the van into a leaking submarine. The students respond with, "The water ride like this was always safe and fun at the amusement park". The Aggie professor responds shouting with, "I got a brilliant idea guys. We can develop this flood detection technique that you guys have just discovered so that drivers behind us will know if it is safe to pass. We could save the lives of many other people. I'll be sure to tell the dean about our great discovery when we get back". Later that day all three are rescued by helicopter.
PART 4: THE DRAMATIC CONCLUSION
The Aggie professor and the two inane students have the van towed out of the mud and tree branches once the water level subsides. After a couple of days of waiting for repairs in San Angelo, TX they get the van back and head toward to the university. There is a slight risk of severe thunderstorms, thus they ponder doing one last storm chase before completely driving back to the university. Just outside of San Antonio, TX they learn of some storms firing up to the east of their location. One of the storm quickly becomes severe. They estimate they can make it to the storm if they really hurry. They pick up speed to 90 mph to get to the storm quickly. Suddenly they notice several cop cars with lights flashing in the rear view window. They are pulled over to the side of the road. Several officers with guns drawn have the professor and students handcuffed face down on the ground and have them searched. Other officers take an hour searching and looking over the van. After this the officers read them their rights and go over the laundry list of charges against the professor and students. This list includes speeding, driving with an expired license, driving with an expired safety inspection sticker, driving with an expired license plate, wearing no seatbelts, possession of a loaded shotgun, possession of several grams of marijuana, having open alcohol containers, having blinkers that do not work, grand larceny, and finally buying the free ice water at each McDonalds they went to and then filling the cup with soda. The officers also make reference to several witness statements they have gotten in the last week including firing a weapon on the side of the road, stealing ostrich eggs, running a police blockade and endangering their own lives and the lives of others. The three are dragged into jail and are slapped with a $25,000 bail bond required for them to leave. After 2 days of waiting in jail they get an urgent message from the school's dean to head back to the university. The university pays the $25,000 bail bond and the university sends transportation to have them brought back. The Aggie professor and the students ponder their fate as they are driven back to campus. The three are lead to the dean's office at the university. The secretary has them wait in the dean's office while the dean goes over some notes in another room. The professor and students feel enormous stress. They see scratch marks and fist imprints on the dean's desk and his coffee is dark black today. The dean walks in and sits at his desk while the professor goes over in his mind of how to explain what happened while the students go over in their mind of who to invite to a party tonight and what alcohol to get. The dean states, "I have a bit of good news and a lot of bad news for all three of you". The professor requests to get the bad news out of the way first. The dean slams his fist on the desk and then goes on an absolute tirade while questioning the professor's ethics and criminal behavior. The red faced dean explodes with each new idea the professor gives for new tornado and flash flood data collection. The dean then tells the professor that he is fired and that he should go pack all his things in his office today. The dean then calmly tells the students that they are expelled from the university since their GPA is only 0.73 after 2 years of studies. The professor and students on the verge on tears remember that the dean has some good news. They ask, "What good news could there possibly be after this bad news you have given". The dean then motions for the secretary to bring him a paper. The dean shows the paper to the professor and students and says, "Hollywood has contacted us about you guys selling your storm chase story to make a movie. If you sign for them they will give you each $300,000 plus other bonuses." At this point a Hollywood agent walks in and they complete the paper work. The three after helping with ideas for the movie and doing some jail time take their money and open their own private storm chasing company. To this day you may see these guys out chasing in the Great Plains. If you see these three misfit storm chasers in the future, like Paul Harvey says, "now you know the rest of the story".