Pocahontas native chasing storms for school credit - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Pocahontas native chasing storms for school credit

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JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - It's a class that would awaken the soundest of sleepers. Each summer, scores of academic research teams set aside 2 weeks to get up close and personal with tornadoes.

Pocahontas native and WKU Meteorology student Ryan Difani says the class "Field Methods in Weather Forecasting and Analysis" is crucial in understanding the dynamics of tornado development.

"You actually have to come out here to the plains or out in a real world situation to experience and actually see the different weather to see how it all comes together. So it ties together what we learn in the classroom to out here in the plains and actually see it and understand what happens."

This is no field trip, however. Students use state-of-the-art equipment to keep them ahead of the storm and the danger that comes with chasing.

"We've always got a GPS going to track our location and we've always got some radar. We use the velocity and base reflectivities of these thunderstorms to look at. We also use the Storm Prediction Center's Mesoanalysis page."

These tools helped the team pinpoint and track several tornadoes.

But one afternoon, the tornadoes pinpointed them.

Difani watched a line of powerful supercells erupt just minutes from their headquarters on Tuesday, May 28th.

One violent E-F Four twister spawned near Bennington, Kansas.

"One of the cells fired up actually very close to our hotel room. Within 30 minutes, we already had a funnel cloud that came down and touched down as a tornado and was on the ground for around 45 minutes."

The half-mile wide twister was nearly stationary but destroyed a few structures and killed more than one hundred cattle.

"I know a lot of people were worried like "oh wow Ryan you're going storm chasing. That's really scary. And there's not any point on this storm chase where we've really felt frightened or in a dangerous location."

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