Pocahontas native chasing storms for school credit

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

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

"You actually have to come out here tothe plains or out in a real world situation to experience and actually see thedifferent weather to see how it all comes together. So it ties together what welearn in the classroom to out here in the plains and actually see it andunderstand what happens."

This is no field trip, however. Students usestate-of-the-art equipment to keep them ahead of the storm and the danger thatcomes with chasing.

"We've always got a GPS going to trackour location and we've always got some radar. We use the velocity and basereflectivities of these thunderstorms to look at. We also use the StormPrediction Center's Mesoanalysis page."

These tools helped the team pinpoint andtrack several tornadoes.

But one afternoon, the tornadoes pinpointedthem.

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

One violent E-F Four twister spawned nearBennington, Kansas.

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

The half-mile wide twister was nearlystationary but destroyed a few structures and killed more than one hundredcattle.

"I know a lot of people were worriedlike "oh wow Ryan you're going storm chasing. That's really scary. Andthere's not any point on this storm chase where we've really felt frightened orin a dangerous location."

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