Storm Chasing with Weather Dan – Days 9 & 10

And so the Great 2011 Storm Chase ends. Weather Dan reflects on his adventure and the recent tragedy in Joplin, Missouri.

This is part of Weather Dan’s ongoing 2011 storm chasing series. For a couple of weeks he’ll be running around the middle part of America looking for the meanest storms in the name of SCIENCE. Follow the action here.

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Our chase has come to a close.

We discussed yesterday morning the possibility of chasing a developing line of storms into Indiana and Ohio today, but as the day progressed it quickly became clear that we didn’t have many chase options.

The storms we had our sights on were developing from northeast to southwest along a boundary near the Indiana-Ohio border. However, these storms were not only moving quite rapidly (in excess of 50 miles per hour in some cases), making it hard to keep up with them, they were also quickly forming into a single line, meaning they would be hard to document visually, and would quickly engulf us in precipitation.

Yeah, we’re budding meteorologists, but we don’t like driving in the rain any more than the next guy.

However, there’s still something to be said for getting the experience of a mesoscale convective system (the fancy term for squall line) blow over you. Knowing that it would take a couple hours for the system to develop as it traveled east, we also drove east to Dayton.

We entertained the wait staff with stories of our chase so far, and some of the staff shared their own tornado experiences as well.

About 20 minutes southeast of Dayton is the town of Xenia, Ohio. Xenia was the target of an F-5 tornado during the Super Outbreak of April 3-4, 1974. Half of the town was completely leveled by the tornado, and 34 people were killed. While the town has rebounded quite successfully, the first thought for many people when mentioning Xenia, not unlike Greensburg, Kansas, is of the devastating tornado.

I’d be incredibly remiss at this point if I didn’t also mention Joplin, Missouri. The collective mood in both of our vans was dampened by the news out of Joplin following our intercept yesterday evening. Much of the trip back to the hotel was spent attempting to watch the live feed from the Weather Channel and catching updates on Twitter. It’s an incredibly tragic event with already far too many lives lost. Know that our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by yet another terrible tornado day this year.

As I write this on Tuesday night, an additional outbreak has taken place tonight across the southern plains of Texas and Oklahoma. More lives were lost today, and it’s especially overwhelming for me as I’m hearing about towns we passed through just last week that have been affected. Now that I’m able to put names and faces with some of these locations, it’s harder for me to separate myself from these events.

After an overnight in Jeffersonville, Ohio, we piled in the van one last time to make our final trek home.

Having spent nine consecutive nights in mid-rate hotel rooms, I feel like I’m somewhat of an authority on hotel rooms now. While I enjoyed just about every part of my stay, there’s one topic I’d like to rant about: hotel showers. I’m a hair over six feet tall, and of the seven hotels we stayed in, only three of them had showerheads tall enough to accomodate me or my 6’3” roommate. I realize I’m of above average height, but is it really that bizarre to mount a showerhead higher than 5’8” above the tub? I’m barely awake when i get in the shower to begin with, I don’t want to have to act like Shannon Miller, too.

We were greeted on campus by homemade meatball subs. While I think we all wished we could have continued chasing, we were just as glad to be home.

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Weather Dan

Dan Goff is now a two-time former Richmonder, having departed the River City yet again in favor of southwest Virginia, where he is working on degrees in geography and meteorology at Virginia Tech. Have a question about the weather or weather-related phenomena?

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