Days Of Thunder: Texas Aggie Storm Chasers Ready To Track And Film Severe Weather

Apr 16, 2013, 15:28 ET from Texas A&M University

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, April 16, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Texas A&M University's student storm chasing team looks for the kind of weather that sent Dorothy and Toto over the rainbow – and the nastier the better.


Believed to be the only student-run storm chasing team in Texas, the Texas Aggie Storm Chasers, or TASC for short, knows that when it's springtime in Texas, Mother Nature can put on quite a show and they are ready to jump in their cars and go across several states to view and study some of the world's most severe storms.

Team members are required to take a series of safety courses, and when those are completed, they are ready to jump in their own cars and travel 600 miles round trip or more to see spring storms at their finest.

The TASC team members share a common trait: a love for the weather. The program is organized and supervised by the Texas A&M Student Chapter of the American Meteorological Society (TAMSCAMS) in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. Although most of the storm chasers are atmospheric sciences students, anyone interested can participate, says Cody Webb, one of the group's leaders this year.

"The severe weather season is just now starting, so we are ready to roll if storms are sure to form," the Arlington, Texas native explains.

"We prepare our own weather forecasts and if they see a good chance of storms developing over the region, we make preparations to head out. The final decision to go or not is made about 24 hours in advance."

While the goal is always to see a tornado – or two or three – that often is not the case. In fact, the chances of seeing a tornado are often less than 10 percent, but sometimes luck wins out.

"I was fortunate to see several tornadoes last year on a chase that took us all the way to Kansas," Webb says. "It was a fun weekend."

In May of 2003, the team reported a very large tornado near Leavenworth, Kan., and relayed their findings to weather stations in the area. It was one of 90 tornadoes reported that weekend.

The thrill of the chase is a learning experience in itself, says team member Juan Hernandez of Fort Worth.

"We learn the math and science in the classroom, but chasing is a way to see it in real life as it is happening," he notes. 

"Even if we don't see a tornado, we learn about storm structure and storm development. We always learn something on every trip we make.

"We document everything we see and we always take plenty of video and still photographs. We always relay our information to the local National Weather Service office, and they tell us it is helpful because we are trained spotters. Chasing storms is a fun experience, but we also provide a valuable service that could even save lives."

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SOURCE Texas A&M University