A Truly Enriching Experience

This past week has been extraordinary in many ways. When I left for this trip I expected to observe and study storms and put what I had learned in the classroom to practical use. However, the events that unfolded over the past seven days have taught me about everything from history to horses to rock formations.

When I think back on this week, I can honestly say, that although there were some rough patches, I enjoyed every minute of it and would be the first in line to do it again. A bond that can only be formed by thirty plus hours in a van has brought myself and the other students together in a way that I can only describe as family. I love each and every one of them and their crazy, fun-loving ways. Lane described it best at the end of the week when he said that he’d spent a whole week with us and could honestly say he didn’t hate any of us. Well guys, its been a week and I don’t hate you either. In fact, looking back on it, I kinda wish that it had been a two week trip instead of just one.

Ashlee

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The Stuff of Legends

Yesterday was one of those days that I will remember for the rest of my life. There is no single word that can express my sentiments about the events that transpired yesterday. I truly ran the gammot of emotions: sadness, excitement, fear, heartache and sheer awe at the amazing power of a single storm. It really is a humbling experience to stand before the mouth of a storm and know that at any minute the clouds could part and a seemingly harmless thunderstorm transform into a deadly cyclone.

The evidence of this is found in the quaint town of Greensburg, Kansas that we visited yesterday morning. This town was devastated by an F5 tornado in May of 2007. The destruction was nearly total for this already dying town. However, the tiny population of Greensburg banded together to begin rebuilding an entirely “green” community. What they have been able to accomplish in four short years was amazing, but it was not without help.

Ruth Anne, a woman who worked at the Greensburg Museum told our class about the long cleanup process and the still ongoing rebuilding process. It was heartbreaking to hear her relive the terror of the storm while walking us through photos of the aftermath. And yet, there was a ray of light at the end of the tunnel as she told us all of the positive things that had come from the storm. The community was brought closer together, each man brought to their lowest point. They strived to create a better more eco-friendly community and now they have the chance to do it from the ground up. God really does work through all situations.

As I stood gazing at the clouds swirling overhead, the grays, purples, and blacks mingling with the colors of the sunset, I was reminded of the breathetakingly beautiful scenery I am surrounded by daily. Often times, I am in too much of a rush to pause for even the slightest moment and notice the hues of a sunset or the ripple of the waves on the ocean. My God, the one I call Father, has created beauty everywhere I look. This trip has truly opened my eyes to that beauty more so than I have ever been consciously aware of before. So I didn’t see a tornado. I don’t care. This trip has been an absolutely amazing experience and I will carry these experiences with me for the rest of my life.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Well, yesterday started off with a bang. My body and mind were raring to go, literally itching for a tornado. Conditions were somewhat favorable and our storm looked promising…

However, luck would not be on our side that day. Our cell became shielded and dissipated before any tornadoes formed.

Mr. Carey had warned us that this might happen. I knew before I came that this was not going to be the storm chasing of the movies. Unlike what is portrayed in “Twister”, massive tornadoes do not pop up every five to ten minutes.

I was not expecting to see monster F5 tornadoes, but the hurry up and waiting that occurred yesterday was somewhat sobering. Although I knew that I could go the whole week without actually seeing a funnel, I don’t think I had truly “processed” it.

I don’t know how I would react to not seeing anything all week. On the one hand, the reason I came on this trip was to see tornadoes, so I would probably be disappointed. On the other hand, I have been to many new places and learned new things, and the relationships that I have built this week will stay with me for years to come. So, I guess I wouldn’t be all that upset about not seeing a tornado after all. Still, I remain hopeful, as today’s forecast looks all the more promising.

The Thrill of the Chase

I know I typically only write one blog a day, but I just cannot resist the urge to share my feelings. After four days of clear skies and beautiful sightseeing weather, the chase is finally upon us.

We are currently traveling towards the panhandle of Oklahoma, where our models tell us there is a fairly strong chance of severe weather and even the formation of supercell (the most likely type of storm to produce tornadic phenomena) in the early evening around 5pm.

My excitement is ever mounting as we inch closer to our destination. It seems almost impossible that the powder blue skies I gaze at now will soon be wracked with the havoc that is mother nature’s fury. An eerie, somewhat unsettling, peace has fallen over the land. Perhaps this is because we are still several hours from our final destination. Perhaps it is merely the musings of my overactive imagination. Either way, I believe I now understand the true meaning of the phrase “the calm before the storm”.

Snakeskin we found at the Meteor Crater in Odessa, Texas

Today was a long and tiresome day, but not because we were going nonstop from sun up until sundown like we have been for the rest of the trip, but rather, because we literally travelled all day.

Of course, we had a few breaks here and there. One was to stop at the sand dunes. Since today was our first true desert heat day, we did no t actually go on the dunes, but we did learn about their formation in the museum on site.

Next we stopped at the site of a meteor landing. It was very intesting to see how a chunk of rock only a few feet wide could create such a massive hole in the earth’s surface. Meteorites are also incredibly magnetic. I found this out when I tried to pull a magnet off of one of them. It was incredibly hard to move. I felt like King Arthur extracting Excalibur from the stone by the time I actually moved it.

Tomorrow marks the start of an even greater adventure: the first day of actual storm chasing.

Big Texan Restaurant in Amarillo, Texas

The Beauty of God’s Creation

Day three has come to a close and there are still no storms, but this has given us the opportunity to take in the sights and really experience the culture of the land.

This morning we headed back to Carlsbad Caverns to walk through the caverns. This was probably the most magnificient cave formation I’ve ever seen. The way the rocks formed and eroded away into such interesting shapes was fascinating, both to see and read about.

After lunch, we headed over to quadalupe national park in Texas and hiked what several of us thought was going to be a short trail. It ended up being a lot longer than we expected. I got through the trail with no problem, but it would’ve been nice to. A. Have water and B. Not hike the trail during the hottest part of the day…

Needless to say, I’ll be sleeping well tonight.

Alien Country

Today we left Amarillo and headed west to New Mexico. With no storms forecasted until Wednesday, our team decided to head for Carlsbad Caverns.

No trip to New Mexico would be complete without a trip to Roswell, the site of the infamous UFO crash of 1947. Our’s was no exception to this rule. Before continuing on to Carlsbad Caverns, we stopped in Roswell for a meal and a trip to the International UFO Museum. The museum was much less impressive than I expected. In fact, it was kind of empty. A large building with lots of wasted space. However, the information presented in the museum was very interesting and informative.

After leaving Roswell. We continued on to Carlsbad Caverns, where we got to watch the bat flight out of the cave at midnight.

It may not sound like my day was all that eventful, but riding for long periods of time, especially after not fully recovering from waking up at 4am for the plane ride, make an extremely tiring combination.

Ashlee