Final Thoughts

In many ways storm chasing was what I expected it to be, and in many ways it wasn’t.

The chase mode schedule was exactly what I thought it would be. We went with as few breaks as possible; restroom and food was basically an afterthought. We didn’t get in until late at night; and, dinner was variable.

The downtime schedule, when storms weren’t brewing surprised me a little. I knew we would be busy during the day, sightseeing and learning about geology. However, I did not think we would be getting in so late. There wasn’t much of a difference between the times we got into a hotel during chase mode verses downtime.

Another thing that surprised me (and it is something I touched on in my last blog) was that being around so many people for so long didn’t drive me nearly as crazy as I thought it would. No offense to anyone but I just can’t normally deal with people in large doses. Maybe it was because I was expecting it and able to mentally prepare? Maybe it was because everyone on the trip was so amazing? Maybe it was a little of both? No matter which, I had a wonderful time in part because I enjoyed everyone’s company. So thanks to Amy, Alisha, Josh, Ashlee, Daniel, Lane, Hollie, Kelsey, Mr. Carey, Other Mr. Carey (Andy), Todd, Ryan, and all the people in the other van!

The traveling to completely new and for me unexplored places was very fun. I got to add three new states to the list of states I’ve been to, or really four since the only other time I’d been to Texas it was a flight layover and I didn’t get to leave the airport. Seeing all that countryside and going along the county roads was also an interesting and enlightening experience. It really opened my eyes to the fact that there is so much more than the cities and towns that line the interstates.

Of course, the reason and highlight for the trip was the storms.

It might be obvious to say this: but I am constantly awed by God’s creation. The power and intensity of the storms were breathtaking. The way we were able to see the storms so clearly and completely out in the plains gave me a better understand of how they form in a way that pictures and diagrams can never truly compete with. I am slightly disappointed that we were unable to see a tornado. However, going out there I recognized we probably wouldn’t so the disappointment isn’t heartbreaking; and, really everything else we did more than made up for there not being any tornadoes.

Even though the trip was fun, my heart is with the victims of the latest tornadoes. As much as I want to see a tornado, I never want to see the suffering tornadoes can bring. Sadly life doesn’t work that way, and we must make do with how it is.

In a nutshell, I enjoyed the class and trip and would jump an opportunity to go storm chasing again.

-Ashton

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Day Seven – The End of the Adventure

Today we started where we left off: Dodge City, Kansas. Once we had breakfast, we went to the Boot Hill Museum. There was an old train and it was awesome. We then went out to a boundary line that had formed in hopes of a storm popping up. Sadly nothing too exciting happened though we did get some nice pictures.

Not much else really occurred today besides the fact that I finally got tired of being around people. No offense to anyone, that it took me almost a full week to get shell shocked from having no time to myself states wonders about the people on this trip. While this has been fun and enjoyable, I am ready to get back home. Also a decent amount of sleep will be wonderful.

-Ashton

Day Six – In which there are storms

Today we were able to sleep in a little since we were already in the area that storms would later form. Around noon we stopped in Greensburg, Kansas: a small town still recovering from an EF5 tornado that flattened it in 2007. That was an enlightening experience. I have yet to see the damage done to my home area of central Alabama so, in a way, Greensburg was my first look at the damage caused by such strong tornadoes.

The day continued and by 2:00 we were in full chase mode. The first storm we observed was northwest of Ellsworth. It had two or three rotation areas on radar, and when we arrived there were a few finger funnels. However, those soon dissipated. The cell we were chasing merged with another, making it too difficult for us to keep up with. We then headed toward Dodge City where a single cell was forming; we intercepted it and got to see an amazing lightening show. There were two or three times where it seemed like a wall could and funnel tried to form but none were successful.

After that we went for a very late but very good dinner, and then found a hotel…Sometimes there a strange people at hotels and I’ll leave it at that.

-Ashton

Day Five

The day began with us driving to Oklahoma for our first chase. At lunch, which was really good Mexican food, Todd (FYI the man in charge of the entire tour group) explained to me that there was a low pressure over the area causing the wind to blow from the Ne; there was also wind higher in the atmosphere coming from the Sw. This set up wind shear needed to create rotation. With moisture from the Gulf and the slope of the plains helping with lift, everything was set up for a supercell to form. Sadly a cirrus shield (layer of clouds in the upper atmosphere) blocked the sun effectively capping the system. Ultimately there just wasn’t enough energy for a storm to form.

Even though today was a bust, I got a taste of the chase and it was thrilling. Tomorrow looks more promising! So hopefully something will happen (in a non-populated area).

In other news: three states in one day! Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

-Ashton

Day Four

The majority of the day consisted of driving. In total we were probably in the car about seven to eight hours. We did stop at the Sand Hills and Meteor Crater for a while, both of which were interesting. I enjoyed the Sand Hills a little more because I had questions about their formation. It’s always fun to learn new information!

Currently we are in Childress, Texas. Storms should (hopefully) be forming tomorrow so we have positioned ourselves to (hopefully) intercept them! Then the chase truly begins!

-Ashton

Mr. Carey giving a lecture at the salt flats in SW Texas

Day Three

Today we explored the Batcave. Okay, it was just a cave with bats. No Batman. However, the rock formations were beautiful; and, I can now say I have been in the largest natural cave in the western hemisphere.

The hike into and around the cave was about two miles, and then we hiked another two miles in the desert. Once again the scenery was breathtaking but needless to say we are all exhausted and some a little burnt. Alisha scared me by getting dehydrated but everything turned out okay.

Also Alisha is awesome for letting me borrow her phone to post this.

-Ashton

Day Two

Today was a day of new experiences.

You know how the Great Plains are wide open space. Well, I knew that or thought I did. Having lived my entire life in hills and forests, I don’t think I ever really grasped what ‘wide open space’ actually meant. It was almost dizzying being able to see for miles and miles – clear off into the horizon – with hardly any landmarks.

I can also now mark New Mexico as a state I’ve been too. The dry heat has nothing on Alabama humidity, so it’s very comfortable (though my lips are chapped and skin dry). Roswell was one of our stops; it was interesting to say the least. Many funny alien themed things around town. Our last stop – and the most exciting one to me – was Carlsbad Cave, where we had a beautiful view from atop a mountain (it’s amazing how quickly the landscape went from flat to mountainous) and got to watch bats fly out of the cave as the sun went down.

All in all, it was an amazing day.

P.S. Cow farms smell awful.

-Ashton