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Wpg Free Press: U of M prof leads storm-chasing field trip on wild, windy, thrilling ride through America’s Tornado Alley

August 8, 2017 — 

As the Winnipeg Free Press reports:

Nicole Loeb will never forget where she was or what she was doing just over a month ago.

June 28 was a hot, humid day, and Loeb — along with 11 other students and a team of instructors — were piled into vans en route to Iowa, in pursuit of a storm. Loeb and her fellow students are from the 2017 class of Severe Thunderstorms: Storm Chasing and Field Techniques, Canada’s only for-credit storm-chasing course, helmed by Prof. John Hanesiak and offered through the University of Manitoba’s Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources.

They had started their day in central Nebraska. Every morning of the week-long field trip, the crew would assemble in the hotel lobby or breakfast area and, fuelled by paper cups of coffee, sketch out the day to come.

“We’d get into groups and we’d each present where we thought the storms of the day would be, and why,” says Loeb, 22, a fourth-year atmospheric science student at U of M, earning her bachelor of science in physical geography.

“The analysis looked pretty good, but it wasn’t obvious that it was going to be a big day.”

The forecast took them east, to Iowa. “When we crossed the border, we were kind of in the middle of hills — and when we’d catch a glimpse of what was going on, it just looked better and better,” she says.

“All of a sudden, we were like, ‘We need to stop and watch this storm.’ Right when we stopped, the rotation tightened up and put down the first tornado. Mother Nature put on a show for us, that’s for sure.”

Hanesiak’s team saw at least two of the 26 tornadoes that ripped through the Midwestern U.S. that day.

“We saw pretty much everything one would wish to see on a trip like this,” says Hanesiak, who has been taking students on this once-in-a-lifetime field trip roughly every other year since 2005.

“Every type of supercell storm — low precipitation, classic and high precipitation. One of the best ‘gustnadoes’ I have ever seen, amazing storm structures, experiencing various inflows and outflows, hail, nice shelf clouds and, of course, tornadoes — two at least, maybe three. The best part was that we did this all very safely.”

Indeed, safety is the first priority for Hanesiak, a veteran storm chaser and trained meteorologist, and his fellow instructors Pat McCarthy and Jay Anderson, who are both retired severe weather forecasters, and Dave Carlsen and Justin Hobson, who both currently work with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Read the full story here.



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