What is Tornado Alley? And who are this people called storm chasers? The term Tornado Alley indicates an area of the United States which is struck by severe tornadoes more often in comparison to the rest of the United States. …
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Storm chasing in Tornado Alley is a dangerous, thrilling and awe inspiring activity assisted by modern technology but the risks taken is well rewarded by the information gained, which is a significant contribution to the field of studying storms.
1. The storm chaser’s experience of studying storms in Tornado Alley
The experience of chasing Tornado in the Tornado Alley is a unique experience, the taste of which cannot be found anywhere else. On June 24, 2003 Hamlet of Manchester, South Dakota was hit by a Tornado . As the tornado was moving in its course, Tim Samaras and his storm chasing partner Pat Potter were in a van chasing that storm. It had all the equipments like probes which can measure the wind speed and its direction. Storm chasers Carsten Peter and Gene Rhodene were following the storm in another car. They had a pyramid-shaped probe, which they called Tinman, loaded with still cameras, solely made for the purpose of filming inside the tornado. The sound of the tornado was becoming more intense, as the tornado was only a hundred yards away from them. As the storm was approaching, Tim managed to deposit a probe, scurried to his car and could see the debris roaring above them while they were speeding away (Vesilind 1).
After sometime they stopped their cars again. Carsten and Gene hauled their Tinman and activated the cameras, while Tim was dropping another turtle. It was appearing now that the storm was chasing the team rather than the team chasing the storm. The storm chasers could see two or three probes taking direct hits, but all of a sudden the previous ferocity and power of the tornado was lost as it changed and finally evaporated (Vesilind 2). Michael fish, an expert storm chaser has his own views about storm chasing in Tornado Alley2. Fish states, “Storm chasing is an exhilarating but testing way to travel. You have to be prepared for long days, driving sometimes up to 600 miles, and endure hours of frustration” (Fish). He and his team travelled for about 3,600 miles through Texas, Oklohoma and Kansas but could only locate a single funnel cloud, which cannot be called a tornado strictly. As described by him, a supercell start from a fluffy cumulus and transforms itself into a vast thunder cloud known a cumulo-nimbus. Consequently, the cloud formation is accompanied by sheets of rain, a green tinge when the hail starts, increase in wind speed, drops in temperature, and the clouds starts to rotate above dipping towards the ground. This is the time to look for tornadoes (Fish). Despite Tornado Alley’s reputation, the number of tornadoes in some years drops very low. Whereas, 1,304 tornadoes took place in 2009, killing 121 people by the end of June in that year, only one twister was seen in 2009 till June. This was bad news for researchers like Burgess who were working on Vortex2, a funded project to study tornadoes in May and June that year (Welte). 2. Methodology and equipments used for storm chasing in Tornado Alley Storm chasing requires usage of some sort of equipment,3 irrespective of the place where the chase is being carried on. Doppler radar is a system which has been devised long time ago and it has been used for studying storms. Doppler radar in comparison to other radars can also detect whether a storm is rotating and also the speed of the storm (Pine). Equipments vary with storm chasers but the common storm chasing equipments are usually
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