Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Back-To-Back Deployments

Hello Fellow Followers,

I have finally managed to get around to blogging. My name is Rich Krupar and I am still in the process of finishing my first year of graduate school at Texas Tech University. Before leaving for VORTEX2, I had to re-schedule a statistics final exam that I must take when I return from the field project. Let me tell you, this is a royal pain! There was so much paper work involved to get the incomplete approved. Signatures from the dean of the math department and the graduate school were required and a contract was established between my professor and I. Nonetheless, I managed to get everything sorted out and now the honus is now on me to prepare for the exam. No sweat right? I mean, I get more time than anyone else in the course to prepare for the exam so I should ace it in theory. Theory is always susceptible to change.

A lot has been going on since our first deployment on May 10th, 2010 and today warrants a discussion of the events that have unfolded. As most of you are aware, May 10th, 2010 was a very scary day for residents in Oklahoma. Rapid storm motion of 50-60 mph and vigorous tornadoes wreaked havoc in many parts of Oklahoma including Norman and Seminole. This was a challenging day for our teams because we could barely keep up with the storms and make pertinent deployments of our StickNet probes. It was my first time deploying in a storm environment and it sure was challenging. My teammate Tanya and I worked efficiently enough to get two probes down but could not manage to deploy anymore because of extensive foliage and dangerous storm motion. In an attempt to catch a tornadic storm south near Seminole, OK, my team made a maneuver south but was alerted quickly by our Field Coordinator (FC) that the situation was too dangerous for us to pursue. We followed orders and made our way south once the tornadic storm passed. To our surprise, we saw the damage that Seminole had experienced. Damage to family residences and mobile homes was evident, along with snapped trees and downed power lines. Pictures are to follow but we as a group would like to provide a disclaimer about our photos: damage photos were taken for research purposes and we in no manner meant to offend those who were traumatized by the loss of property. We are striving to make scientific leaps in our respective field and we want to save as many lives as we can. We are not storm chasing...we are advancing our scientific knowledge.

This was the first time I have seen tornado damage in person following a tornado event and it was quite a humbly experience. If there ever was a lack of motivation to execute the purpose of our project, the Seminole event provide even more impetus to advance lead times on tornado warnings and further our knowledge about tornadogenesis (the beginning stage of tornadoes). Our hearts and prayers go out to those who were affected by the tumultuous weather.

That same night, our group lodged in Shawnee, OK where the we had no power at our hotel because of the severe weather. We had to use flashlights and candles to make it up the stairs to our rooms and showers were lukewarm at best. Despite the lack of power, we were thankful to have a roof over our heads for the night. Local residents impacted by the day's events were lodging with us because they could not remain in their damaged residences. May 10th, on the whole, lended light on how precious life is and how we all should not take it for granted or underestimate the power of mother nature.

May 11th, 2010 provided us with another day of research in western Oklahoma. We managed to lay down our entire array of StickNets but the target storm of interest never seemed to turn right enough to make contact with our probes. I felt a lot more comfortable deploying this time around and it seemed like Tanya and I had acquired a great line of communication that allowed us to deploy rapidly.

As dangerous as deployments can be, pickup can be just as dangerous, if not more dangerous. The night sky obstructs our view, making it difficult to retrieve the probes. We heavily rely on the map markings that our navigator makes on our DeLorme map software to estimate our pickup location. Oncoming traffic also poses another threat to life as we pick up our probes. Extreme caution is exercised always during both deployment and retrieval.

With many weeks left in the project, I am confident that more deployments will take place and more interesting stories will be told. Stay tuned...

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