Led by educator from Crookston, UND students hit the road in storm-chasing course

    Dr. Matthew Gilmore, a Crookston resident and professor at the University of North Dakota, is currently leading a storm experience class with his students. In a 12-passenger van with five undergrad students, an instructor, a driver and an undergrad teaching assistant, the group of anxious storm chasers have been traveling the country to catch sight – and predict – where the most severe and damaging storms are likely to occur.    

    The purpose of this adventure is to give students a firsthand experience in forecasting and give them "exciting, real life experience with severe storms."    

    Students forecast in the van while they are traveling, and watch the monitor's screen for the latest weather. The van is equipped with extensive technology that works when the group is in range of cell phone service, which allows students to gain a firsthand experience in meteorology  by pulling up interactive and up-to-the-minute weather maps and radars.    

    Dr. Gilmore teaches both a freshmen level Tornado/Severe and Hazardous Weather class as well as a senior level Radar/ Meteorology Class. This is the first time, however, that this storm-chasing class has been offered at UND, and is in fact patterned after other prestigious programs such as those offered in Chicago.    

    The group started their journey, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, on Friday, May 23. They embarked from Grand Forks to Wichita Falls, Texas. On Saturday, May 24 and Sunday, May 25, students were able to experience first-hand super cell thunderstorm activity. On Monday, May 26, students saw their first tornado in Big Springs, Texas, just south of Midland. Gilmore was excited to announce that his students were able "to snap some amazing pictures," which can be found on their Twitter feed under the username UNDChase. The group then trekked from Lubbock, Texas to Sheridan, Wyoming. "What's cool for these students is that some of them have never been out of North Dakota or Minnesota before, so for some of them it's their first time in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming," Dr. Gilmore said.  

    The trip next took the students through central and northeast Montana. During the drive to the next location, as determined by student analyses, "students engage in meteorological work by hand analyzing maps and asking, 'Where should we be going?'' explained Professor Gilmore.    

    "It's lots of fun," he continued. "A lot of the reason why students choose meteorology and the sciences is because they have a fascination with severe weather – you know, they either see a tornado as a child and when asked, 'Why did you choose this major?' they're able to explain that they were fascinated as a child and it led them to it, or they saw lightning as a child and became fascinated by it. It's neat for the students to get out and reconnect in a firsthand experience why they chose their major, and it's neat as a teacher to watch that, too."