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Hodgenville man turns stormchaser for a semester

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 A Hodgenville man was part of a 7,900-mile, 16-state journey taken by Western Kentucky University students.

Evan Webb was one of eight meteorology students to participate in Dr. Josh Durkee’s Field Methods in Weather Analysis and Forecasting class. The group set out across the Great Plains, forecasting and verifying a wide variety of severe weather.

The team traveled to Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas and Tennessee to apply various forecasting techniques with regard to severe weather, and to analyze and document the hazardous outcomes as they unfold. They documented five tornado touchdowns.

”The majority of the time, meteorology students rarely get to experience what they learn in the classroom, unless the various principles of weather and climate come to them,” Dr. Durkee said. “In this class, we turn the tables by using various forecasting techniques to identify the given location of where class will be held and we learn in real time from current events. It’s a learning environment that cannot be beat.”

According to Dr. Greg Forbes from The Weather Channel, preliminary statistics indicate that the month of May, a climatological time of year when tornado frequency is typically greatest, was 63 percent below average for 2012. Regardless of a relatively slower severe weather season for May, the WKU Storm Chasers were able to document five tornado touchdowns (one near Minot, N.D., three near Russell, Kan., and one near Piedmont, Okla.), 2-to-3 inch hail, up to 71 mph winds, and flash floods between May 20 and June 3.

”I am extremely pleased with the outcomes from this trip,” Dr. Durkee said. “The students were able to accurately forecast and experience a wide variety of severe weather, particularly in mostly open settings away from most urban or densely populated areas. We are very much interested in learning about severe weather, but it is tough to deal with when communities are struck with such events.”

Dr. Durkee is already putting plans together for the 2013 course offering. Read the daily student blog entries and view more photos from their journey on the WKU Meteorology Blog <http://meteorology.blog.wku.edu/> and https://twitter.com/wkustormchase.