|By Susan Snyder, The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"Vacation of a lifetime!" gushed
Meet the departing and incoming presidents of one of
Twenty-three members of the club, all meteorology majors, left Sunday for a 10-day trip to the Midwest, where they will hunt tornados under the guidance of
Their aim is to follow the weather. Which means after landing in
They'll probably stay much of the time in
Although there's a thrill to chasing a tornado, the point of the exercise is for the future meteorologists to learn. They've studied how storms move and function, and now they want to see what they've learned in the classroom play out in the field.
Nevertheless, Flournoy said he was beginning to feel the weight of the task.
"I'm convinced we have the tools and knowledge to stay out of harm's way," he said. "But there's always that if."
Students also had to get buy-in from a higher authority: their mothers. Didn't help that they left on
"My mom will never be completely OK with it, but she's accepted it," said Guay, a sophomore from
"I think it's more dangerous getting behind the wheel of a car," Rawlings said. "This has been a fantasy of his forever."
They had to meet several conditions, including promising to stay at least a mile away from a twister, carrying the appropriate insurance on their vehicles, and using only drivers with flawless records, said Flournoy, a junior from
"I thought there's no way this club is going to get started," said
The students' enthusiasm, he noted, was a prime selling point.
"You can't fight a tidal wave," Syrett said, discussing the club with Flournoy and Guay on Thursday afternoon on the sixth floor of Walker Hall, the
But how does one stay safe when trying to get as close as possible to the kind of storm that knocks buildings flat and leaves death and destruction in its wake?
"You don't want to end up in the area of hail and rain where you can't really see what's going on," Guay said. "You want to know the motion of the storms and stay out of their way."
Club members plan to begin their hunt for storms in eastern
They will do that with the aid of updates from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center. Once they find a storm, they will rely on a radar scope app to monitor its movement and will have maps at the ready so they can plan their best viewing routes and their escape. They'll be traveling in four cars and a big van.
Few in the group have ever seen a tornado, though they have done some informal storm-chasing. Guay is one of the lucky ones.
He and a few friends covered 1,100 miles in 30 hours in
"It definitely gave me a new appreciation for severe weather," Guay said. "To hear the sirens go off was chilling, and then to see the tornado pass by and then in the following minutes hear all the reports of damage coming in -- it gives you a new perspective."
Club members describe a fascination with storms that began when they were young and that led them to major in meteorology.
Flournoy says Twister, the 1996 disaster drama in which
"I've always loved weather," said
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said
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