WKU meteorology students set for two week storm chase

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – According to many Western Kentucky University meteorology students, the annual storm chase class and associated trip is the capstone to a year of rigorous coursework on the hill. Now the time has come for a select few to make the trip to the Great Plains for two weeks in what will be one of the more hands-on learning environments a student could ask for.

Doctor Josh Durkee, Associate Professor of Meteorology at WKU, says, “We travel for two weeks across the center part of the country, and we forecast the nation’s most severe weather and then set out to document those storms each day.”

The storm chasing class, now in its 10th year, is almost completely student-operated with the students forecasting, choosing a target area to chase, and ultimately navigating the day to day adventures. Students tell us this experience will sharpen their forecasting tools, making them more likely to land a job after graduation.

“This is a storm chase trip where the students lead the forecast discussions every day,” says WKU senior Luke Rogers.

Fellow senior Olivia Cahill adds, “It’s the poster-child for “theory to practice” learning. It prepares us in a way that nothing else prepares us.”

Professor Durkee explains that this class and trip may not be what people think when they hear the phrase “storm chasing”.

“We’re there to learn why the storms are formed the way that they do, we like to hang back for safety and learning purposes, and the students really do much of the work for the trip.”

Students say learning about the meteorology concepts in the classroom is one thing, but it’s an entirely different experience to see those concepts in real life.

“I’m really looking forward to going out and seeing those storm structures firsthand because I haven’t experienced something like that yet,” says junior John Bowen.

Recent graduate Bailey Stevens says, “You see something on radar that you didn’t even know about, like you’ve never really seen beforehand, and you see what it looks like, you see exactly what it looks like in front of you. It’s just indescribable.”

Along with the educational experience, this close-knit group of student meteorologists are excited to go on this adventure with those closest to them

“It’s known that there’s a lot of driving involved, but I’m with my best friends for two weeks,” says senior CJ Padgett. “Adding storms on top of that, it’s going to be a really fun trip.”

You can follow the chasing trip adventures through the WKU storm chasers Twitter feed, @WKUstormchase.