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Virginia Tech meteorology students journey to the Great Plains to storm chase

Their 2020 trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Hokie Storm Chasers return to the Plains
Hokie Storm Chasers return to the Plains

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Better late than never! That’s the mentality that these Hokie meteorology students had when the pandemic put a damper on their annual storm chasing trip.

Since the early 2000s, Virginia Tech meteorology students have had the opportunity to travel out west to the Great Plains and experience something most weather enthusiasts dream of doing — storm chasing.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 canceled their 2020 trip.

“Last year was canceled because of the pandemic. We had a pent-up demand for students to go. So we wanted to make sure that we pulled it off,” said Dave Carroll, a professor at Virginia Tech.

“I was so bummed out that we weren’t able to go last year, but the trip this year was absolutely incredible. Things happen for a reason,” said student, Brigit Keating.

The trip usually takes place in May but it was pushed back to June due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“We didn’t know which way the pandemic was going to turn and so we always tried to keep our hopes up,” said student, Harry Thomas.

The crew was made up of nearly 15 students and each person is responsible for a number of tasks, including forecasting, navigation and analyzing radar.

“When you’re out there chasing, you don’t blindly follow storms. It really tests your meteorological knowledge,” said Keating.

“Learning how to forecast storms in an actual environment like that was something I had never done before. You learn all of this stuff in your classes and you’re learning ‘Okay, this setup produces this.’ Seeing the fruits of our labor was awesome,” said student, Ashleigh Yanoscsik.

Despite the wait, these students were not disappointed in the end.

“It was the experience of a lifetime. It was so rewarding to go out in the field and watch things unfold. There’s absolutely nothing like it,” said Keating.


About the Author:

Delaney is a Texas native who was born in Houston, but moved to San Antonio where she lived for 16 years. She moved to Roanoke in June 2019.