“The Wizard of Oz,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and the quintessential “Twister” are all movies where weather has a major role in the plot. Storm chasing had been around for some time, but it wasn’t until “Twister” when meteorological passions were ignited by flying cows.
It seems that many who study meteorology fall in love with the science early in their lives. For many of my meteorology peers, this is the film that hooked us into studying the field.
It’s not all about being a weather man. Many people wish to work for the National Weather Service and issue warnings, some wish to do research and improve forecast models, and some are interested in the instrumentation.
One area where all of these meteorological branches meld is storm-chasing. Some chase for thrill or passion, others for research. As the chief meteorologist for KLSU and TigerTV, I felt it was somewhat my duty to use my knowledge and training to intercept this storm at landfall, to give student media in-depth coverage of Isaac. The student media department worked relentlessly day and night during the storm to bring the latest information to students and faculty; and I felt that they needed a dependable eyewitness of what was taking place inside this monster.
My veteran team consisted of a NOAA meteorologist from Washington, D.C., a University of South Alabama senior of meteorology and myself with a bachelor of science in meteorology and now studying climatology at LSU.
Houma, seemed to be the closest we could get to landfall, while staying safe. After setting up camp, we began taking wind readings. As conditions worsened, we relayed the information via Twitter and other media. Fortunately, we had cellular service the entire time, which enabled us to communicate and get the necessary data needed to keep us safe and informed.
Camped in a parking structure, we were able to take readings throughout the night. We penetrated the eye wall and woke up in the calm of the storm, where we found many residents cleaning up and minimal damage. As the system was poorly developed to our west, we left Houma to again intercept the storm at LSU.
Isaac was one of the rare times where an entire community comes together to help and keep each other informed, and this was extremely evident via Twitter and other media.
It is just another reason that I absolutely love my home in southeast Louisiana along with the rest of the Gulf Coast. Being able to study these phenomena is one reason why I go to school here despite having the chance to study at the University of Washington. You can bet who I’ll be rooting for this weekend. Geaux Tigers!
Robert Gauthreaux III