Severe weather rolled into Omaha on Wednesday in the form of a big blue storm-chasing truck.
A pair of storm chasers brought the truck to North High School, giving science club students the chance to check out the equipment and learn the backstory of the vehicle called Doppler on Wheels.
The mobile Doppler radar station is helpful because it can get close-up, accurate readings of storms and other atmospheric phenomena, said Ab Pfeiffer, a technician with the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder, Colo., which has a fleet of three of them.
“We didn't invent radar — we just made it different,” he said.
Kassie Ferrin, a ninth-grader, said the truck was “really cool,'' but she isn't ready to get inside and brave a real tornado. “I would be scared,” she said.
From spending 36 hours in the vehicle during a hurricane to camping out on a mountaintop for two months, storm chasers can find themselves in hair-raising situations.
“I saw leaves and what looked like shingles just floating,” Pfeiffer recalled of a tornado he chased in May 2011. “It was a really eerie feeling.”
Also along Wednesday was fellow storm-chaser Adam Houston, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“It's a horrible sound when you hear a house getting picked apart by a tornado,” Houston said.
Doppler on Wheels trucks were among the research vehicles used in the largest-ever field study of tornadoes. During the summers of 2009 and 2010, researchers crisscrossed the Great Plains, including Nebraska, in the hunt for severe thunderstorms that could help them decode how tornadoes form.
The public can check out Doppler on Wheels at a free weather festival Saturday in Lincoln. The Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium and Family Weatherfest is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hardin Hall on the UNL East Campus.
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