This story documents a storm-chasing trip with the PennWest California meteorology program.

In moments of severe weather, the average person might search for a safe location in the house to avoid potential danger.

But for students in PennWest California’s meteorology program, severe weather is their time to shine – even if the sun isn’t.

California students Hunter Garman, Justina Arena, Madison Moretti, Nicholas Wilkes, Stephanie Shaw, Toby Miller and Troy Wilson joined geosciences professor Mario Majcen to view and intercept storms across the Great Plains.

On the first few days of the trip, students tracked and documented several supercells across central Kansas – even witnessing several “gustnadoes,” which are surface vortexes created from downbursts that develop from a thunderstorm.

The team caught up with California grad Shannon DeForna M’23, and witnessed several wall clouds and mammatus clouds across central Oklahoma.

On Saturday, May 13, the team captured photos of a ran-wrapped tornado near Pleasantville, Iowa, and a tornadic thunderstorm near Hiawatha, Kansas. Students also captured images of a cyclic supercell in Iowa that produced several weak tornadoes.

For the past two decades, California has organized and hosted several storm-chase field trips to students to discover and forecast severe weather patterns across the U.S. This summer, students are traveling across the Great Plains to study severe weather and climate-related issues.

Thursday, May 11

Friday, May 12

Saturday, May 13

Sunday, May 14

Tuesday, May 16

PennWest California Meteorology Team