The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

May 8, 2009

$11.9 million Vortex2 study is set to launch across the Great Plains

NORMAN — Researchers, scientists and forecasters gathered at the National Weather Center on Friday to complete preparations for an $11.9 million project being touted as the largest ever attempt to study tornadoes.

The initial phase of the Verification of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment 2 — also called Vortex2 — will start Sunday and run through June 13. A second phase will run from May 1 through June 15 next year.

During the study, researchers hope to sample supercell thunderstorms in an effort to learn more about how tornadoes form and the damage they can cause.

Joshua Wurman, president of Center for Severe Weather Research in Boul-der, Colo., and one of the project’s lead principal in-vestigators, said the goal eventually is to improve lead times on tornado warnings to the public. The average warning time nationally is 13 minutes, he said.

“If we can increase that lead time from 13 minutes to half an hour, then the average person at home could do something different,” Wur-man said. “Maybe they can seek a community shelter instead of just going into their bathtub. Maybe they can get their family to better safety if we can give them a longer warning and a more precise warning.”

More than 120 scientists and crew members traveling in about 40 vehicles will follow storms in a 900-mile area that includes western and central Oklahoma, southeastern South Dakota, western Iowa, eastern Colo-rado, far northwestern Mis-souri, far southwestern Minnesota, most of Nebras-ka and Kansas and the Texas Panhandle.

The experiment will be based out of the National Weather Center in Norman.

Weather equipment to be deployed during the study will include multiple types of radar, mobile Mesonets, mobile ballooning systems, unmanned aircraft, tornado pods and particle probes.

“We’re throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it,” Wurman said. “Almost anything you can imagine we’re trying to use to observe these storms, all different directions in all different ways.”

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