PSU Storm Chase prepares for first chase this summer in Midwest

This summer, members of Penn State’s new storm chasing club will travel to the Midwest in hopes of seeing a tornado up close.

“It’s an opportunity to take what we’ve learned in class and apply it to the real world,” club member Kat Kobylt (sophomore- meteorology) said.

PSU Storm Chase, which was officially formed last summer after a chase in Western Pennsylvania with the original nine members, now has a total membership of 70 students, 21 of whom will be going west after spring commencement this year. Twelve of these students are officially going with the club, and nine others will be accompanying professional storm chaser Jason Berry, President Matt Flournoy (junior-meteorology) said.

The trip, which will last nine to 10 days, took a total of eight months to get approved by the University Park Allocation Committee, and UPAC members were worried about liability and the lack of concrete plans for the trip, Vice President Jacob DeFlitch (senior-meteorology) said.

But that’s just due to the unpredictable nature of storms, Flournoy said.
mammatus clouds“For planning purposes, we only get two to three days heads up on when and where the storm will be,” he said.

The club has to estimate the cost of hotels, gas, food and other necessities for the trip since they’re not sure exactly where they’ll end up, Flournoy said.

“Our advisors will be on call just in case,” he said. “They have faith in us, and so does UPAC for funding the trip. It’s just our mothers who are still worried.”

The storm chasers are not going into the storm; they just want the chance to observe, club member Faith Eherts (sophomore-meteorology) said. They have no equipment yet to collect data, she said, but this may change.

“We’re young still,” Kobylt said. “We need ambitious goals.”

Membership to PSU Storm Chase is open to anyone in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Flournoy said, and most members are meteorology majors, but they welcome anyone who is interested. Members had to apply to go on the trip, and were selected based on criteria that included club involvement, presence at fundraisers and what skills they could bring to the chase.

“Being a part of this, something not every university has, is really rewarding,” fundraising chair Ben Reppert (junior-meteorology) said.

The Daily Collegian logoPosted: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 12:00 am     By Kathy Cappelli | Collegian Staff Writer

Kathy Cappelli can be reached at or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @katcappelli.