SIUE Goes to Joplin

SIUE Storm Chasing and Assessment Class in Joplin MOMark Hildebrandt recently returned from Joplin, MO where he and his students engaged in post storm assessment of the town one year after the EF 5 tornado that caused massive destruction.  The visit was part of a course in Storm Chasing and Assessment taught by Hildebrandt since 2007 in response to hurricane Katrina.

Possessing a facination with severe weather events since childhood Hildebrandt created the course in response to general interest in the student body with the goal of educating the general public on severe weather. The course looks at the science and methods behind storm spotting and damage assessment as well as how climate change and population growth affect the risks severe weather poses.

The class spent two days of a four day trip in Joplin looking at areas of destruction and studying how recovery efforts have progressed over time.

“They were able to see some areas were rebuild and some areas looked like a bomb had gone off yesterday,” Hildebrandt explained.

The other two days of the field trip were spent storm spotting in tornado alley and touring the National Sever Storms laboratory in Norman, OK. While storm spotting the class attempts to place themselves near areas where storm activity is likely to occur and to monitor conditions from a safe distance, reporting new developments to the National Weather Service as they happen.

“The National Weather Service cannot see what takes place at ground level,” Hildebrandt explained, “We need to remain vigilant especially during severe weather events because we are the eyes and ears on the ground.”

In the years since he began teaching the course Hildebrandt has received tremendous feedback with many of his former students looking for ways to get involved with the National Weather Service and Homeland Security for storm spotting and disaster relief volunteering.

“It’s not until they get in the field and actually see for themselves the damage and how it impacts human lives that it really hits home,” shared Hildebrandt, “A lot of them now want to get involved.”

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