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Christine Rapp, MU Storm Chase Team Member

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Mizzou chapter.

Christine Rapp is a senior atmospheric science major with dreams of predicting the weather on television. She’s also a member of the MU Storm Chase Team, which was recently featured in The Maneater. Her Campus Mizzou wanted to learn more about Rapp and what some might call her danger-seeking hobby.        
Her Campus Mizzou:
Why did you decide to get involved with MU Storm Chase Team?      
Christine Rapp: I decided to get involved with the SCT my sophomore year of college. I had switched my major at the beginning of that year, and after joining Meteorology, all I heard about through the fall semester was how fun and amazing storm chasing was. Naturally I was all in! I have always loved to do adventurous things, and I was excited to be able to take the knowledge I learned in my atmospheric science classes and see it all happen in nature right in front of me.

HCM: How many storms have you chased since joining the organization?
CR: I have gone on three separate chases so far through college. During the spring of my sophomore year (2011), I traveled with 10 other students through southern Oklahoma and although we did not see an official tornado in progress, we saw the development of what was later an EF3. In the spring of my junior year, I traveled with three other students to Southwest Missouri, which ended up being a bust. But in April, I went on a four-day chase traveling 2,755 miles through three states and saw my first actual tornado right outside of Salina, Kan.

HCM: What’s it like when you’re in the midst of a major storm?
CR: I don’t think there is any more of a relieving or successful feeling than actually finding and chasing a tornado. Right now the science is just not there to be able to predict the exact time and location a tornado will be. There are a lot of different elements in the atmosphere that have to be just right. When we saw the tornado outside of Salina, it was our third straight day of chasing. I was completely sleep deprived, I was stressed because we had a car break down, which we left on a dirt road in the middle of Kansas, and we had struck out the past two days with chasing. But finally being able to see that storm made it all worth it!

HCM: Do people ever question why you put yourself in those dangerous situations?
CR: My parents think I am absolutely crazy for going chasing any opportunity I get! A lot of the times we are chasing through areas that don’t have much cell phone service, such as northern Kansas or southwestern Oklahoma. I am able to shoot my mom a text whenever I can to let her know we are still alive and doing well. But when we are in pursuit of a huge storm, I usually have my eye on the sky or have my camera ready to record. During our four-day chase, I was the only one in our lead car who had service all day, and we needed that phone line to be able to reach our base team back here at Mizzou, which monitors the radars and allows us direction to which way to head.

HCM: How does the team prepare for a storm chase, and how do you keep safe?
CR: To prepare for a chase, we have a briefing the night before as a group to forecast and pinpoint a specific location to travel to. A lot of times, these briefings can last two to four hours to make sure we can negotiate a time, who’s going, who works base team, or who will be driving. The base team is the group of students who stay on campus in our WAV lab (Weather Analysis and Visualization Lab) and monitor the radars and help those who are out in the field navigate roadways and with direction towards storms. Without a base team, storm chasing for us would be nearly impossible.

HCM: Do you enjoy working for the base team too, or do you prefer to only chase storms?
CR: I have worked base team a couple times, and it definitely is fun to help students who are out in the field navigate, but I would much rather be in the excitement and witness the storm myself! When we got back from the four-day chase, I helped the base team a few times just so that other students could have the same chance to see what I was so lucky to witness!

HCM: How is this experience preparing you for your career?
CR: I am aiming more toward a broadcast side of meteorology rather than operational or research. I enjoy storm chasing because it allows me to use my knowledge from the classroom to spot and locate tornadoes so we can efficiently call them in to the local authorities or National Weather Service. Then the residents of these areas can be warned and go to a safer location. With having a broadcast emphasis, I feel it will be my future duty to help out residents to know what to expect when it comes to weather since it affects us everyday! I have a strong interest in severe weather, specifically in tornadoes, so storm chasing is just another way to enjoy what I love so much!
HCM: What is your involvement with KOMU?
CR: I’ve worked there for two years now doing anything from morning cut-ins, weekend newscasts, webshifts to filling in for the three full time meteorologists/weathercasters. It’s been amazing getting the on air practice so that when I graduate and look for jobs, I can state I have three years of experience!