Meet the A+ Weather Team

Katherine Beirslavich
Operational Meteorologist
Kansas University, B. S. Atmospheric Science
Hometown: Gladstone, Missouri

Favorite Storm, May 4, 2003: I was only 5 years old at the time, but I remember this day pretty well. Once the tornado sirens went off, my dad grabbed my brother and I, grabbed the cats, and we went to take shelter in our basement. My mom was out shopping at the time and was taking shelter at the Lowes in Liberty, MO. Once my brother and I were in shelter in the basement, my dad, like most Midwesterners, wanted to have a look outside. But I wouldn't let him stay out there for very long since we were always taught to seek shelter, and what difference did I know at such a young age. So he reluctantly came inside, but not before being able to see part of a tornado and a bunch of debris flying around.

Later on, we found out that the tornado ripped through Carriage Hills, which is a neighborhood just over half a mile to the south of our house. Driving by the neighborhood afterward and seeing the damage was incredible. This destructive tornado ended up causing millions of dollars in damage. You'd think that this destructive of a storm coming so close to my house would scare me off of weather, especially considering I made my dad come back inside. However, I believe that it is one of the major reasons I fell in love with the weather.

 

Isaac Bowers
Advanced Consulting Meteorologist
Western Kentucky University, B.S. in Meteorology, Minor in G.I.S.
Hometown: Aurora, Indiana

Favorite Storm, May 24, 2016: During a 14-day, university-sponsored storm chase on the Great Plains, we found ourselves in northeast Texas after a busted day of chasing. As we started to forecast for the next day, the team began to realize that the potential existed for very strong thunderstorms. We were seeing a high chance for tornadoes across southwest Kansas by early afternoon. We went to bed after planning our route, excited at the prospect of seeing a tornadic storm, but worried about its impact.

The next day, we began driving north from Texas, keeping an eye on the developing cumulus field above us and trying to find the boundary we believed would trigger storms that afternoon. After a quick stop in Greensburg, KS, we noticed that our boundary had shifted southwest toward Meade, KS, and we headed towards our new target. After several hours of no results, we began driving dejectedly toward the only other storm in the area until a glance in the rearview mirror gave us a view of a large towering cloud that was growing quickly.

We turned the van around to start chasing this storm, and within minutes it produced a beautiful rope tornado that was quickly growing and moving northeast. We continued to chase and saw the storm produce three more touchdowns, at one point simultaneously. As the violent supercell moved north over the empty fields of southwest Kansas, it shocked us all by maintaining an EF3 tornado while simultaneously producing twin rope tornadoes on the back side. Three tornadoes were on the ground at once from the same storm. I was lucky enough to catch this incredible moment with my camera, and I know it's something I'll look at with awe until the end of my days. As we left the storm, we crossed a swath of uprooted power lines, irrigation arms, and fence posts that provided a humbling facet to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

Christopher Brame
Advanced Consulting Meteorologist
University of Missouri, B.S. in Soil, Environmental & Atmospheric Science
Hometown: Parkville, Missouri

Favorite Storm, April 22, 2011: On my way home from classes one Friday afternoon in late April, I couldn't help but notice the vast fields of cumulus clouds gathering just to the west of town. To most people, these clouds probably looked harmless, even beautiful considering the mild spring day. But being a part of a meteorology department, I knew what was to come. Everyone had been talking about this day since Wednesday, with a few even thinking about going out for some late afternoon storm chasing. Pulling into the driveway, I could see several storms already breaking through the cap and becoming vertically developed. The most impressive one was about 10 miles south of town. Instead of going inside and looking at all the data and indices, I opted to pull up a chair on my east-facing porch, sit back and enjoy the show.

As sat on my porch, watching another storm cloud develop just over the city of Columbia, MO, tornado sirens began to sound on the south side of town, in the vicinity of the first storm that had caught my eye coming home. Now I HAD to see a radar loop! I pulled up the latest loop and spot the tornado warned supercell, which was right over the small town of Ashland, MO. A recent hail report from the town told of hail over an inch and a half having fallen in the small town. Seeing that this cell would soon cross I-70, I jumped in my car, got on the highway and watched as the cell slowly meandered across the road. Having seen nothing other than a beautiful storm, I turned around and head back to the apartment. The rest of the evening, I watched these storms develop and track roughly along I-70. Eventually these storms made it to St. Louis, where the storm I had watched from my porch, made a direct hit on the Lambert Airport.

 

Sullivan Brown
Weather Operations Manager
Lyndon State College, B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences
Hometown: Gardiner, Maine

Favorite Storm, January 5-9, 1998: New Englanders are always quoting Mark Twain by saying “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute.” In January of 1998, when my favorite storm occurred, a minute turned into several days before a change in precipitation type. The precipitation during that time frame was freezing rain, and caused catastrophic damage throughout New England, including my hometown of Gardiner, ME. A strengthening area of high pressure northeast of New England provided the region with ample low-level cold air, and a stationary front located over southern New England allowed areas of low pressure to track toward and south of New England. Warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico associated with the low pressure systems overrode the stationary front and cold surface air north of the front, leading to the formation of freezing rain.

On the 7th through the 9th, the most intense days of the storm, I remember watching the rain pour from the sky and accumulate rapidly on the street, the power lines, and the trees around my home. The night of the 8th loud snaps of full grown trees and bright blue flashes from transformers crippled by the ice were all I heard and saw while lying in bed. We were without power for over a week, and some parts of Maine went almost a month without power.  Roughly 1.5 inches of ice accumulated in Gardiner, and my yard resembled a war zone when the storm was said and done. The sheer power and magnitude of the 1998 ice storm was impressive, and gave me over a week off from school, which is every child’s dream.

 

Brandon Burton
Operational Meteorologist
Kansas University, B.S. in Atmospheric Science
Hometown: Hill City, Kansas

Favorite Storm, April 10, 2005: I used to go to the farm that is about 20 miles southwest of Hill City with my grandpa all the time to help with the cattle. One day we were bringing the tractor back and I happened to see a storm forming off to the southwest. I told my grandpa about it and he said we would have to pay attention to it. Of course, this is nothing new for my grandpa who over his years of farming has seen many storms come and go. We rushed to finish feeding the cattle and by the time we were finished, the storm had grown into a supercell and it was heading right towards us. I started to freak out because I saw what looked to be a wall cloud and told my grandpa that we needed to go. Well, my grandpa is a very patient person and wanted to make a pot of coffee before we left.

I'm standing outside watching this storm come in while my grandpa was making coffee inside and I'm thinking that this storm was going to drop a tornado right on top of us. My grandpa gets done and I run to the truck to start it so we could get out of there as fast as we can. My grandpa stops and leans against the fence and just looks at the storm in amazement. After a while, he walks over to the truck and tells me we should probably get out of there. We get in the truck and start heading back to Hill City, I look behind us and see a funnel cloud. We quickly stop and turn the truck around to just watch it. We watched it spawn a brief tornado and I was in total awe. It dissipated and the storm moved away from us after a short time. This storm was a reason I started to storm chase and wanted to become a meteorologist. I've seen numerous tornadoes since then. However, this tornado is what sparked my interest in weather, and I can thank my grandpa and mother nature for this.

 

Kaitlyn Kelly
Consulting Meteorologist
University of North Carolina at Asheville, B.S. in Atmospheric Science
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Favorite Storm, May 18, 2017: During my department's two-week storm chasing trip, the Storm Prediction Center issued a rare High-risk outlook for northwestern Oklahoma and south-central Kansas. We started the morning off with a long map discussion and we each provided input on where we thought a general target area would be to chase. Overall, the class decided to head towards northwestern Oklahoma, so we began our drive from Norman, OK to Seiling, OK. We stopped briefly in Seiling for a quick refill on gas and we were lucky enough to find Dr. Reed Timmer also at that gas station. He showed us all the equipment he had with him for chasing that day, as well as several probes that he intended to use during tornado interceptions.

After meeting an "idol" for some of us, we headed out west to chase some areas of strong convection in hopes that we would be able to see a tornado that day. Unfortunately, they were not producing much but we noticed that a strong supercell had set up near Seiling again. We began approaching the storm from the west, and because of this we had to wait for the hook to cross our path. After a long waiting game and a day of rather disappointing convection, we spotted a well-defined and rapidly rotating wall cloud with a tornado beneath it. We had a moment to take some pictures before continuing to follow the storm into Alva, OK. There was another cell to our south near Woodward, OK so we began dropping down to chase that one. The storm gusted out, so we stood outside the van to experience the cooler air and slightly gusty winds moving over us. Of course, we caught this on camera as well, through time lapse.

All in all, after a seemingly disappointing start to a day that began with so much hope due to the High-risk outlook, we were rewarded with a picture-perfect large tornado and an experience that none of us will forget.