As tornado season approaches, Nebraskans learn about severe weather and safety preparedness at Weatherfest | Local

As tornado season approaches, Nebraskans learn about severe weather and safety preparedness at Weatherfest | Local

Dave Ruder has been chasing storms for more than 30 years. A native Kansan, the severe weather he would often see in his home state fascinated him. He started following storms as soon as he could — when he got his driver's license at age 16.

"When I could hop into the car and actually follow them, it was great," he said.

Ruder, who now lives in Lincoln, follows three hard-and-fast rules when he chases storms: don't chase at night, don't chase in cities and have at least two exit routes. These guidelines are what he considers pillars of safety for any storm chaser.

When Ruder's friend, David Hutsell, expressed interest in chasing storms, Ruder brought him to the annual Weatherfest and Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium on Saturday to learn from among the best in the business.

The free event is put on by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is part of the Weather Ready Nation Ambassador program, which prepares communities for extremes in weather, water and climate events.

"Our goal is to create more-resilient communities by helping the public be better prepared to make fast and smart decisions to save lives and property and enhance livelihoods," said Ken Dewey, climatologist and organizer of the event.

Saturday, visitors could chat with meteorologists, explore storms through photos and videos and conduct simulations and experiments with the help of weather experts. Attendees ranged from professional storm chasers to anyone interested in severe weather preparedness.

Matt and Casey Glassburner of Waverly brought their family, including 8-year-old daughter Reagan, who is studying natural disasters at school. Alongside her 5-year-old brother Emerson, Reagan learned about hail and tornadoes, tested soil temperatures and even created clouds in a bottle.

"It's an extremely family-friendly event," said their father, Matt.

Among the speakers was Walker Ashley, a meteorologist and professor at Northern Illinois University, as well as one of Dewey's former students at UNL. His talk centered around tornadoes and their impact in the 21st century.

"Planning ahead and trying to be thoughtful is key," Ashley said. "You can be caught in a very intense tornado, but being proactive and being prepared can give you almost a 100 percent chance of survival."

He said that seeing so many people attend Weatherfest was a good indication that the public is engaged in preparations.

Ruder, who sometimes puts 40,000 miles on his car during a storm-chasing trip, said he's starting to see more amateur storm chasers put themselves in dangerous situations.

"You shouldn't be trying to get close, you should be trying to stay safe," he said.


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Publish date : 2018-04-07 22:05:27
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