(Today’s chapter continues the magical holiday Adventure of the UCK meteorology juniors. Read Chapter 1 to learn how they got here.)

“Well fancy seeing y’all here this early,” said the delighted Dr. Summers in her office chair as she peered up from reading the dynamics textbook she had written herself 2 decades ago.

“We used the Keurig in Malarkey’s office,” said Brian as he sipped from the professor’s “TRUST ME, I’M A METEOROLOGIST” mug. He turned toward the other students and asked, “By the way, does his creamer taste funny to you guys?”

“I’m extremely pleased that you made it,” Dr. Summer’s announced. “I think you’re in for an unforgettable adventure. I’ll dive right into the lesson since it’s a long drive to Oklahoma.”

“Oklahoma!?” The 5 University of Central Kansas meteorology juniors responded simultaneously in terror.

“I thought you said the snownadoes would be in Western Kansas,” M.T. said to Erin. “Why are we even doing this?”

“Ain’t none of us ever been to Oklahoma,” said Samantha Royle.

“Let’s just hear her out,” Fuller said while stepping in front of Erin as if to defend her from the onslaught of complaints.

“Sorry, Dr. Summers,” said Erin. “We’re still interested. We just don’t understand what Oklahoma has to do with snownadoes.”

“Well,” Dr. Summers replied, “Think about this storm you’re chasing after from a synoptic standpoint. This low that’s developing in the lee of the Rockies. What is it called?”

“A panhandle hooker!” exclaimed Erin.

“Very good!” said Dr. Summers. “Do you know why this storm is called a panhandle hooker?”

The students glanced at each other silently for a few seconds until Brian confidently exclaimed, “Because it forms in the Oklahoma panhandle and hooks back north!”

“Don’t be so surrrrrrrrre,” Dr. Summers croaked. “But you’re on the right track.”

More silence and staring among the undergrads followed until Dr. Summers answered her own question. “Remember my cousin who I mentioned yesterday? The one who has seen a snownado before? Well, she is THE Panhandle Hooker. They named these storms after her, and she now resides in the Oklahoma panhandle town of Hooker, which is also named in her honor. Find her, and she will guide you to the snownado.”

“Awesome! Let’s do this! Thanks Dr. Summers!” Fuller exclaimed as he headed toward the door.

“Hold your horses, Mr. Glass. There’s still another lesson I need to teach y’all.” The students turned back toward Dr. Summers as she continued. “My cousin won’t be there to guide you the entire time, so you will need to learn to find the 5 ingredients from which a snownado forms. First, sub-freezing temperatures throughout the vertical column of the storm. Second, a highly-unstable atmosphere. Third, a source of atmospheric moisture. Forth, a lifting mechanism.”

“Whoa, hold up, ” M.T. interrupted. “How are we supposed to find an unstable atmosphere and a high moisture source with surface temps already below freezing? Isn’t that contradictory?”

“Don’t be so surrrrrrrre,” Dr. Summers again replied. “Yes, it is extremely rare to find all of these ingredients together, but a very narrow and fickle threshold exists where they all align. That’s how you get snow squalls and thundersnow.”

“So what’s the 5th ingredient?” Samantha Royle asked. “What produces a snownado from an otherwise normal snow squall?”

“A little holiday shear, my dear.” Dr. Summers winked, and gazed back down into her book. The students thanked her again as they walked outside toward Fuller’s ’97 Malibu.

“I’m glad everyone’s coming,” Erin said to the others. “I think we’re going to witness something truly spectacular.”

“Of course!” Fuller grinned. “I’m excited to be talking y’all along for the ride. We’re gonna have the best road trip ever!”


 

“This is the worst road trip ever!” M.T. decried. “We’re finally in Hooker, Oklahoma and we still have no idea where to find Dr. Summer’s cousin. I’ve been wedged in this middle seat for 4 hours while you two idiots argue across me. I should be up front since this is Memaw’s car anyway.”

“If anyone else should be sitting up there, it’s me.” Erin protested. “I’m the one leading the forecasting effort here, and you wouldn’t even know snownadoes existed if it weren’t for me.”

“For all we know, they don’t exist.” Brian argued. “M.T. is probably right, and him and I agree that he should be sitting up front with Samantha Royle sitting between us.”

“It’s not my fault I get carsick,” said Samantha Royle as she waved her hand out the shotgun seat window with the frigid air piercing Erin’s face in the seat behind her.

“She right, y’all.” Fuller said while grinning at Samantha Royle with one hand on the wheel. “Besides, Samantha Royle is the best navigator. She learned how to navigate all those tricky roads growin’ up in Johnson County.”

“Wichita’s got lots of roads too,” said Brian. “I think it would be helpful for Samantha Royle and I to navigate together from the back seat. If she’s in the middle she can still see out the front and not be carsick.”

“Who cares you guys, there’s like 2 roads here,” M.T. said. “I can’t believe I’m about to sound like my brother right now, but let’s just try to get through this drive without killing each other.”

“Maybe we could sing another Christmas carol to pass the time,” Erin suggested to the group. She leaned over M.T. and flirtingly punched Brian’s shoulder. “C’mon, Brian. I know you’ll love this song.” She began singing to the tune of Jingle Bells and the others joined in.

Driving through the snow
In a beat up Chevrolet
Through the yields we go
Traffic all the way
Cells are popping up
turning to the right
What fun it is to laugh and sing
Storm chasing songs tonight

Oh, single cells, single cells
Single all the way
Oh, what fun it is to chase
In a beat up Chevrolet
Oh, single cells, single cells
Single all the way
Oh, what fun it is to chase
In a beat up Chevrolet

A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon the tower clouds
Were rising side by side
The storm was mean and dark
The roadway turned to slop
We got into a shoulder ditch
And then our tire popped

Oh, single cells, single cells
Single all the way
Oh, what fun it is to chase
In a beat up Chevrolet
Oh, single cells, single cells
Single all the way
Oh, what fun it is to chase
In a beat up Chevrolet

Oh, single cells, single cells
Single all the way
Oh, what fun it is to chase
In a beat up Chevrolet
Oh, single cells, single cells
Single all the way
Oh, what fun it is to chase
In a beat up Chevrolet

Now the ground is white
Go grab some stones of hail
Take pics of them right now
Send them as email
Just get a weather app
Check the Doppler radar
Drive into the ol’ bear cage
And boom! you’ll see a nader!

Oh, single cells, single cells
Single all the way
Oh, what fun it is to chase
In a beat up Chevrolet
Oh, single cells, single cells
Single all the way
Oh, what fun it is to chase
In a beat up Chevrolet

As the song ended, the Malibu came to a halt at Hooker, Oklahoma’s stoplight. “Remember when Dr. Summer’s said her cousin was THE Panhandle Hooker?” Fuller asked. “Do you think she meant-”

“Hey big boy,” came a woman’s raspy voice as cigarette smoke rolled through the cracked window. “I heard you were looking for me.”

To Be Continued.

(Next: The Great Snownado Miracle – Chapter 3)

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