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Purdue Storm Chasers Hit Pay Dirt During Outbreak

Three Purdue University students who rejected a professor’s warning and became storm chasers during last week’s tornado outbreak say they hit pay dirt during their adrenaline-fueled trek.

Purdue atmospheric science students Steve Abston, Josh Gimbel and David Siple said one of their professors had emailed students in the department to warn them against going storm chasing because tornadoes are so unpredictable. But the trio opted not to take that advice and headed out in a pickup truck on Nov. 17.

The students, who have National Weather Service training, initially didn’t have any luck with their storm chasing.

But Abston told the Journal & Courier that luck changed when they watched the “genesis” of a tornado forming near the Boone County town of Elizaville. They followed the swirling storm until it dissipated and shot a video that includes their shouts of glee at the moment when it touched down.

“There was a great adrenaline rush,” Abston said. “We’re looking at it as this great force of nature. We understand the destruction and tragedy they cause.”

Abston said he experienced a “flip-flop of emotion” initially because he feared the tornado might hit his mother’s nearby home. But his mother’s home was spared.

Siple, who’s been storm chasing since he was 16, said the main reason for the perilous excursions is to alert the National Weather Service so meteorologists can quickly confirm a storm and alert local officials.

“People think it’s all about the show or getting on the news. For me, personally, it’s the thrill of what we see … and calling into the National Weather Service to pinpoint where the warnings have to be so people can get underground and be safe,” he said.

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