History for the U of M storm chasing course

The chase years


In 2011 we drove a ridiculous distance, had a documentary crew with us, saw a bow echo transition to a supercell, core-punched loonie-sized hail and heard tornado sirens (without seeing a tornado).


2009 saw the course catch some stunning storm structure, and almost all the time of the course was spent south of 49. It involved, again, a lot of driving as far south as Kansas.


We spent a lot of time in Red Deer in 2007, as the upper ridge axis stayed pretty much over the Rockies, not allowing storms to maintain themselves after moving off the foothills. If you look on YouTube, you may find a rap being done by one of the students, with one of the instructors providing the beat.


2006 was the year of driving. 5000 km. And the year of the newspaper reporter. A Winnipeg Free Press reporter and a photographer joined us for the storm chase that year, which took us to Alberta one day and to Iowa 2 days later. We saw a nice supercell in Alberta but had a colossal cap bust day in Iowa; in a small consolation, so did pretty much every other chaser in North America. And the pool party with pizza and beer didn't hurt afterwards, either.


2005 was the guinea pig year for the chase. We worked out a lot of the kinks associated with the logistics of the course, but despite some bumps we managed to catch the best storms (or on one day, clouds) in the potential chase area. We didn't catch any tornadoes, but we did see a nice supercell or two. And we held a great birthday party for one of the instructors when we were in Bowman, ND.

Pre-course timeline

The seeds for the U of M storm chasing trip began way back in 1990, when a forecaster from the Winnipeg weather office met Paul Sirvatka, a professor of meteorology at the College of DuPage, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. They hit it off well, and a friendship was forged.

1999 featured the arrival of John Hanesiak, who holds a Ph.D. in meteorology, as a forecaster in the Winnipeg office.

Fast-forward to 2001, and Paul Sirvatka (the CoD guy), who by then had run a storm chasing course out of the CoD since 1991, enlisted the help of the forecaster and a student from the Winnipeg weather office: their July trip would potentially take them up to Canada and this would require tour guides of sorts, Canadians to help them get around in Canada and help them build their knowledge of Canadian storm climatology.

In the intervening years, the student (now a meteorologist at the Winnipeg weather office) kept up the relationship with the CoD, meeting them from time to time on a storm chase, in such far-flung places as Red Deer, AB and Wichita, KS.

By 2005, Hanesiak had moved on to be a professor of meteorology at the University of Manitoba, but kept his ties with the Winnipeg weather office. He was approached early that year with an off-the-wall idea: why not run a storm chasing course, for credit, out of the U of M. He proposed it and it was accepted, with a start to the course of that summer! Some might call this idea of the first Canadian storm chase course a ripoff, but we prefer to refer to it as an hommage.

Last update to this page: November 25, 2011