By Renee Busby
Mobile Press-Register Staff Reporter
Courtesy of the Mobile Register 2011 © All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Lane Keeton saw the power and danger of tornadoes two weeks ago in Alabama.
He soon will be racing after such storms, hoping to examine them up close.
Keeton, 19, is joining eight other University of Mobile students on a storm-chasing tour through the Midwest.
The trip is part of a new course taught by Steve Carey, associate professor of biology.
The students have spent weeks in the classroom learning about super cells, forecasting and analysis, and the formation and structure of weather patterns.
For Carey, this is the seventh such trip. It's the first for the students, who will leave Saturday and be gone for seven days.
Carey said the odds of them actually seeing a tornado are low. Still, he can't predict what might happen.
The killer Alabama tornadoes of April 27 certainly left an impression on the students.
"My mom is scared," said Ashlee Lassiter, 19, of Prattville. "She's tried to talk me out of going three times."
Keeton couldn't find his family in battered Jasper. He tried calling, he said, but cell phone service had been knocked out.
He soon learned the good news that everyone was safe. In the interim, he said, "it was terrifying."
Alisha Brittnell, 20, who has relatives in the town of Phil Campbell, said when she saw the news she called her family and "told them how to seek shelter," something she learned in class.
Her parents made it through, but some of her neighbors and friends weren't so fortunate.
Amy Wright, a 19-year-old student from Mobile, came up with the idea for a course on storms and approached Carey. The university subsequently approved the class.
"In my relationship with God, I want to see his creation and to see what he's made - whether it's a tornado or sunset on the beach," Wright said.
Said Josh Hembree, 21, of Mobile, "The biggest thing for me is the mystery of it all in our modern day. ... We know very little about them and we can't stop them."
ON THE WEB
University of Mobile students are writing daily diaries about their experiences on their storm-chasing trip. Their diaries can be found at www.umobile.edu/blogs