Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Once in a Lifetime

Air Force One landing at 6:30
Air Force One prior to departure

I drove the white van in this picture
It was an experience that I'll never forget and as you've probably heard before, pictures just don't do a justice. I was invited to drive in the President's motorcade by a friend of mine from Ellsworth. She was 2 years ahead of me in high school and now works for the White House. I've always been really fascinated with the office of the President and some of the inner workings that you don't see on TV. It  doesn't matter who you voted for, you have to respect President Obama for his leadership and the job at hand because we know, it isn't easy. The chance of driving in his motorcade wasn't something I thought was possible for the general public, but they take a few volunteers to drive 15 passenger vans that carry members of the White House media staff, and that was my job in the motorcade.

The security sweep is very intense and takes place about 2.5 hours prior to Air Force One's arrival. Once cleared, the vehicles are lined up in the order in which they'll drive in the motorcade, and I was about 8 or 9 vehicles behind the President (I drove the white van in the picture next to the limousine). The amount of security was overwhelming to me, from secret service agents to snipers on top of buildings. It is nothing short of amazing to watch the security agents work to keep things moving. Once the motorcade starts, it doesn't stop until it reaches its final destination. Our drive lasted about 15 minutes, both to and from Joplin's Regional Airport to Missouri Southern State College. All entrance and exit ramps were closed and any possible access point to the motorcade route was closed off. It was like driving in a parade, but no candy was thrown and it moved at speeds up to 55 mph.

I was also very excited to see the President's limousine up close and amazed at how massive the vehicle must be to protect the passengers. The glass is extremely thick (like bank glass that tellers stand behind) and the doors must be 12 inches thick. The tires are reported to be all rubber and puncture proof, but just standing next to the car, it is tough to tell any difference between those tires and ones that would be on any car. With a huge smile on my face, I did get to shake hands with Mr. Obama, and the picture we took will come from the White House in a few weeks. There was just enough time to say our name and for him to thank us for driving in the motorcade Monday. So if you are thinking to yourself "if I ever meet the president someday, this is what I would say"... well you would be wrong because you are so overwhelmed with what is taking place, you don't even think to say anything other than "it's so nice to meet you"

The entire trip was one I won't ever forget. The tornado definitely left a mark on Joplin and even a year later, there is still some rubble that needs to be cleared and many buildings that haven't been constructed yet. It is tough to sum up my entire experience on this blog, but it was fantastic and I'll be sharing all of my pictures on the web, so be looking for them on KWCH.com

Air Force One just prior to touching down

Millie standing where a business once stood in Joplin

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New study taking place

A new research project is about to get started in the central and southeast US and the home base is going to be in Salina. Scientists are going to study the environment surrounding tall thunderstorms that reach into areas just below the stratosphere. Their ultimate goal is to learn more about the chemistry of the atmosphere that surround the cumulonimbus clouds (giant thunderheads) because this area of the atmosphere has a big influence on climate and patterns. Ozone, which traps large amounts of energy from the sun, gets carried to high altitudes when thunderstorms start rapidly developing.

There have been previous studies, but this one will focus more on the electrical activity, chemical makeup, and air movement at altitudes around 11 miles high in the atmosphere. Three research aircraft will be used in this project and will be based out of Salina, centrally located to the areas they will be flying (Colorado, Alabama, and Oklahoma). The plan is to fly around and through the tops of thunderstorms to collect data. Other tools, including lightning mapping and mobile radars, will be used to put together a comprehensive picture of the storms. The picture attached is the Gulfstream V that will be flying at the highest altitudes.

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