GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — It’s not your typical summer trip, but UNC Greensboro senior Thomas Knepshield loved every minute of his vacation.
“I saw a little cloud turn into this giant storm, then into a giant super cool bell-shaped supercell thunderstorm,” Knepshield said.
Over the summer, Knepshield drove across the plains of the United States looking for tornadoes.
“I drove from Chattanooga to Vernon, Texas, 1,006 miles, 18 hours. The next day I drove to Lubbock, Texas, and watched my first ever chase day,” Knepshield said.
That was a day Thomas will never forget.
“It dropped a tornado in a cornfield and it was the first tornado I ever saw and I freaked out when I saw it,” Knepshield said.
Knepshield had a plan for every storm he encountered. Safety is the top priority in storm chasing.
“I should be here and if I am here, the storm should move this way and if I need to escape, I can drop south or run away to the east,” Knepshield said.
As Knepshield traveled across America, he filmed lots of storms, took pictures of lightning and made friends within the storm chasing community.
“We worked together as a group, a bunch of random people coming together as a group trying to chase storms together,” Knepshield said. “Without them, I probably wouldn’t have done as well.”
It was a great experience for Knepshield, but not for his car. The black Subaru is covered in dents created by falling hailstones.
“There was one storm I was trying to get away from and I had to sit through the hail core and it dropped a barrage of golf balls onto my car.”
Living in a car that’s crammed with camera equipment and listening to hail bounce off your car for 40 days doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but it’s Knepshield’s dream.
“I definitely want to do this for the rest of my life,” Knepshield said. “It is so much fun. It’s great. It’s something that challenges. Every day is different, nothing will be the same.”
After graduation, Knepshield wants to go to graduate school and join the teams that chase storms and collect information that advances the science of meteorology.