2005 HHS graduate: Nick Corbett: Storm ChaserIt might not be everybody’s cup of tea to chase after tornadoes for hundreds of miles and sometimes get too close for real comfort. But that’s what Nick Corbett enjoys most of all.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
It might not be everybody’s cup of tea to chase after tornadoes for hundreds of miles and sometimes get too close for real comfort.
But that’s what Nick Corbett enjoys most of all.
Corbett, 24, a 2005 Hudson High School graduate, is a member of the Storm Chase Club at St. Cloud, Minn., University. Over the last two and one-half years, he has been close to a couple significant weather events.
“We get close, but not too close,” he said during a conversation in Hudson last week.
The average layman has only a rudimentary knowledge of what storm chasers do, probably from the 1996 movie “Twister.” But to the real professional, Corbett said, “It’s not that elegant. Most of the equipment they had in the movie wouldn’t work.”
In reality Corbett and members of the club spend days preparing forecasts and when the conditions are right for a possible tornado they make a prediction where it will hit and drive to the area.
They use cell phones to report the conditions to the weather service and have CB radios to communicate between vehicles. They also use a laptop to keep in touch with the weather while on the road. Storms are classified weakest, EF-0, to the strongest, EF-5.
Corbett is the driver and his Chevy Blazer is the main means to follow the storm. “I have 162,000 miles on it,” he said. “The university won’t buy us gas, but we can get equipment deals through the club.”
Storm chasing is not confined to a small area either. “On June 20, we left St. Cloud at 9 a.m. and ended in Osceola, Neb. That was 950 miles and we saw two tornadoes,” he said, including the EF-3 at Osceola.
On June 17, 2010, the club followed the EF-4 tornado that hit Wadena, Minn. “The storm wrapped around back and we got a good car wash,” he said. “We were in perfect position.”
The storm season started early this year. In April the club chased a storm over 1,300 miles from Iowa to southeastern Wisconsin, Corbett said.
When Corbett graduates from SCSU next spring, he will have a bachelor’s degree in meteorology and physics and would qualify as a weatherman on TV. “I have taken a broadcast class, but that isn’t my strongest desire,” he said. “I’d like to work in research. There are a lot of private sector forecasting businesses in the Twin Cities.”
He’ll continue with the club until graduation. “It helps teach other people how to chase storms safely and smart,” Corbett said. “They learn that when they see damage to stop and help.”
He enjoys the activities of the club because, “You see what you learn in class put to practice.”
Corbett is the son of Ken and Cindy Corbett. He has two brothers, Bryan, HHS 2003, and Drew, HHS 2006.
He started his pursuit of a meteorology degree at Northland College in Ashland. After a year, he joined the Marine Corps where he suffered an injury at a training school that ended his military career.
“I got run over by an Army medical bus,” he said while attending a joint service school at Fort Lee, Va. He was literally run over by the vehicle and severely injured. The accident resulted in a medical discharge from the Corps with a disability.
Corbett returned to Northland for a year and one-half when the college dropped his major and he transferred to St. Cloud State to finish. “I knew I wanted to be a forecaster or do anything with weather when I was a sophomore at Hudson High School,” he said.