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2023 - new ST owner - Jeff Duda - meet and greet

Jeff Duda

site owner, PhD
Staff member
Site owner
Supporter
Hello, Stormtrack!

I am honored to have been selected to lead this site. I figure it might be nice if I shared my background so that the community is familiar with the person who runs the forum.

I was born and raised in Iowa, in the town of Marion (near Cedar Rapids). I graduated from high school in 2003 and attended the University of Iowa (2003-2006), Iowa State University (2006-2011), and the University of Oklahoma (2011-2016). I am a big fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes, which is the main reason I elected to attend UI (I marched in the marching band all three years I was there). My academic background is meteorology, but also mathematics. I also did a lot of music stuff, especially at UI.

I grew up watching The Weather Channel in the 1990s and idolized storm chasers at the time. I watched many of the TWC specials on storm chasing and even seriously told people I wanted to be a storm chaser when I grew up. The release of the movie "Twister" was like the pinnacle of my childhood fanaticism with the sport, but it began fading shortly after (I got made fun of a lot for my interest in weather and the movie).

I finally got into storm chasing in 2006-2007. I technically chased a tornado warned storm from my parents' house in June 2006 (after it passed over). I pursued it for about 30 miles before giving up as I was trying to catch up from behind and got into golf ball hail in my dad's truck (I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have approved, as he didn't know I was chasing in it). It was really in 2007 after I had transferred to Iowa State and joined the students who storm chased in the meteorology program that I started to become more familiar with the science and had people to help guide me. My first serious chases were in 2008, though, and it was in the fall of that year that I joined Stormtrack. I heard about it from a fellow student. Interestingly, I had trouble getting accepted back then (the board seemed to have some tight rules regarding email addresses that were allowed...I only had a university email at that time). My storm chasing exploded starting in 2008 when I was offered the opportunity to drive a vehicle for the TWISTEX project, which was recruiting Iowa State students for a few weeks of driving at a time. My first chase with TWISTEX was 29 May 2008, the day of the Kearney, NE and Tipton, KS tornadic supercells on an SPC High Risk day. It was my first actual tornado on a chase and I was terrified being as close as we were. Later that evening, after giving up on chasing the main tornado, two of the TWISTEX vehicles (including me) managed to find their spot under an anticyclonic spin-up well behind the main tornado. Chris Collura was also there, and captured video of it! Use this link:
(yes, that was me frantically turning after the tornado passed).

Unfortunately, my chasing has severely dwindled over the past 5 years. Much of that is due to shifting life circumstances. It was easy to chase when I was a student and had fewer responsibilities, and a partner to handle housing duties while I chased. After getting divorced in 2016 I had to take care of my pets myself, which limited the amount of time I could spend away from home on a chase (effectively leashing me to my home base). Since about 2019, however, storm activity in my region of the world has been pretty pathetic, which has contributed itself to reduced chasing. I did actually get a few chases and tornadoes in 2023, though, through chance opportunities.

I currently reside in Denver, CO with my wife Renee and our three dogs. We rent a house, but would like to buy one eventually (housing costs in our area are absurd). We are also trying to start a family. I have been a research scientist for the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder since moving to Colorado in 2018. I am a "cooperative institute" employee, which is an industry term that means I am shared with some other entity. In this case, I am donated to NOAA's Global Systems Laboratory which is housed on the NIST campus in Boulder, CO. My work has revolved around developing and verifying the RAP/HRRR forecast model, and soon to become the RRFS (replacement of the HRRR). I also work on data assimilation and innovating forecast verification, but continue to sit in on committees that investigate forecasting extreme weather, as well as the NSSL group that develops the WoFS system.

In conversation with the rest of the staff lately, we have some ideas for how to revamp the site a bit and hopefully draw some folks back. I will roll out some of these ideas gradually over the next several months. In the meantime I encourage all to ask me questions about all things related to the staff and the site. Consider this thread something of an AMA (ask me anything), although I may decline to answer certain questions if I feel they are inappropriate.

My goal as (interim) owner of ST is to promote continuity of the community, but also foster an environment where both newcomers and veterans feel comfortable returning to share stories, shoot the shit, and learn more about storm chasing and its related sub-disciplines (e.g, photography, digital technology, automotive, instrumentation, atmospheric physics). I am not explicitly trying to increase membership just for the sake of statistics or creating a popular website - social media is king in the realm of online communities and has been for more than a decade now. I don't see that changing, and it is unrealistic to think that Stormtrack is going to return to a powerhouse community by pulling people back from social media sites where the more popular storm chasers have significant, dedicated fan bases (most of whom probably have never even heard of Stormtrack). Also, as Stormtrack is a non-profit, volunteer organization, we simply lack to capital and funding to create anything that can compete with modern social media. Stormtrack is meant to be a bit more relaxed and informal.
 
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Congratulations, Jeff, and thanks for taking on this task. And we have a couple of things in common - I also grew up in Iowa (Waterloo), though long before you were born. Used to regularly watch Conrad Johnson on Channel 2, one of the all-time great TV mets. And now I, too, live in Colorado, although in retirement and a long way from Denver (Pagosa Springs). And, by the way, your post was anything but terse - thanks for all that detailed information about yourself.
 
Congrats Jeff, I'm sure you'll be up to the challenge! Thanks for sharing your vision, I'm happy to know the site will not only continue but continue mostly in the same capacity.
 
Thank you, Jeff, for leading this site. Stormtrack was my first stop when my interest in meteorology turned to storm chasing. I recently became a member and can't wait to see the rebuild.
 
I'm letting this introductory period sort of run its course. The staff will announce some upcoming plans/changes/feature additions, probably before the end of 2022 (the announcement, not necessarily feature implementations).
 
I was never even close to being a regular poster here, as I don't feel I'm even close to knowing enough to converse intelligently about weather with you all. Still, I've always enjoyed the site and like stopping in. I'll try to come by a bit more and be a little more active. Congrats and thank you for keeping this site going.
 
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