Australian thunderstorm sucks up paragliders

This is the first I've heard of such a thing. It's on MSNBC's homepage as well. Evidently the updraft pulled her up to 32,000 ft. How could a person even survive such rapid decompression? (Another man wasn't as fortunate, looks like.)

The altitude was enough to encase her in ice. It's amazing she survived. She mentioned that she was surrounded in hail the size of oranges and could hear lightning all around her. Talk about your ultimate chase ... I wonder who the first person will be to actually try this intentionally.
 
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Wow is all that I can say.
I have heard of other bodies being found encased in ice from the same thing, but the last that I remember that was back in 1920's
To hear of something like this happening in my lifetime, and the person surviving it is amazing.
 
I talked with with a counterpart of mine at the BOM fellow chaser Harald Richter. He described the thunderstorms to be typical weakly sheared convection strong enough to produce some heavy rain and a downburst. He's archiving the nearest radar data but right now Ewa's incredible ride probably didn't include orange sized hail. I doubt I'd do any better in maintaining scientific rationality if I were in her place. I don't know if I'd be alive to even provide an exaggeration of hail size. What a lucky experience she had!
 
I am going to play Devil's Advocate here and say that the organisers and competitors ( it was a practice day ) of the event should have known better. At the level of experience we are talking - world championship, I am sure you should know a developing thunderstorms when you see them. Storms on this day were not a 'surprise' and were firmly in the forecast.

I witnessed a related mind numbing event a few years back on a storm chase. It was a typical western Sydney storm, formed over the Blue Mountains, drifted east and weakened. However the Bureau had had a severe storm warning out, probably not needed, but with near 100F in western Sydney dry microbursts could still occur even from half dead convection. I pulled up to a favourite lookout, very dissapointed with storm, when lo and behold dropping from right under the anvil comes about 20 people from the local sky diving school. They were perfectly safe, but the point is I knew this as a chaser, but based on the current knowledge all the school would have known is that a severe storm warning was current !

I am not a wowser that belives all sport with danger should be controlled. If you want to surf 30ft Hawaiin waves, so be it. It you want to ski dangerous ski slopes , fine. These are the very vechiles to enhancing the 'thrill' - but a thunderstorm for paragliding is a 'thrill '.
 
The story is incredible. But I was struck by the fact that a paraglider could be sucked into the inflow of a storm, record data, and come out of it in one piece. Her analogy of a "leaf" is, perhaps, a good one.

Has anyone ever considered flying drone "radio-controlled" paragliders (with instrumentation) into storms for research purposes? It seems like a lot of incredible data could be available in there, with the right instrumentation was onboard.

Sounds like a great research project, eh? ("Paging Tim Samaras!")
 
I am going to play Devil's Advocate here and say that the organisers and competitors ( it was a practice day ) of the event should have known better. At the level of experience we are talking - world championship, I am sure you should know a developing thunderstorms when you see them. Storms on this day were not a 'surprise' and were firmly in the forecast.

From my understanding she was just out doing some practice runs on her own, it could be my lack of knowledge about paragliding championship but if she was just doing some practice runs during her own time then I can't see myself saying that they should have known better.

It would be like me competiting in the PGA, and days before I go out to the local golf course to practice and I get struck by lightning.
 
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The story is incredible. But I was struck by the fact that a paraglider could be sucked into the inflow of a storm, record data, and come out of it in one piece. Her analogy of a "leaf" is, perhaps, a good one.

Has anyone ever considered flying drone "radio-controlled" paragliders (with instrumentation) into storms for research purposes? It seems like a lot of incredible data could be available in there, with the right instrumentation was onboard.

Sounds like a great research project, eh? ("Paging Tim Samaras!")

Hmm.. that's an interesting idea, Darren. I've always wondered though how you could boost the signal of wireless transmitters to make it reach back to your location to record it on the computer.
 
Hmm.. that's an interesting idea, Darren. I've always wondered though how you could boost the signal of wireless transmitters to make it reach back to your location to record it on the computer.

I would imagine instrumentation that was more or less a "black box" (recovered after being ejected by the storm) that would be in record-mode from the moment of release (and have a locator device on it - similar to a GPS-enabled cell phone - to aid in recovery). I would imagine that the drone would not always survive, but the black box survivability would be the issue.

The benefit of the paraglider is that it has close to "neutral buoyancy" (it will go up or down - whereever the storm winds take it.) The engine would need to be cut as soon as it was detected that the the paraglider had passed the storm's "event horizon" and was being pulled in.
 
Regarding the possible research use of these type of vehicles, it seems to me that one would, to get an acceptable risk vs. reward, a very heavy-duty -- almost hardened -- parasail/wing.

When the paraglider mentioned feeling like a leaf, I thought that, of course, it would be as such. With such intense updrafts and hail, I am surprised the sail stayed intact.

I wonder, if the same act were repeated a hundred times, if in 90 out of 100, the sail might collapse. Is that what happened to the unfortunate glider who died? Or was his craft found intact, with him only succumbing to hypoxia and/or temperature?

add: of course, strengthening the craft would likely add an unacceptable amount of weight, preventing travel to very high altitudes, IMO
 
That would be interesting to see someone attempt at doing something like that, Darren. If I had the knowledge and funds to do such a project, I think it would be interesting to try.
 
Regarding the possible research use of these type of vehicles, it seems to me that one would, to get an acceptable risk vs. reward, a very heavy-duty -- almost hardened -- parasail/wing.


add: of course, strengthening the craft would likely add an unacceptable amount of weight, preventing travel to very high altitudes, IMO


I disagree...
If a Hailstone can get up there.. then a wing with a moderately decent fall/glide ratio , once caught in the updraft, would go right on up. These things could be pretty small.

--
Tom
 
I'm probably in sci-fi-land here, but I'm thinking that if a a paraglider can be "like a leaf" inside the meso, then it would (hopefully) get into the place where the hail is formed. It would essentially be traveling up and down with the hail as it gets layers of ice added onto it. It would seem to me that as long as the paraglider "chute/wing" did not become encased in ice it would continue to function well inside the storm. Paraglider fabrics can be kevlar, and I'm guessing that would be the best material for taking inside a hail environment. Dreaming here, but would it be possible to design a functional "chute/wing" that would be kevlar, containing a mesh of Nichrome wire that would keep it warm enough to stay de-iced? The engine could kick in a generator to provide the necessary juice (while disengaging the prop so it would be free to follow the forces of the updraft).

What say we get a National Science Foundation grant and build one of these puppies? :)
 
Im with Micheal Thompson on this one. Why carry out a championship when there is a possibility for thunderstorms. Sounds alot like the couple of hikers getting introuble on Mt Hood. Makes me wonder if people actually do weather research before an event. I check the weather every single day and plan accordingly. I suppose common sense is out of order nowdays.

No matter what, This is an incredible story. I prefer the Ice glazed fish and birds and other objects that typically get caught in the updraft and suprise someone miles later.

Would be nice if there was a way to Attach a High Definition camera to a Balloon that in turn when the Updraft takes it up we could see what the guts of a thunderstorm looks like. Something to think about...

-gerrit
 
Good day,

I think I posted several subjects in older threads relating to updraft speeds in thunderstorms. Cloud suck is what glider / parachute pilots call it, and it can be very VERY bad.

In a weak thunderstorm, during development, updrafts can reach 40-50 MPH (about 20 M/S or roughly 3,600 feet per minute). So an ascent rate of 20 M/S is possible indeed. A descent rate of over 30 M/S is even more likely in a downdraft.

Now, comparing this to a great plains supercell is another story. In such storms, updrafts can be as high as 150, or even 175 MPH! Get pulled into something like that under a paraglider / parachute and you'll go from 1,000 feet above the ground to 30,000 feet in a mere 2 minutes - and you will not stop at 30 grand either, you most likely will be propelled into the anvil (40 or 50 thousand feet) and carried downwind by the jet stream and land (most likely frozen and dead) several states over.

Remember the Hallam, NE tornado on May 22, 2004? A check from Hallam bank, which was destroyed, landed in Omaha / Papillion Nebraska, over 80 miles away, about 26 minutes after the tornado hit Hallam, where a woman found it falling out of the blowoff-hazed sky into her yard while sweeping up. This could have easily been a person unlucky enough to parachute near such a storm.

The most obvious dangers are as follows, from most dangerous to least, from being drawn up into ANY thunderstorm updraft.

1). Lack of oxygen. Once above 15,000 feet MSL, a table for time of useful consciousness applies. At 20,000 feet, it's about 4 minutes. 25,000 feet, its 1-2 minutes. At 30,000 feet, it's 30 seconds. At 40,000 feet it's 15 seconds. Above 45,000 feet, it's 5-10 seconds. An updraft can bring you to these heights in only minutes.

2). Freezing / frostbite. At high altitudes, especially above 20,000 feet MSL, temperature is often below zero - year round. Degrees F or C, does not matter, it's cold! You can freeze to death, be soaked with supercooled water and / or ice, and be severely frosbitten. Frostbite, if that's all you get (if you're lucky) is nasty, and forms gangrene, which can lead to amputations. You also can quickly become hypothermic and go into shock. Or, you can get ALL of the above.

3). The bends. Just like a diver coming up too fast from under water, going up from near sea-level to high altitude can do the same thing. A rapid ascent, such as from 1,000 feet to over 24,000 feet in 5 minutes can give you the bends as dissolved nitrogen in your blood comes out of solution and forms bubbles. Joint pain becomes severe, then headache, vomiting, and nerve damage. Not good.

4). Hail / lightning. These are dangerous, obviously, to anything being caught inside a thunderstorm. Hail causes bruises, and can break bones. An in-air lightning strike will have obvious consequences.

5). Distance. You can land, or what-ever is left of you, very very far away. Bad scenarios can be carried out to sea, into a desert, forest, mountains, or any place difficult for a search / rescue.

Notes: Falling unconsious and hypothermia can SOMETIMES extend the time until "brain death" due to slowing the body's metabolism. As for the Asian paraglider, this came too slowly as he was probably frozen / hypothermic while panicking first.
 
Remember the Hallam, NE tornado on May 22, 2004? A check from Hallam bank, which was destroyed, landed in Omaha / Papillion Nebraska, over 80 miles away, about 26 minutes after the tornado hit Hallam, where a woman found it falling out of the blowoff-hazed sky into her yard while sweeping up.

PLAINS, GA (AP) -- A retired south-Georgia farmer was surprised when a check from Enterprise, Alabama, landed in a dirt road at his 250 acre farm just hours after powerful tornadoes hit Enterprise.

Seventy-seven-year-old Jack Short can only surmise it was carried on the wind more than 100 miles from Enterprise, hours before a tornado devastated nearby Americus.

He said today -- quote -- "It came from Alabama, I reckon."

Unfortunately it's not exactly a windfall because the check was only for three dollars-88 cents and it was cashed in 1970.

Short, who now rents most of his 250-acre farm to younger farmers, said he spotted the check yesterday afternoon while making a daily inspection of his property and looking over his 25-head of cattle.

He said -- quote -- "The tornado warnings were out and it was cloudy and raining. I saw a piece of paper laying in the road that wasn't there before. I had just heard on T-V that the school was hit in Enterprise."

His discovery came as the South and the Midwest were bombarded by tornadoes and thunderstorms that that killed eight students at the Enterprise high school and also left two people dead in Americus, a town of 17-thousand people about 130 miles south of Atlanta.

Short's farm is located about halfway between Americus and Plains, the hometown of former President Jimmy Carter. Plains escaped serious damage, but trees south of town were toppled by the high winds.

The check from Mr. and Mrs. James W- Riley was dated July 27th, 1970, and appears to be a payment to the Southeast Alabama Gas District. It is remarkably well preserved with only slight smudging, after its air mail delivery to the Short farm.

Created: 3/10/2007 3:21:41 PM
Updated: 3/10/2007 3:29:08 PM

http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/strange/news-article.aspx?storyid=77657
 
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