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FROM A PACK OF NABS TO A FUNNEL ON THE GROUND

I was driving down I-40 this past weekend and took notice of the excessive traffic on the road. I saw no evidence of a wreck, and there was no holiday being celebrated. Still, the usually brisk pace of interstate travel had suddenly slowed to a 40 mph crawl. As I glanced over at the car beside me, I could barely see the driver. She was buried under about 8,000 suitcases and boxes. Then it finally hit me. It was "move-in" day.

An annual rite-of-passage for college students, "move-in" day had to be one of the most miserable experiences of the year. When I was a freshman at NC State (many, many years ago), I remember the total chaos of 32,000 students (and their eager families) scurrying about the campus, rather like ants on a massive hill of residence halls and classrooms. Unlike many of my friends, I had no older siblings who could lend me their experience. In fact, most of the people I knew were majoring in agricultural fields. I was the only FFA member from my hometown majoring in meteorology.

The hallowed halls of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (home to NCSU's meteorology department) were filled with some of the most brilliant minds I've ever met. I was not one of them. I must admit, I've always envied folks who could sail through college without ever cracking a book. For me, the only way to survive academia was to study to the point of exhaustion. Classes were hard, and many a restless night was spent with visions of calculus derivations swimming in my head.

We all have methods for coping with daily pressures. For me, I enjoyed the solitude of study on the top floors of Jordan Hall. At night, the main classrooms were closed. Only the glass library and top floor meteorology labs were open to students, but each floor was equipped with a little row of chairs and couches. Sometimes I would spend several hours by the glow of the vending machine, sunk deeply on a Jordan Hall couch with a mountain of books on top of me. Back then, my poison of choice was a Mountain Dew and a pack of nabs (lance crackers, for you northern folks).

On August 14, 2011, the "move-in" day plans of many college students were slowed occasionally due to thunderstorms. There were even reports of funnel clouds in Pender and New Hanover counties. Thankfully, no tornadoes were officially confirmed. Some of you may be wondering about the definition of "tornado". After all, tornadoes develop from funnel clouds. But they are not the same thing. In order for a funnel cloud to become a tornado, the visible circulation must reach all the way to the surface.

During the August 14 event, none of the reported "funnel clouds" managed to reach ground level. As a result, there will be no officially cataloged "tornadoes" for the event. No major damages were reported locally, and no injuries occurred. The storms did provide cooler temperatures and welcome cloud cover. And trust me- when you are a college student hauling a year's worth of possessions to a non-air-conditioned dorm in the month of August, cloud cover is a good thing.

(SEND COMMENTS TO JERRY AT jjackson@wwaytv3.com)

By: Jerry Jackson