Despite a loud, late thunderstorm the night before, Western Connecticut State University junior meteorology student Jessica Stanley woke up unbelievably early on May 20 to check out a cyclone. Not the weather condition that involves a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms — this cyclone was the first hybrid roller coaster on the East Coast.
As part of the launch of Six Flags New England’s “Wicked Cyclone” coaster, the amusement park invited renowned storm chaser and meteorologist Reed Timmer and about two dozen meteorology students from WCSU to go for the first spin.
Stanley, a Southington resident, is studying operational meteorology at Western. She hopes to one day forecast weather on television before becoming a meteorology professor to share her love of weather with others. But on May 20, a different kind of cyclone was beckoning as she and several of her classmates got on the road at around 5 a.m. in order to make it to Agawam, Massachusetts, by 6:30 a.m. for “Media Day” at Six Flags.
Once there, Stanley and her classmates were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the coaster that features a 109-foot climb, a 78-degree drop and 24 different ride elements including two Zero-G rolls within 3,320 feet of track, at a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour.
After donning their “First to Ride” T-shirts, the WCSU students took their official spin on the Wicked Cyclone at 7 a.m.
“It was awesome,” Stanley said. “The click-climb as the ride ascends is always the hardest part, and this was very smooth. My favorite part was the barrel roll, a horizontal corkscrew at Zero-G. It was one of the best roller coasters I’ve ever been on.”
Equally adrenaline-inducing for the WCSU meteorology students was the presence of storm chaser Timmer and his fiancée, who had the honor of riding in the front row of the roller coaster on its maiden voyage.
“It was really cool to talk to them,” Stanley said. “They encouraged me to continue my meteorology studies.”