We are located in Guymon in the western panhandle of Oklahoma (our GPS tracker still has us pegged in the central part of the state as we haven’t successfully pinged any digipeaters with our APRS system out here in the high plains). After a flurry of days when we were on storms each afternoon and evening, we took advantage of a welcome break in the action and visited Palo Duro Canyon in Texas topped off with a hearty dinner at the Big Texan in Amarillo. Both stops have long been mainstays of our adventures out here. In future times I hope to return with hiking boots and backpacks in-tow with my family.
Below is a picture of the Ripley OK tornado from Thursday as it moves behind the roadside treeline. Intercepting storms in this area is much like catching storms in central parts of Virginia: rolling topography and lots of trees.
We are still trying to digest the events that unfolded in the Oklahoma City area on Friday, and how it re-affirms our commitment to safety first when engaging storms. Located a few miles south of the storm, we could see the extremely dark cloud bases/wall clouds, and I imagined what a turbulent place that would be, crowded with people in their cars, many of them stuck in traffic with no place to go as mesocyclones and their accompanying tornadoes moved eastbound close to I-40. Baseball-sized hail and flooding rainfall also pounded residents, chasers, and travelers under those ominous cloud bases. As traffic began to increase from our vantage point from fleeing motorists, continual scanning of radar forced a move southward as the storm began to encroach on the road, and we moved southward to maintain our distance. The picture of what happened in the Oklahoma City area is beginning to unfold, and I will let that evolve over the next several days with some follow-up. The storms that we pursue are non-selective in who they impact or what they destroy. The tragic events on Friday remind us of that, whether it is a local resident returning home from work, or a long-time storm researcher who dedicated his life to the study of those very storms.
Just a quick post. We intercepted a supercell west of Guthrie OK today, and followed it through multiple RFD cycles until it produced a tornado near Ripley OK. Great wall clouds with this storm and a later cell that tracked on a very similar path. Will try to post higher-quality photos from my good camera when time permits, the tornado shots are on that camera.
Two active days of difficult chasing…netted on mini-supercell north of Salina (and north of the big, nearly stationary cell near salina that produced a tornado we couldn’t reach). The bottom photo shows this storm. The top photo shows a tornado-warned segment of an intense line of storms in the TX Panhandle and westernmost OK area. It is interesting in that the structure of the storm showed more of a wall cloud-like structure in the distance, not unlike many HP storms we have seen. Storms lined out today, minimizing the tornado threat but ramping up widespread wind damage potential. Managed to catch an awesome shelf cloud with a bowing line of storms in the TX Panhandle and western OK.
A few photos shot by Trevor White on our crew. The first two show the storm near Hayes KS as the wall cloud crosses very close to our location.
The photos below come from Wichita KS, as the tornadic supercell roars toward the western edge of town. Note the ground-scraping wall cloud in the photo below. Inflow winds were screaming inward toward this feature. We were forced to bail off of this storm as we began to become pinned in between the storm and the outskirts of Wichita. The bottom photo shows the precipitation core that is being wrapped around the mesocyclone, as it moves eastbound toward us.
Our day in Oklahoma was busy, with the funnel pictured below and the dark wall cloud located west of Purcell OK early in our day.
The cell east of Waco was the anchor cell in the system, and continued to be the most impressive storm in the region. Wall clouds, green coloration, and spectacular shelf clouds highlighted this storm. Here, the menacing shelf cloud approaches the roadside as we stop to observe it on the rural roads of Texas. The bottom photo shows the storm closing the gap at an intersection of roads in a small town southeast of Waco.
Will be posting additional photos here. -Dave
A number of tough days in a row, and gearing up for another. Intercepted a number of different supercells over a couple oaf days in Kansas, including the storm below near Hayes…multiple wall clouds and funnels, but no obvious touchdown.
Sunday was spent in southeast Kansas, and we intercepted a tornadic cell near Clearwater/Wichita, and additional cells to the east.
Monday put us in Oklahoma, just south of the Oklahoma City area. We were on the cell south of Moore, which produced the powerful tornado that moved through the populated area. What tempting to intercept storms in more urban areas is simply too frustrating and dangerous, with traffic stop and go traffic and congestion on the roadways. We spent several hours working around storms producing wall clouds and funnel clouds, but poor visibility prevented definitive tornado sightings. The Moore storm serves as a reality check on the power of these storms.
Resting in Salina Kansas tonight after a couple of tough days. A long first day drive put us in Conway Arkansas on Tuesday night. We had our eye on north Texas for a number of days as a first chase target, and our forecast certainly proved accurate. On our drive westward out of Arkansas, we ran into thunderstorm cells east of Oklahoma City. Any potential route down I-35 south into Texas was blocked or slowed by extensive coverage of hail-producing thunderstorms, so our only option was a route southwestward through Lawton OK and Wichita Falls TX. We rolled through some storms, and cruised past some nice structure on the backside of the thunderstorms. Nearing the Red River we noticed a particularly well-defined cell and opted to veer off course to play tag with it for awhile. The base of the storm continued to organize and produced a nice wall cloud with a distinct funnel under it. Due to hills and trees, we could not determine whether any tornadic circulation reached the ground under the funnel. The shot by Trevor White below shows the wall cloud and funnel.
As this storm moved into an area where the road network became poor, we continued southward across the Red River into Texas. The location of the dryline became obvious over time as clouds to the west became moisture starved, while robust development continued to the east of our route south of Wichita Falls into Wise county. We targeted a cell that was the southernmost cell at the time in a loose line of relatively discrete storms. Winding roads an trees obscured the low-level view of the storm at times, but we pressed onward, continually trying to maneuver around the storm. Several times the storm appeared to produce possible tornadoes under the wall clouds, but we weren’t able to confirm it with terrain and poor contrast under the storm. Below is another shot taken by Trevor White, our photographer, of the storm as it approaches the town of Alford in Wise County TX. A tornado was reported with this storm shortly after this photo was taken.
We were able to position ourselves very close to the rotating updraft at dusk, and observed rapidly rising and rotating cloud tags under the cell. If we had other travel options southward this day that would have saved some time, we may have targeted the storm further south that produced the Hood County tornado this day. Will post more as time permits. Setting up for a multi-day chase period coming up. -Dave
Under 20 days until the first crew departs for the plains. A packing list will be sent shortly, and you should begin preparations soon as time will fly toward May 14. Here is a photo from a past trip to stoke the fire (wall cloud at Union City OK in 2012). -Dave