March 27, 2004 Chase

Chad, Susan, Jo, and myself piled into Susan's Mazda and drove west on I-40, targeting western Oklahoma. We intercepted our first storm near Burns Flat, and stayed with it for about an hour, using a network of back roads that eventually led us back across I-40 and north of there. The storm looked promising, and a few times we thought it would produce a tornado. However it didn't, and by this time our road options were starting to become few. We decided to let the storm go for the time being, and head back south to the interstate. From there, we'd race east to Clinton, get ahead of the storm again, and then head north on US183 to intercept it. During the execution of this plan, the storm seemed less impressive. Nature was calling me as we neared Clinton, and I had Susan stop at a store just north of the interstate. With no sense of urgency whatsoever, I took care of business, then made my way back to the car. We got back on the road, and within a minute, a tornado warning was issued for the storm.

We drove north through town and back onto open highway. This stretch of US183, we were discovering, was horrible for viewing, with several rolling hills. However a few miles north of town, we began to catch glimpses of the lowering, and about a minute later, the first tornado of the day. Because the view was so bad, we just kept driving, getting a brief look here and there. We finally found a nice spot with a clear view, but by the time we stopped and got out, the tornado was gone. We continued north through Arapaho, and then to OK33, where we turned east.

By now it was obvious the storm meant business and wasn't through. We had a good position on the overall storm itself, but there was a lot of rain wrapping around the circulation. We stopped west of Custer City to watch the storm, and moments later the second tornado of the day developed. Over the next few minutes it became wider, but began to disappear in the heavy precipitation. We sat there until we could no longer make it out, then continued east through Custer City and on to the town of Thomas.

Just east of Thomas, we dropped south a few miles onto OK54. We found a nice spot and watched the storm evolve. It seemed to be cycling down a bit, but we still had great position so we stayed with it. The area where we'd seen the previous tornado seemed to be weakening, but after a few more minutes a new area of rotation developed further south, just a few miles northwest of us and nearly on top of Thomas. A cone funnel developed, and became the third tornado of the day. It narrowed and stretched further towards the ground, but was gone after a few minutes. Once the tornado dissipated, we went north back to OK33, then east.

Just southwest of Fay, we decided to break off the storm, as it was looking weaker. A new storm had developed to our southwest, in the same area the first one had, and was looking better by the minute. We plotted a course back down OK33 to OK54, and then south across I-40 to OK54A, east of Corn. We set up there and shot video, watching the storm as it slowly lumbered east. It had great structure and was rotating nicely, but just didn't seem to have any tornado potential. After several minutes, we decided to head back north to the interstate, and then go east. We stopped at a travel center along the interstate, north of Hinton. By now the storm still looked pretty, but didn't look tornadic at all. We were all hungry, and with the storm seemingly in a declining state, we decided to call it a day and get some food.

The travel center had a Sonic inside it, so I naturally went for a Supersonic cheeseburger. All of us took our time, walking around, chatting with other chasers, and just relaxing from a long day on the road. I wandered through the main lobby, said hello to Gene Moore, and then walked back outside to the car. Another carload of chasers had pulled in next to us, and were watching radar. I walked over and leaned in. The storm looked awesome on radar, and when I turned around to look at the actual storm in the sky again, it looked just as impressive. For whatever reason, the storm seemed to regain its punch. Though I hadn't even started my burger yet, I rounded up the others. Susan was tired of driving, and I really wanted to, so I jumped behind the wheel. We took off east on I-40, racing all the way to US270 south of Calumet, all the while the storm spun in the sky just north of us.

Just north of the interstate, we pulled over to take a look at the storm we'd just scrambled fifteen miles to catch. The scene was incredible, with a beautiful sunset casting an orange glow across the storm. After taking in this view for a few cherished moments, we packed it up and continued north on US270 to Calumet. From there, we went off the beaten path onto local back roads, and used those to move ourselves east with the storm. Darkness was beginning to close in, but suddenly twin funnels appeared north of us, with the eastern-most one becoming the fourth tornado of the day. We kept driving as we shot video, then finally found a place to stop. Once the tornado and funnel dissipated, I called them in. The voice on the other end of the phone was sarcastic and rude, easily the crappiest reporting experience of my life. After I called it in, we continued east, eventually coming to OK3 by dark. We decided to call the chase at this point, and I finally ate my now-cold cheeseburger.

This was a unique chase day. Our first three tornadoes came from an early storm, and once it dissipated, the day seemed over. Then a late storm developed and produced a tornado just before dusk, giving us a three-hour gap between tornadoes in one day, which is an all-time record for me. In between it all, we'd made a half-hour long stop for food, which was something straight out of "Twister".