March 30, 2008 Chase

Chad, Mickey, Mickey's son Michael, and myself targeted portions of western Oklahoma this day. We started out in Weatherford, where we found a large parking lot in the middle of town and sat, watching surface observations. After a while, we noted a trend in the moisture. It seemed the main tongue of moisture was being pulled east of us, and then further north. The target area looked to be shifting well north of us, so, fearing we might be too far south upon initiation, we headed northeast to Watonga. From there we moved north on OK8/58 to Ringwood, crossing over US412 and stopping about a half mile north of there.

Mickey and I stood outside, sharing a giant bag of Lay's potato chips and watching the sky for any sign of initiation. The better part of an hour passed by, and while nothing happened where we were, we noticed towers developing to the distant southwest...where we'd been. At first I was stubborn, and refused to go screaming off after the first convection of the day with reckless abandon. However, after a while it became obvious we had made a mistake moving north, so we finally gave in and decided to head back south and west towards the now-maturing storms.

We headed back south to Watonga, watching the storms continue to develop. We took US281 south from there, hitting I-40 north of Hinton. From there we blasted west, with our storm well in view. We got to Weatherford just minutes ahead of the storm, and turned south onto OK54. By the time we'd cleared town, we were buried in the precipitation core. We broke free of it not long afterwards, and had a clear view of the rain-free base to our southwest. We joined another vehicle as we pulled off the road to set up and watch the RFB evolve. CG activity was intense, so we all stayed inside the car. After a few minutes, we decided to continue moving south.

As we moved further south, the storm's structure became more picturesque. Eventually we pulled over at the intersection of OK54/54A, and took in the full view of the amazing mothership look of the storm. Though it was rotating intensely, it was extremely high-based, and no tornado threat existed. Despite this great video opportunity, I chose to stay inside due to the continued CG activity. After a few minutes, the others returned inside, and we continued south again.

We noticed another storm to the distant southwest which had an interesting lowering, as we pulled over at the intersection of OK54/152. By the time we'd set up here, our original storm had moved over the road behind us to the north, developing a new base which was much lower than the previous one. We headed east on OK152 to pace the storm as it moved along the I-40 corridor. Though the storm looked better and better with time, there was one problem: it was getting dark.

We stopped occasionally to view the storm, but it was getting more and more difficult to see. No tornado warning had been issued on it, and with the encroaching darkness, we were starting to feel like the day was done. Still, we stayed with the storm all the way into Binger, where we finally decided the chase was likely over. We continued through town, starting to head home, when a new storm developed to the west, behind all the others. When it was tornado warned a short time later, we quickly jumped back into chase mode.

Now our problem was the road network. We had no direct route west to meet the storm, so we were forced to drive south all the way to Anadarko before we could turn west. Fortunately for us, the storm was a slow mover, and we had plenty of time to hit Anadarko, swing west onto OK9, and fly out to Fort Cobb. Once we neared town, we could tell we'd have to go north. We turned onto OK146 and made a beeline for the Lake, which the storm was beginning to cross over. When we got to the fork that split off left to the Lake and right towards the town of Albert, we decided we'd need the extra room since it was dark, so we went with OK146 towards Albert.

About three miles south of town, we pulled over. The storm's base had come into view, and a persistent lowering loomed in the darkness. The storm's overall look reminded me a lot of the Greensburg, KS supercell, with wicked inflow bands feeding it from the east and southeast. We all got out of the car and began shooting video. The persistent lowering kept looking more and more suspicious, so I aimed my video camera at it and rolled tape. Eventually, a brief tornado developed, quickly morphing from dusty fingers, to a concentrated dust bowl, and eventually full condensation funnel with debris cloud. The entire duration of the tornado was less than forty seconds. Once it dissipated, we moved north.

We kept the base in view, which still showed a persistent lowering, although the storm seemed to be cycling down a bit. About a mile southwest of Albert, we pulled over again. Our winds had been strong out of the southeast during the earlier tornado, but were now coming out of the west. At first I just assumed it was basic storm outflow as it cycled down after the tornado, but then I realized it was an RFD, which would've put the new area of interest just to our east and northeast; the new cycle had developed further south than I had anticipated...a great example of the inherit hazards of night chasing. Not long after I made this realization, Chad suddenly shouted "Power flash, power flash!!!"  I swung my camera around from due north to due east, just in time to catch a short series of power flashes, ignited by a brief tornado maybe a mile east of us. It lasted only seconds, even less time than the first one.

After this tornado, we packed it up and moved on through Albert, eventually coming back to OK152. By this time a second supercell has developed west of our storm, and with the road options we were facing, we decided to drop the original tornadic storm and head west to the new one. We drove west about five or so miles to meet the storm. It too had screaming inflow bands and great structure, but we could never get a clear view of the base. We let it roll up on us, and then headed back east to stay ahead of it. Another tornado was reported with this storm, but we couldn't get position to see the base. After a while of this, we eventually called it a day and headed home. What started out as a clear sky bust had become our first tornado day of the year, and right in our own backyard.