March 8, 2010 Chase

We convoyed this day with Erik Burns, David Reimer and Connor McCrorey. David and Connor had a guest, Sonja Muniz, who was on her very first chase. There was a pseudo cold core type of setup in western Oklahoma, with a very marginal tornado threat. However, the target looked fairly obvious to me, and because it was early in the year and we were chomping at the bit, we jumped on it. Initially we drove to Wichita Falls, where we loaded up on fuel and decided on our plan of attack. However, early day convection fired just west of us, and the temptation to try and snag an early tornado proved too much to resist. We bolted north on I-44 towards the Oklahoma border.

We crossed into Oklahoma and took the last free exit off I-44 onto OK5 eastbound. We drove through Randlett and continued east to OK65, where we pulled over to face southwest. An area of localized rotation developed suddenly, and for a moment we thought a brief tornado might occur. The rotation continued, and rolled right over us, but no tornado or even funnel ever developed. We decided to continue to follow the storm, which proved to be a mistake. We wasted precious time following the early junk, which took us away from the direct route to our actual target.

We realized quickly that these storms were junk, so we just started working our way north on OK65. As we went along, the early storms we'd gone after cleared out to the east, leaving a nice clear blue sky to the west, with a field of agitated cumulus well to our west. The problem was, we were well out of position because of my decision to bite on the early storms. So, we methodically began working our way back north and west, getting to Anadarko where we grabbed OK9 and flew west to US183 as fast as we could. A storm had developed during the time we'd been getting back into position - right in my target area - and by the time we were first beginning to see the storm along US183 south of Clinton, it had already produced a tornado that was still in progress.

As we approached Clinton, we were seeing live shots of the tornado that had been on the ground for over half an hour. This didn't set well with me, but now all we could do was try and salvage whatever we could. Just south of town we finally got a visual on the tornado, which appeared as a stout-looking stovepipe. However, after we stopped to shoot video, it quickly morphed into a contorted rope and was gone. We'd seen the last two minutes of a forty-minute tornado. It was a bittersweet experience. After the tornado ended, we continued north through Clinton.

Once we cleared Clinton, we continued north on US83 towards Arapaho. We were getting only glimpses of the storm because of bad terrain, but north of town it finally opened up a bit. When it did, we saw a second tornado to the distant west-northwest. We immediately stopped and setup video. The tornado was a fully-condensed cone, and was turning a majestic purple due to the position of the late day sun. It was actually starting to get chilly, and a grabbed a light jacket as I continued to shoot video. Over the next few minutes, the tornado gradually narrowed, finally dissipating in the classic rope fashion. The storm was slowly getting closer to us, so we decided to just stay on US83 and keep pace with it as it did.

By the time this tornado dissipated, it was getting close to dusk. However because we had a great view and the storm was coming towards us, we decided to stick around to see what might happen before dark. After several more minutes, another notch formed with a descending funnel. It never appeared to reach further than about halfway down towards the ground, but it was very consistent. By this time it was starting to actually get cold, so I moved my tripod to the front of the car, enjoying the warmth of the engine heat through the grill. The funnel persisted a few minutes, then vanished. Afterwards, it was almost dark, so we decided to call the chase and start home. We met up with Steve Miller (OK) in Moore for a celebratory dinner and a few beers, then headed home. A few days later Mickey confirmed the funnel we saw did touch down briefly, making it the third tornado of the day.