May 1, 2008 Chase

I struggled much of the 2008 season, chase to chase, just trying to find gas money. So by the time May rolled around, I had burned through any left over money and was in dire need of some financial replenishment. I had to pass on this chase, because I simply couldn't afford to take the day off. My target, had I been able to chase outright, was southern Kansas. As it was, I swallowed my bitter pill and went to work.

During the day I decided that I would pay attention to things locally once I was off, just in case something happened. Chad and I started thinking about the possibility of getting a full day's work in and seeing a tornado afterwards...both of us merely fantasizing. Ironically, we somehow managed to get off work two hours early, which made me even more determined to try and make the dream a reality.

I arrived home, loaded a satellite loop, and hit the shower. I spent the next few hours closely monitoring the OK mesonet along with the satellite. A small area of cu was persistent just a county or so west of Norman, but did little as far as growth or overall expansion. I also noted the dryline was still slowly retrograding west, which made sense because the dissipating cu field was a direct indication of a lack of focused convergence. Seeing this, and being burned out by two hours' worth of close observation, I put my gear back up and decided the day was lost. About a half hour later, I decided to look again just in case. What I saw sent an alarm out in my brain: a brand new cu field had developed, which was larger and more robust than the previous one. Also, the dryline had finally stalled; convergence was underway. I grabbed my vidcam and tripod, jumped in the car, and headed west.

As soon as I rounded the corner from my place and broke free of the trees, I could see a developing tower due west of me. I made it to the west side of town, jumped on I-35 south across the Canadian river, and then turned west again onto OK9. I stopped on the north side of the road, across from the casino, and watched as this fledging storm began to take shape. I called Mickey to check his status, and he informed me the storm was going up right over his head, and was already severe-warned. I told him he needed to get on the road then because it was moving around 35mph, and wouldn't want to get behind it in rush hour traffic, as the storm was heading to Oklahoma City. I hung up with him, and took off north on I-35.

Chad called to say he was in Moore, northeast of the storm, waiting for it to roll up towards him. We planned a rendezvous just off I-35 at 19th street, as I continued north with the storm as it continued to explode. We met up, and then convoyed north and east on the outskirts of Moore, working our way up to I-240. We stopped at 240 and Air Depot, to do a quick analysis of the situation. The storm was very severe and obviously rotating, but hadn't quite tapped into the deep moisture that lay just east. I figured within a half hour or so, the base would lower and the tornado potential would rise. We took off again eastbound, heading to Anderson road.

As we drove east, Mickey called to say the storm had been tornado warned (I had no scanner, radio, or even maps this day) and that he was also on 240, about five miles west of us. Trees were blocking my view of the storm's base, so at Anderson road, instead of continuing north as planned, Chad and I flipped a uie and bolted back west towards the storm, in an attempt to get closer to it faster, and then go north. As we drove, the storm looked more and more impressive, with a sculpted circular updraft base, which was getting lower. We exited at Douglas and turned north, trying to get a view of the storm.

The storm cycled down, so we decided to go back to the original plan. We flipped a second uie, drove back to the interstate, and then blasted east back to Anderson road, where we turned north. I got separated from Chad, and continued on. Without a map, I was making every decision based on what I saw, basically stair-stepping north and east. Our earlier backtrack had cost us valuable time, and it was now an effort just to keep due south of the storm. I managed to hang with it, and noted a concentrated area of enhanced rotation as I drove north. Soon, a funnel formed from this lowering, and I was out of my mind trying to crest the next hill so I could see below the tree line. I finally came to my next east option, where I stopped to look up and observe this rapidly rotating funnel. After about a minute, I continued east.

As I drove east, my view of the ground was blocked by trees. However, a small white cone funnel developed and lasted about thirty seconds. Minutes later Chad called and asked if I had seen the tornado. He had observed a tree being ripped out of the ground at the same time I was observing the white funnel, which was actually a brief tornado. Shortly after the funnel dissipated, I pulled over to continue watching the rotating base. Just before I did, I noticed Mickey's car behind me. He joined me roadside, as the sirens wailed while the base continued to spin. After a few minutes, it was obvious the storm was cycling down, so we packed it up and continued north and east.

I got separated from Mickey, and found myself near I-44 at dusk, with nothing around for miles and my gas tank nearly empty. I made a desperate call to Chad, to see if he was close enough for me to meet up with, so I could park my car, jump into his, and continue the chase. After about a dozen phone calls, I managed to catch up to him on rural roads southwest of Agra, just as darkness was beginning to set in. From there, we stood and watched the storm, which still had a very low base. As we sat there, Mickey showed up again. I pulled my car off the road in front of a locked property gate, jumped in with Chad, and the chase continued.

After only a few miles, Mick called to say he was turning back, so it was just Chad and I as we neared Agra. We saw a huge chaser convergence in town as we passed through. About a mile or so north of town, we pulled over. The storm's base had risen, and we noted the lightning had virtually ceased. The show was over. After driving around on back roads for a half hour trying to find my car, we finally did. Chad followed me to a gas station, and then headed home. I threw some gas in the tank, and then headed home as well.