Near Rocky, Oklahoma ~2351z
Sunday's chase wasn't exactly in the spirit of
Saturday night's "Earth Hour" campaign to reduce global energy
consumption. My friends and I drove hundreds of miles around Oklahoma
looking for surface convergence, backed winds, and later, dominant
updrafts during a surprising event that lasted from around 22z until 4z
overnight. At one point, our caravan included five vehicles with
single passengers. Considering we started in five different cities
in three states, there wasn't much to do but note our wastefulness, make
contrite noises on the radio, and chase on.
With a confusing surface pattern in the morning, I staked everything on
the 12z WRF's output of a well-defined dryline and triple point, and
scrapped my original target for a more southerly play along I-40 near
Elk City. But the screaming west and southwest surface winds herded me
northward anyway, where at least theta-e convergence was steady, even if
the warm sector narrowed and limited any potential storm's range. I
didn't trust the RUC's promise that those winds would back in time,
though I knew the deeper low was forming west. It seemed the northern
area offered the best chance of daytime initiation.
About the time I met up with
Scott Blair, Scott Currens,
Bob Fritchie, and
east of Fairview, it was time to heed the newly-backing winds and
impressive cu fields to our southwest--back in the direction I'd just
traveled. More gas.
We passed on the first storm, near Corn, Oklahoma, in favor of a cell to
the southwest near Cordell. Once we escaped a stubborn precip shaft, we
observed a sculpted rotating updraft (see above) and found a hilltop
vista just as the sunset blazed red and orange. We rushed to arrange
tripods and shooting angles as a wallcloud organized and produced two or
three weak, short funnels. Though the updraft was high-based, the
rotation gave us some hope for what would have made a spectacular
tornado image. As it was, we settled for a palette of fountain blue sky
astride cotton anvil filaments, all above a spreading amber horizon.
A short time later, near Mountain View, our semi-organized appendage
dissipated entirely and left a flattened, perfectly circular base, which
we allowed to drift overhead. For no particular reason, I looked
straight up: the entire, rounded updraft was visible. There was enough
ambient light to outline the full perimeter in my peripheral vision. The
sense of such transient mass directly overhead was unprecedented in my
Our third storm, near Colony, Oklahoma, was more impressive on radar
than in person, though it was after dark and difficult to discern much.
We skirted around the rotation. On our way back to the interstate, we
entered dense hail fog and lost all visibility. When it cleared, we
found a wintery scene of two inch deep hail covering the road, and
ditches with deeper drifts. We stopped to check on a motorist who'd
skidded off the pavement and Scott Blair reported our conditions to OUN.
In Weatherford, we found a friendly, 24 hour diner called Jerry's that
saved us from the McDonald's drive through. We discussed why so many
storms with such impressive visual and radar presentations failed to
produce a tornado. One theory was that we simply ran out of time to
recover deeper moisture after the strongly veered morning and afternoon
Overall, a very satisfactory early season chase.
Scott's reaction when we realized we had one hell of