2008 MARCH 30: SOUTHWEST OKLAHOMA SUPERCELLS
 

 
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 Al Pietrycha, 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. Nobody complained.

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 experience.

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 surface flow.

Overall, a very satisfactory early season chase.





Scott's reaction when we realized we had one hell of a view