I may not have seen a tornado, but I’d still consider yesterday a very successful chase! That’s the advantage of being into photography now. Capturing some great storm structure is enough to make me happy. Of course at this point, just about any kind of storm would have been able to make me happy!
My chase day really began at about 3:15 pm when I got off work. My original plan was to head straight west and play some potential dryline storms, as I was afraid the cold front storms to the north would be cut off and quickly go linear. However, when I checked the models early yesterday morning, and even the night before, things had changed. The cold front had moved further north, and for some reason it appeared the surface low would be way up in northeast Oklahoma instead of southwest Oklahoma. At least that’s what it looked like based on surface winds. Models also depicted the dryline bulge, previously centered over the Red River, to be pushing right into OKC. The biggest factor that made me ditch my Wichita Falls to Lawton target, though, was that dewpoints in that region were only in the mid-50s. The dryline did not have a very strong gradient at all. So I started north on I-35 toward OKC to play the cold front storms. I figured that even if they went linear, at least it would be better than nothing!
I didn’t really have a specific target in mind when I started out. The only ongoing storms at the time were closer to Tulsa. There was a clear boundary visible on radar, however, and a shortwave visible on satellite heading east, so I was banking on storms popping up along that line. One by one, they sure did. First just north of OKC, then west of OKC. I targeted the one furthest south, and figured I could intercept it near Chickasha.
I ended up stopping just east of Chickasha, as I didn’t want to bother with the town itself. The storm was moving pretty slow at this time, so I was able to just stay in one spot and watch it for quite some time. That NEVER happens in the midwest! It was nice to finally be able to do that! I ended up finding a beautiful spot with a bright green field of… something in it, making a spectacular foreground for some pictures of that gorgeous storm!
I stood in this spot for a good 30 minutes or so. It didn’t seem like the storm was moving at all. The mother and son who lived in that house in the distance stopped by and asked me what I was doing. They informed me that a small tornado had just hit Moore. I was only slightly upset I missed it. I could have gone to that storm, but I always prefer to avoid chasing in any metro area. It’s obviously not ideal.
At the same time they pulled up, these two dogs ran around their truck. I thought they had been in the truck and jumped out, but she said she didn’t know whose dogs they were, that they just showed up the other day and hadn’t left. Those dogs were glued to me the rest of the time I was there! I don’t know if they were hungry or just wanted to play. Either way, I had a couple storm chasing partners there for a bit!
This storm did start to form a wall cloud at one point, and I became hopeful that perhaps it could get its act together and produce a tornado, especially after hearing that the storm in Moore just did. There was a lot of rising motion, and looked to be some decent inflow, but I saw no rotation at all, and just a few minutes later the wall cloud had pretty much dissipated.
At that point the great structure started to give way to raggedy junk, so I decided to head right into the core of the storm to get some hail! At first, I just got heavy rain. Then some tiny hail stones started to fall. Then a ton of little hail stones started falling. Finally, the rain started to let up, and bigger stones came down! The biggest I saw were about the size of ping pong balls.
After that had all passed, I caught back up with it, then it passed again, then I caught back up with it again! Then I was actually trying to get out in front of it, and of course at that point the storm started to pick up speed, so all I was doing was riding along with it! If you ever get a chance to chase with me, you’ll never doubt my driving skills! I don’t know too many people I’d trust to go 60 mph through driving rain, wind, and hail on a country road that doesn’t have reflectors! It becomes very difficult to see, especially when there’s a car in the oncoming lane with their headlights shining in your eyes! I’m getting very experienced at it, though. Aquapel is a must!
Anyway, I finally broke through the core, and stopped several times on my way back to Sherman attempting to get some good lightning shots. These storms had constant lightning, but most of it was within the core of the storm, so it was difficult to get any decent pictures. I finally gave up and got back to my apartment just before midnight.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering since I did leave directly from work… yes, I completed that entire chase in full scrubs! 😉