Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kay County, Oklahoma supercell

DAY 12 MAY 13, 2009

The crew got to sleep in a little bit this morning, and then went for breakfast at a Sonic. When we were leaving the motel, I saw another motel's sign with an LCD display saying "Welcome Hunters" which was referring to the Vortex 2 guys. I didn't see any of the vehicles this morning, which told me they were already on the road. At 1 pm, we took off for north central Oklahoma. The SPC had outlined a moderate risk for most of Oklahoma stretching to the northeast including Missouri. There was a 10% hatched area for tornadoes over Missouri and a 5% covered Oklahoma. A cold front was going to be moving southeastward ahead of a very unstable airmass. Once the cap breaks, storms were expected to rapidly develop and then become a linear MCS later in the evening as it moves east.

At about 3:30 pm, we stopped for some ice cream at Dairy Queen in Clinton, OK then headed towards Alva, where we had another bathroom break at 5:30. We were keeping our eyes on a boundary which was starting to grow some turkey towers. It was six o'clock magic hour and the cap was finally breaking! We could visually see the towers getting taller by the minute.

We worked out way to an area just west of Ponca City to meet up with the tornado warned supercell. We saw a wall cloud as we neared the storm. Ron pointed out to us that there was a large white funnel (possibly a tornado) ahead of us just to the right of the road. It was somewhat hard to see due to poor contrast from our vantage point. I quickly grabbed the camera and took a picture through the windshield. After that, it dissipated.

We encountered gusty winds kicking up dust from the rear flank downdraft and noticed the clear slot was starting to occlude around the wall cloud. It appeared the storm was a high-precipation type. We headed south for a little bit because of the storm's direction. Another wall cloud was starting to form. We took a back road and stopped to get some pictures. Everything was getting wrapped in rain. This wall cloud almost looked promising for a couple minutes, but it fell apart. We continued up the dirt road, and the rain mixed with some hail began to intensify. The dirt road was becoming rather difficult to drive on. Jack was driving the other van, while Sandra took the wheel in the van I was in. I must say it pays to be a Canadian with good winter driving practice. Sandra did a fine job controlling the vehicle in this mess. Shortly after, Ron looked at the Baron and mentioned there was another rotation couplet up the road 1 mile from us, but unfortunately, we couldn't see anything because of the core. In fact, I have never seen such a dense core like this before!

After a little while, we finally found a decent paved road (I think it was hiway 177). As we were heading south, the rain cleared up a bit more and we could see the sun setting in the west, and a rainbow formed. Since the storm was lining out and moving away, we headed to Stillwater to have dinner at Perkins. I tried getting some lightning shots from the parking lot but there was too much light pollution ruining my photos.

After dinner, on the way to Oklahoma City, I saw some lightning light up a roll cloud. We pulled over so I could attempt at getting some pictures. The key word here is attempt. Unfortunately since the lightning was too far away, I was not able to capture the scene without it being too dark. As we neared OKC, Ron spotted what looked like a funnel or tornado going down towards the ground diagonally off in the distance when lightning flashed. There seemed to be some scud around it, but the funnel part looked quite smooth, which soon seemed to rope out. I have no idea if this was a true tornado or not, but it was quite interesting.

We stayed at the Comfort Inn tonight.

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