Monday, May 17, 2010

Structure Freak

May 11, 2010

I was quite disappointed with yesterday's chase, but realized that high risks were usually impossible to chase. Today was another day... another chance. The gang left Blackwell, OK at around 10 and headed southwest. Our target today was going to be around Lawton to Altus. SPC issued a slight risk with a 5% tornado risk for the OK/TX state line, the lifted index was -12 with 7000 CAPE, and there was a triple point ow in SW Oklahoma. There was also a bulge on the warm front. There were some good signs this morning... transverse rolls were in the sky early in the day, pointing the way to the target.

A couple hours later, we decided to make a pit stop at the Cherokee Trading Post to have a look around. We then pulled up into a gas station and saw some of the VORTEX 2 vehicles there. It was getting warmer out and the clouds were breaking up... a very good sign indeed. When we reached Clinton, we decided to pull into Braum's for a quick lunch and ice cream. We saw more VORTEX 2 members there and had a quick chat with them. After that, we decided to go to the K-Mart parking lot and play the waiting game and hang out at K-Mart. A bunch of the VORTEX 2 mobile mesonets were also pulling in, including a couple radar trucks and the MSNBC crew. Then I saw a familiar vehicle... from Environment Canada. I instantly knew who that was - an old chase friend, Dave Sills! I was quite happy to see him since I haven't seen him in quite a while. We chased together once in 2000 after a nasty HP supercell. We chatted for a while.

Holy cow was it hot!!! Sweat was pouring off me like I was a melting popsicle. I decided to measure the temps with my Kestrel... it was about 84 over 68, which was pretty humid. I drank two bottles of water while watching the TCU field build. Dave mentioned to me that a tornado watch was just issued. Perfect! Now all we had to do was just wait for the cap to break. By now, the parking lot was full of chasers and scientists... eagerly waiting for Mother Nature to give us something to play with.

The first storm went up. At 5:05, the VORTEX vehicles took off after it. A few minutes later, we decided to leave as well, heading towards the northwest. Then the storm died a sudden death, so we pulled into a gas station parking lot to wait some more. At 10 after 6 we decided to take off again, since another storm was going up. At 6:30 we took hwy 33 and pulled over to watch the storm build. You could literally stand there and watch as the tower pushed upward, the updrafts were something! I guess with so much instability, it wasn't surprising.

About 10 minutes later, we took off after the new storm. I noticed some transverse rolls feeding into the towers, which would be the inflow feeder bands. We went on a dirt road then took hwy 47. At about 7:08, we noticed a bunch of chasers coming the other way... "hmm what was up?", I wondered. It turned out there was no road that crossed the river. Dang it! So we turned around as well. While we were on US 183, we saw the new TIV 2 and more chasers. While we were taking E0760 Road, our tower was falling apart again. Arrrgg, nothing was punching through that cap! At least there were two more cells behind it, with one of them being about 20 miles away and the other 40 miles away, and approaching 50,000 feet. With a lot of instability, these were going to be tall storms.

We decided to head back on hwy 183. We saw one of the VORTEX 2 radar trucks scanning the skies. We headed west on hwy 665 and at 7:45, we reached the town of Taloga. I noticed more inflow bands being drawn into the new storm. According to the Baron, the storm was now starting to rotate and was holding at 60,000 feet. I looked at the storm and noticed the updraft was a bit different than most storms I have witnessed in the past... it was titled, narrow and appeared to begin to corkscrew. I had a feeling this storm was going to put on a structure show. we took US 60 to head west to the new supercell, then headed north. A tornado warning was now issued. Yippee let the fun begin!

At 8:20, Ron told us the storm was moving only at 24 mph. Perfect! No more Nascar storms! And we were on time! A few minutes later, we reached the town of Vici and headed towards Woodward. The Baron picked up another rotation marker and the supercell was slowing down to 22 mph. The updraft was gorgeous! It was hard to take my eyes off such a structure. Shortly after 8:35, we saw a brief wall cloud, then a few minutes later Ron and I saw a brief, fairly good sized cone funnel extending halfway to the ground in the distance!!! I tried to get a picture of it but by the time I was able to, it was gone. CRAP! That was certainly a surprise, given the supercell was LP. It was very hard to tell if it was on the ground.

We had to turn around again... the road options were not particularly the best in this area of Oklahoma. By now the LP supercell's updraft was jaw dropping beautiful. At 10 to 9, lightning started to light up near the top of the barber pole updraft. The anvil was still punching hard at the edges. Awesome!!! We headed on hwy 34 and saw chaser convergence. Everyone was out on this storm! It was way too gorgeous, to not chase it, afterall. We decided to pull over for some pictures for several minutes. It was incredible to witness such beauty... the twilight colors, with lightning sparking near the top of the storm, some inflow bands on the east side of the updraft, and knuckles under the anvil.

We decided to head a bit closer to the storm, but now it was starting to get dark out and the supercell was now showing signs of weakening. It was off to Woodward for the night as with a bunch of other chasers. We had a quick bite to eat at Sonic and headed to the motel. We saw the Tradd Tours vans and Warren Faidley at the same Days Inn motel. It was a very good day!!!

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