Chase Accounts

April 14, 2001
Pictures from this day.

Up to this point in the season, this day appeared to be the most promising. Supercells and tornadoes appeared possible, and storms wouldn't be moving 60-90 mph as they did on a couple of earlier chases this year (2/24 and 4/6).

Scott Blair and I forecasted extensively the night before, and we targeted Duke in southwest Oklahoma, hoping supercells would fire ahead of the dryline by the afternoon hours. The next morning, Scott arrived at my apartment in Conway at around 5:30 a.m., and after reveiwing some data, we headed west on I-40 toward our target area.

Like all my other chases so far this year, morning fog was prevalent. As we trekked westward on I-40, we encountered a few storms in eastern Oklahoma, but they were disorganized so we pushed on, and at 10:30 a.m., we took I-44 southwest to Lawton, where we made a quick data stop at the local library. From Lawton, we continued to our target area. During this time, the fog began to thin, and to our delight, blue skies began to prevail and allow some surface heating before convective initiation. Upon arriving in Duke around 2 p.m., we watched towering cumulus grow and bump against the cap before they eventually fell apart, but around 3:30, a large rock-hard tower broke through the cap. This was going to be the storm.

We took Hwy. 34 north in order to observe the developing storm, and after getting in position to watch the base east of Russell, we met up with Al Pietrycha. It was fascinating to hear Al describe the mesoscale features we were observing; his enthusiasm for weather was quite evident. A few minutes later, Jeff Lawson met up with us, and he chased with Scott and I for the rest of the day.

Since the storm was moving east and we didn't have a good east option, we backtracked south on Hwy. 34 and east on Hwy. 62, and then, we took Hwy. 283 north to Blair, Oklahoma. Here, we used Hwy. 19 out of Blair as our east option since it closely paralleled the storm's movement. Near Roosevelt, we had a good view of the updraft base and watched two areas of rotation, one to our north and another to our west. At this time, a strong RFD punched around the meso to our north and aided in spinning up a quick funnel before it quickly choked off the inflow to the meso. The National Weather Service in Norman confirmed broad, brief circualtion on the ground, but the circulation, according to NWS OUN, was neither sustained long enough nor tight enough to be considered a tornado. Shortly after the meso to our north occluded, our surface winds then shifted to an east wind, indicating inflow into the meso to our west. The RFD that was wrapping around the meso to our west was rapidly bringing rain with it, so we continued east. As we observed the meso, which was now to our north, we watched it wrap up nicely, develop an inflow tail, and produce a sustained funnel before the RFD also choked off this meso before it could produce a tornado.

After taking Hwy. 54 south to Hwy. 49 east, we continued following the storm into the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, and our visiblity was severely hampered by hilly terrain and thick fog. It was obvious we weren't in the warm sector anymore, and the fog was so thick that it wasn't even evident that a supercell was nearby. Adding to the frustration, we were forced to follow slow driving "daytrippers," Jeff Lawson's description of the tourists who were watching buffalo in the refuge. I have to admit though, I'd never seen a buffalo before, so that was an interesting aspect of the chase. We had expected to emerge from the east side of the refuge on Hwy. 49, but somehow, we managed to take a south road back to Hwy. 62. Needless to say, we lost the storm at this point. The storm was beginning to fall apart anyway, and this mistake would allowed us to make good time on a couple of storms in north Texas later in the day, so it wasn't too bad of a deal in the long run.

After Scott called Phillip Flory for a nowcasting update, which informed us of a couple of developing storms near Haskell, Texas. We dropped back south into the warm sector and contemplated stopping for dinner in Wichita Falls, Texas while waiting for the storms to come to us. However, after making a data stop at the Love's truck stop in Wichita Falls, we noticed two supercells nearby, which were born from a supercell that had split earlier. The right moving cyclonic storm was moving east along a boundary, and the left moving anticyclonic storm was moving north-northeast toward us. We quickly debated about which storm to target since after a split the right mover usually goes on to be the stronger of the two storms. However, since the left mover was moving in our general direction, the sun was beginning to set, and it would just be interesting to observe an anticyclonic supercell, we decided to target the left mover.

We took Hwy. 82 southwest out of Wichita Falls, and shortly after, a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the left mover in Knox County. As we closed in on the storm, we realized the sun was going to set before we had chance to get close to the updraft base. Also, the setting sun was beginning to produce some fantastic colors with the storm so we pulled off near Mabelle. After stopping, it was quite obvious that the storm was dissipating and turning into an orphan anvil, so we just watched the beautiful storm structure change colors as the sun continued to set. It was a beautiful sight to see the mammatus from the right mover begin to light up while the left mover's updraft tower and anvil began glowing a fiery orange against the background of a brilliant blue sky. It was a perfect way to end the chase, and I used much film while observing the breathtaking sight. At this point, I feel it's necessary to thank Phillip Flory for the fantastic nowcasting he did that day. He kept us well informed with updates about what was transpiring throughout the day. Thanks Phillip!

This day never really got going in southwest Oklahoma as was expected, but instead, the main dynamics shifted to southcentral Kansas, where a few chasers filmed a wedge tornado near Pratt. Such is life. All in all, this was still quite a fun day.

A good page detailing the dynamics that led to the suppression in Oklahoma and the activity in Kansas can be found here.


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