Chase Accounts

April 15, 2000
Pictures from this day.

I had closely been watching the models in regards to a system that was set to move into the plains on April 15th. This day held quite a bit of potential for supercells according to the models as a triple point low would be setting up over the Texas panhandle and moving eastward, and since the event in question was going to have the best potential to produce it's best storms on Saturday, I was going to be able to make a trip to the plains.

Scott Blair had also been watching this day closely, and after conferring with each other and sharing forecasts, we decided on a target area of Altus in SW OK. During this time, Scott had also been in contact with Eric Nguyen. Eric also had Altus targeted, and he kindly invited Scott and I to meet him in Norman, OK., and we would then set out towards the target area together. April 15th finally arrived, and I was excited about the day's potential after waking up early that morning and checking the models and the SPC Day 1 Outlook. There were some drawbacks to the setup though. Moisture return to the plains was in question by the time convection was expected to fire, and forecasted upward vertical velocities were spread in a line which could be indicative of a squall line event. The feature that really sold us on this day, though, was the veering of winds with height. With the turning of the winds that were forecasted, supercells were a definate possibility if convection fired and happened to break through the cap in the area. Topping things off, the SPC had placed a moderate risk over the area of concern.

Scott arrived at my apartment in Conway near 5 a.m., and we began our trek to the plains not long after. The drive was relatively uneventful, except for almost running over a large blackbird that was limping across the freeway. Our main concern during the trip to Norman happened to be the extensive cloud cover that blanketed the area. If this day was going to happen, we were going to have to get some daytime heating in order to get some higher temperatures and a more unstable atmosphere.

After meeting up with Eric and Dan Horenstein in Norman, Eric gathered some data, and we made our way down I-44 to Lawton. Here, we stopped at the public library and looked at the latest weather analysis. Seeing that Frederick, OK. had the best wind profile over the area and was getting some decent sunlight, we decided to move our target area and set up there. The cloud cover was breaking up over the area, and we were finally getting what we needed most, surface heating. Temperatures climbed past 70 and the dewpoints in the area stayed at or near 60, not impressive, but enough.

We stopped off in Frederick to grab a bite to eat at Sonic, and while we were there, we met up with some of the local policemen that offered us the use of their computer to look at the latest data. While doing that, we found out that the forecasted veering wind profile over the area had not come to be. We then read the latest SPC Day 1 and found out that our area had been downgraded to a slight risk, and they were hinting at a squall line event. This was a bit disappointing, but we weren't about to turn back after having driven so many miles.

Nearing 4 p.m., we left town and headed west, but we stopped briefly outside of town to view some convective towers going up to our west. While viewing these features, a large flock of cows in the adjacent field to the road began to herd toward us. Apparently, Eric's many instruments atop his car attracted their attention. This proved to be quite a humurous event as the cows all packed as close as they could to the fence that contained them. Two significant looking storms soon developed, but the northern storm seemed to become linear, while the southern storm was still getting good inlow and was maintianing individual cell characteristics. A severe T-storm watch box had been placed over our area, and we were happy to see some explosive convection. We decided to intercept the southern storm and made our way to the small town of Duke, OK. While in the process of making our way there, Geoffrey Calhoun contacted us on the HAM radio, and we told him where we would be setting up, and he soon joined up with us.

While watching from Duke, the storm continued to stay isolated and soon developed a backsheared anvil and an overshooting top, indicating that this cell contained an intense updraft. The storm had a well defined updraft base, and the anvil was spreading out above our heads. We sat in this position for several minutes and just watched some beautiful storm structure. The storm contained a black rain and hail core and a beautiful updraft base. The anvil was directly above us, and we were treated to gorgeous show of mammatus that rivaled those seen on May 30, 1999.

While observing these features, Chris Sokol and his OU group of chasers pulled off at our location. We exchanged greetings and information, and soon after, his group headed further west, while the rest of us, Scott, Eric, Dan, Geoffrey, and myself, decided to stay in our present location enjoy the storm.

Soon after, a wall cloud began developing under the updraft base and the mid levels of the storm began to take on a striated appearance. Unfortunately, these features didn't last long after a developing squall line to it's north engulfed the storm.

Even though the squall lowered the tornado potential, it was still a beautiful sight as large and numerous mammatus were still overhead, and a well defined and layered shelf cloud developed ahead of the squall. Some convection began to fire to the south of the storm that we were watching, and we decided to intercept this new storm since it should get the best inflow and have the best chance to turn supercellular.

Our route would take us across the Red River into Texas, but the route also took us over some of the worst roads that I've ever driven on. For a good majority of the way, were on dry dirt roads with the occasional paved section thrown in every once in a while. The inflow to our Tail End Charlie storm was blowing several tumbleweeds across the road in front of us as we made our way through these desolate and rough backroads.

We eventually made our way to Hwy. 287 and crossed into the Texas border heading towards Vernon, TX. We then dropped south on Hwy. 183 and were offered a magnificent view of Tail End Charlie with the layered shelf cloud curving towards and ending with that storm. The line of storms was quickly moving east, and every time we stopped, the strong gust front/shelf cloud would advance upon our position, forcing us to push south even farther. By doing this, we kept ourselves in good position to view the southern storm. The updraft base wasn't too terribly impressive, and quite a bit of precip seemed to be interfering with it. It was apparent that the storm was still getting it's act together, but daylight was fading.

We set up once more near a lake and shot some scenic photos of the sunlit storm over the lake. At this point, the gust front finally caught up to us, and we were blasted by the strong outflow winds that accompanied it.

We ended the chase soon after, satisfied with what we had seen that day. It wasn't a great supercell event, and we certainly didn't see anything tornadic, but I felt fortunate to witness some beautiful storm structure and have a great time with some fellow chasers.

Note: Later that night, Tail End Charlie did get organized and started rotating. The storm was placed under several tornado warnings, and it produced large hail (no tornadoes) while it tracked towards the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Several N. Texas chasers tracked this storm while heading home at the same time. It would've been nice to have done the same, but it would've made an already long drive home even longer. After heading back east and stopping off in Norman once again to say farewell to Eric and Dan for the time being, we continued east on our trip home. Geoffrey made his way back to his home in east OK., and Scott and I arrived back to our respective homes in AR. near dawn on April 16th. Quite a tiring trip, but well worth it.

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