April 25, 2009 Storm Chase – Western Oklahoma

April 25, 2009

Storm Chase

West-Central Oklahoma

Editor:  Putnam E. Reiter

Forecast/Setup –

Risk Area:  Moderate Risk
Initial Target Area:  Sayre, Oklahoma

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SPC Case Review

After a cool and very active April, we finally got a setup where moisture would be available.  A big problem this month has been the closed lows moving eastward in the southern stream.  These systems have not been favorable for Oklahoma and typically resulted in strong cold fronts pushing moisture well into the Gulf.

This setup was a little different in that Gulf moisture would have time to return ahead of the dryline.  Warm afternoon temperatures would yield CAPE values in the 2500 J/Kg range.  Quite sufficient for severe thunderstorms given veered flow aloft and seasonable speeds.  The western U.S. was still developing on this day, but enough flow aloft and surface moisture indicated potential for severe thunderstorms.  SPC’s Day 1 outlook looked good and things seemed pretty clear cut for western Oklahoma.

We knew that there were two areas of interest, the first along the dryline, which was progged to be near the TX/OK border attached to a surface low near Pampa.  A cold front was progged to drift into northwest Oklahoma and the panhandles during the day and stall.  It did so and started retreating north by late in the day.  This was the secondary area for storm development.  We decided to play the triple point, as did almost all other chasers.

The first storm developed in the Texas panhandle, north of I-40 (Shamrock).  This storm moved quickly northeast and into Oklahoma.  Most of the chasers headed to that storm.  Additional storms formed in far western Oklahoma and moved northeast.  The storms were elongated east-southeast to west-northwest as they moved northeast.  The exception was the lone panhandle storm, which had more of a classic supercell look.  The storms stopped developing in southwest Oklahoma around 7pm and moved north of I-40 at Weatherford by 10pm.

Storms continued into the nighttime hours with one producing a tornado north of Enid around 10pm.  Another storm moved into the same area and produced a tornado in Kremlin around 2am.  Only a few injuries from these tornadoes and minor ones, very lucky.

The Chase –

Team 1 – David Underwood, Rob Ferguson, Brett LaBare and Putnam Reiter
Miles Driven – 336 – Gas spent $20.00
Departure Time – 14:00 CDT
Return Time – 22:00 CDT
Track Path

We left Oklahoma City and headed out west on I-40.  We got to Elk City and dropped by Walmart to fix our webcam issue.  Getting that fixed we headed to McDonald’s for some food.  During all of this the storm in the Texas panhandle developed and we decided to hang out and watch it.  After getting done at McDonald’s we noticed a storm had rapidly developed southwest of us.  Seeing this as a good opportunity, we headed south on HWY 6 to HWY 55 and went west a few miles.  We sat here and watched the storm develop.  Not seeing anything significant with it, we just waited.  Eventually the storm go far enough north, we decided to drift back to HWY 6 and go north.

As we headed back north to Elk City we knew road options were going to be a problem.  We’d have to risk getting close with the storm to stay on the good roads.  So, we drove up to I-40 and went east to HWY 34 and went north.  We sat just north of Elk City and watch the storm.  We sat here for about 5-10 minutes, not really noticing anything significant with the storm.  Seeing it getting away again, we drifted north and had to go east on a section line road.  About this time we saw a new RADAR image where 65dbz was located ontop of us.  About the same time we started getting dime size hail.  Our only option was to get east and out run the hail core.  We did so and ended up getting some nickel hail.  We finally got far enough east were we could turn around and watch the storm.  It had a lowering, but nothing really that impressive.

We drove into Foss and sat there to decide what our options where.  The other storms looked like ours, so there was seemingly no need to go elsewhere.  We went north on HWY 44 to HWY 73 and went east.  At this point we met up with all the other chasers on this storm.  We stopped a few times on HWY 73, but in general were not impressed with the storm or structure.  Getting on the west side of Clinton we stopped and watched the storm and the other storm coming up from the south.  We certainly thought a cell merger was going to occur.  We waited a little long and decided to get east on business 40.  Getting on the east side of Clinton we stopped at MM74 to evaluate our options.  Here we had a great view of the storm north of Cliinton and the one to the south.

After watching the storms for a while, we decided to head south on Custer City Road and get a better look at it.  We didn’t have to go very far south and we saw the business end.  Turning west on a private road, we parked on a hill.  The storm had a real high base, but a definite rain-free base.  As we sat there the storm appeared to low the base and developed a wall cloud.  Upward motion was good, but differential wasn’t so good.  We started back east and then north to keep up with the storm.  He had another issue with roads here as getting north of I-40 would be a problem road wise.  So, we got to I-40 and went east.  The storm started to lose its features as we went east on I-40.  Getting just east of Weatherford we pulled off to get a look at the storm.  As with the other storms, it didn’t look impressive for long.

Seeing two final storms moving towards us, we headed back to HWY 54 and went south from Weatherford.  We drove south to HWY 152 and went west a few miles.  We sat at HWY 54 south (you gotta know Oklahoma Roads to understand the 5 mile split) and watched the storms.  It was night time and we didn’t have much storm structure.  Even what we did see, RADAR didn’t show anything impressive.  In fact RADAR showed about what we had been seeing all day.  While we had pledged to chase at night, this just wasn’t worth it.

Having had a decent day, we decided to head home.  We went back east on HWY 152 to HWY 58 north, then east on I-40 to Oklahoma City.

I have no real complaints this this chase.  I should have looked more at the midlevel winds and probably would have noticed why the storms were elongated.  Either way, it was a good day for storms and we did a great job following them once we committed.

Lessons Learned –

–  Nothing really here.  We got cored once, but managed to get east.  Unfortunately this day did not go as expected, the best action was well after dark.

Multimedia –

Oklahoma Storm Chase - Wall Cloud

Encounters –

Engaged Storm:  Carter to Clinton
Tornado:  No
Funnel:  No
Hail (larger than 0.75 inches):  Yes – estimated nickel
Wall Cloud:  Yes
Wind (above 57.4 mph):  No

Engaged Storm:  Clinton
Tornado:  No
Funnel:  No – ehh maybe
Hail (larger than 0.75 inches):  No
Wall Cloud:  Yes
Wind (above 57.4 mph):  No

Engaged Storm:  Cordell – actually two storms here.
Tornado:  No
Funnel:  No
Hail (larger than 0.75 inches):  No
Wall Cloud:  No
Wind (above 57.4 mph):  No

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