Green Sky Chaser

26 April 2009 Chase Log

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Target Area: Erick/Roll, Oklahoma (Click on city names for Yahoo! maps links)

Chase Area: Rankin/Roll, Oklahoma

Observations: two tornadoes (one was multi-vortex), five or six funnel clouds, five or six wall clouds, three supercells, and lightning

Distance: 475 miles

Time: 10.5 hours

Chase Team: Car 1 - Dean Narramore, Esther White, Amy Edmonds, and myself; Car 2 - Rob Warren, Rob Lee, Rob Graham, Becky Hewins, Kate Brown, and Laura Breckon

SPC Convective Outlook: Moderate Risk (upgraded to High) (Click to see SPC products, data, and storm reports)

Chase Setup: Pretty similar to the previous day; tornadic supercells expected to form along dryline around the Texas/Oklahoma border, just east of a shortwave trough over New Mexico. Moderate instability and strong vertical wind shear (with favorably curved hodographs) in northwest Oklahoma. Dewpoints in the low to mid-60s.


Chase Log: We first headed out to Erick, where we stopped for a little while to get more data and to decide whether to go north or south. Shortly after we arrived, there were already a few storms on either side of us. The storms to our south looked better on radar, but we knew the storms to our north (although they didn't look so good) were in a much better environment for supercellular and tornadic development.

We took a risky chance going north, but it proved to be the right decision, as many other chasers went after the better-looking storms, only to miss the show of the day.

Not too far north, around Rankin, we spotted our first supercell of the day with a nice wall cloud. We saw a small funnel cloud emerge from the wall cloud, but we quickly lost sight of the wall cloud in the rain that started to fall. We followed the supercell northeastward until just north of Roll. At this point we found a good position and stopped to watch the wall cloud.

We were briefly teased when a funnel cloud came about halfway down to the ground, but failed to touch down. The next funnel was successful, as a beautiful, white, elephant trunk tornado formed. This was the first tornado I had ever seen in the state of Oklahoma. Dean told me it was the first of six we would see that day! (We only wound up seeing two, though!) The tornado touched down three times, as the funnel would go down, up, then back down again for a few minutes.

As soon as the tornado started to dissipate, we got back on the road and a few minutes later crested a hill - only to be shocked at the sight of a large cone tornado on the ground just a few miles ahead of us. This tornado had the largest debris cloud I have ever seen. (I'm sure the Greensburg one must have been larger, but I saw that one after dark so it was difficult to distinguish between debris cloud and tornado.) A funnel cloud dancing around the outside of the cone indicated that this was a multi-vortex tornado. There was a lot of cloud-to-ground lightning at this point as well, which looked very cool right beside the tornado. While the tornado looked beautiful, I was also quite nervous for anyone in its path, even though it was out in the open. I believe these two tornadoes caused some minor structural damage, but nothing serious and no injuries, thankfully.

Once this tornado lifted, we continued to chase the storm and met up with some other storm chasers by the side of a road. We watched the slow-moving storm for a while, and laughed as we saw the same chasers (including the TIV and the Dominator) drive back and forth about three times, as there was a possible tornado report in the storm, then large hail was reported to the north and a good supercell to the south, and then the hail passed and the chasers went back towards the storm. We saw a few funnel clouds with a new wall cloud as we stood and watched the storm. Once we got back on the road, we just missed a third tornado, but we heard that it was rain-wrapped and would have been difficult to see anyway.

We had a small data glitch with ThreatNet, so I stopped by the side of the road around this time to fix it. Unfortunately there wasn't much of a shoulder, so I had to pull off the road a bit. I tried to keep the left tires on the pavement, but before I knew it I had edged off the road. As soon as I did so, I immediately realized the foolishness of my decision - Oklahoma clay + recent heavy rainfall = mush. My right front tire was stuck in 8 inches of mud! I asked everyone to get out of the car, and then Dean and Rob Warren pushed on the front of my car as I quickly reversed my way back onto the road. The minor incident did not cost us much time in chasing the storm, and it was starting to weaken at this point anyway.

Other supercells provided the backdrop for a gloriously beautiful sunset. We also saw some mammatus clouds lit up underneath by the setting sun.

We all had a wonderful day, and this remains one of my favorite storm chases.


PHOTOS

VIDEO (opens to YouTube)