Green Sky Chaser

10 February 2009 Chase Log

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Target Area: Bowie/Gainesville, Texas (Click on city names for Yahoo! maps links)

Chase Area: Waurika, Oklahoma to Bowie/Nocona/Gainesville, Texas

Observations: one funnel cloud (lifting tornado), two wall clouds, two supercells, lightning, and one armadillo

Distance: 470 miles

Time: 11 hours

Chase Team: Car 1 - Dean Narramore, Rob Warren, Jeff Makowski, and myself; Car 2 - Rob Lee, Pete Argyle, Kate Brown, and Becky Hewins

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

Chase Setup: Looked like a great dryline setup in north Texas for supercells with large hail and some isolated tornadoes.


Chase Log: We left Norman around 12:30pm on our way to Gainesville. By the time we got to Ardmore, we decided to head further west on Highway 70 towards the cells forming out along the dryline. We went as far as Waurika before backtracking to Ardmore again and then driving down to Gainesville, when we realized the supercells were quickly forming a squall line that would be nigh on impossible to safely chase, even if there was anything embedded in it. A little discouraged by how the day was playing out, we still held out hope that we might be able to catch any storms that formed out in front of the line.

After a quick stop in Gainesville to regroup and figure out what we wanted to do next, we noticed a small cell popping up near Graham. Knowing it was our best shot to see something before dark, we headed off to Bowie where we intercepted the storm. We saw a pretty decent updraft base but no rotation to speak of. After watching the cell weaken, we figured it was probably on its last leg, so decided to head back to Norman and get some fun squall line action along the way.

Typical, as soon as we turned our backs on the storm it got its act back together. Driving north on Highway 81 and then up on Farm Road 1816, we stopped to watch the supercell near Nocona. A low, weakly rotating wall cloud formed and we thought it was about to produce a tornado.

A little further north, we lost the wall cloud in the rain. Shortly thereafter we picked out a beautiful, tall, white funnel cloud (though a little low-contrast) in front of the rain at about 6:30pm. It looked like it was about halfway down to the ground, but we never actually saw it on the ground. The funnel curled up and roped out in less than a minute. (Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of it, as I was driving and didn't have time to stop and take a picture.) We found out shortly thereafter from a local storm report that there was an actual touchdown there at that time for a few minutes, so assumed what we saw was probably the dying tornado.

We knew we wouldn't be able to follow the storm much longer, as it was racing away from us and we had the Red River to deal with. The lightning on the storm was amazing; I'd never seen such incredibly beautiful anvil crawlers, and there were a fair number of cloud-to-ground strikes as well. After shooting some photos and video of the lightning, we drove back to Gainesville for dinner.

Dean told the cashier at Whataburger that we were storm chasers and there was a tornado-warned storm headed their way (it chased us back to Gainesville) and they gave him a free drink! He tried to get a free burger from them, but apparently they weren't that grateful. After eating, we followed the supercell to just northeast of the city and saw a large wall cloud on that one as well, nicely lit up by lightning. Once again we were stopped by the river, so gave up for the day and worked our way back up to Norman.

All in all it was a fun and interesting chase; certainly my best first chase of the season, especially since we saw a funnel cloud. However, we were saddened to later learn that the supercell we were following north of Bowie went on to produce a deadly EF4 tornado in Lone Grove, Oklahoma.


PHOTOS

VIDEO (opens to YouTube)