April 14th 2011 Oklahoma High Risk Bust

Feb 26, 2012

Murphy’s Law chase. Left Chicago in the morning to chase promising looking setup in Oklahoma. Plagued by tech failures, school busses and other variables I managed to get into about 4 different hook echos on different storms but for whatever reason it was always too late or the storm just didn’t want to produce. Saw a funnel and a possible tornado in the junky terrain. Called chase early to get a jump start on the drive home.
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: .75″ [penny]
Wind: est 45mph thunderstorm gust.
New area I hate to chase in: E OK
Lessons Learned: When terrain is uniformly bad, just go where the best parameters are.
Detailed Account:
I had high hopes for this day, which was probably my first mistake. I should have taken it as a sign when chase partners from IL began dropping like flies and left me to go on this difficult chase solo, but alas…I fear nothing. I tried to go to bed around 1030pm the night before to wake up and depart at 3am but I didn’t sleep a wink due to excitement. 3am came and I was out the door. About 10 minutes into my drive however I had a complete technology meltdown. Another sign I probably shouldn’t have ignored. All my programs stopped receiving GPS signals and my internet was telling me “remote computer cannot connect” whatever that means. Needless to say it took about an hour to figure everything out and get it reconfigured but I eventually was up and running, already an hour behind. I wanted to target S/SE OK despite being warned about how terrible the terrain was but now that I was behind it became apparent I wouldn’t make it down there in time so I settled for the northern end of the target. Also on the way down during one of my stops for fuel I realized I was missing a camera cord which meant I would be unable to stream, another blow from Murphy.
By the time I got to Tulsa the first blips of initiation popped on radar and the chase was on without me ever having time to really stop and rest. I began to go after the storms and as I expected was attempting to do so in nasty terrain. If that wasn’t enough throw in slow moving locals and it was quite a challenge to get where I wanted to be in time.
I went east out of Tulsa to get on the first set of storms but they began to move into a large Indian reservation with poor road network so I left them for a new storm heading towards Stroud. Coming from the north meant a core punch to get into the hook. I was making good time when all of a sudden I found myself stuck behind a school bus. The bus made either 6 or 7 stops to let kids off, each time stopping for at least a minute. This cost me precious time and now there was no way I was going to get south in time to beat the hook so I had to backtrack on poor roads to get east and then south. There were very little roads to chose from that would get me down there and to the interstate so I pretty much had to go back the way I came. In my attempt to do so I spotted a ragged funnel in the trees but could never pull over anywhere to get a shot. I later learned this funnel touched down as a very brief tornado in Stroud. Just my luck.
Eventually I got into the book further east near the town of Bristow but all that was left was a grungy are with some weak rotation.
Here is a radar image, good position, crappy storm.
I decided to drop this storm as it approached Tulsa for better looking storms to the south. Same story though. Bad terrain and poor views. I got into the hook of the first storm down the line but this thing was an ugly HP machine with no structure and jut a large rain shaft.
On to the next storm I went, I was getting frustrated trying to find a decent view, but kept at it. The next storm had a nice presentation on radar, but no reports yet. I got myself into the best position I could and finally at least was able to see some structure. I was south of the town of Beggs when I got on the storm.
I was getting some small hail at this point, no bigger than penny though.
I moved up a little bit as the storm approached and noticed a suspicious lowering. A possible tornado?
I observed and filmed the feature for a couple minutes before it disappeared in the rain. The road I was on made a sharp curve into a valley and I had no hopes of keeping up with it. The motion never looked all that dramatic to me, but alas a tornado was indeed reported in the location I was watching this feature in. I am currently awaiting any storm survey to hopefully shed some light on this. If no survey comes out, I will just file this in my “inconclusive” bin. My position on radar was good and a few of the tornadoes other chasers caught today had a similar look, so it is very possible, just not definitive.
After this I moved onto the next storm which was right on its heels. This storm probably offered the best structure I was able to get all day. At first there was a ragged wall cloud with some rotation and a nice inflow tail. A strange funnel looking feature developed out of it, most likely scud.
I watched in hopes it would drop something nice for me, but of course it didn’t. It just became more disorganized and eventually was lost in the rain.
By now the storms began to look like crud on radar. Somewhat frustrated and annoyed I simply gave up the chase at this point. I uploaded my meager video to my broker and she was able to make a small sale to recoup some of the high amounts of gas money I invested in the day. Around this time the southern target really lit up and massive, destructive tornadoes began dropping for those who were in the area. That was the final blow. I had gotten some calls from chasers about meeting up for dinner but I simply just started driving home. Finally my luck turned around when I made a stop at a McDonalds, the woman working gave me my meal on the house. I was awake for well over 24hr hours, extremely tired and somewhat miffed by how the day turned out. I was feeling pretty energetic on the drive home though, but as I passed through Rolla, MO I noticed a sleezy motel offering rooms for 20 bucks. I figured I might as well get some sleep and take my chances on tomorrows chase instead of driving home.
I enjoy chasing alone, but this is one of those times I really wish I had someone with me. It was a difficult chase to navigate those horrible roads in the garbage terrain while trying to watch radar and maintain visuals etc etc. Getting caught behind the school bus prevented me from a good intercept and missing the Stroud tornado. I really hate knowing random bad luck is what ruins the chase, but between that, the tech meltdown delaying me an hour and my camera cord somehow vanishing into thin air. I am definitely ready to forget this day. It seems each year I have one chase where everything just goes horribly wrong. Hopefully this was it and I am now free for the rest of year. If the possible tornado near Beggs gets confirmed It will save the day, but I am not holding my breath.
I did not make a serious attempt to chase the southern target despite how much better it looked due to me being constantly told it was unchaseable due to terrain. The tornadoes that developed there were significant and photogenic. Unfortunately the town of Tushka took a direct hit with fatalities and my thoughts go out to the victims. The terrain in my target was also awful, so next time a similar situation presents itself, I will just go to where the better parameters are. If I am going to be in bad terrain either way I might as well have a shot at real tornadoes. The Stroud tornado only lasted a few seconds and was no great prize but still…something, ANYTHING concrete would have been nice out of this trip, even if it only lasted a few seconds.
Map. ARRRRGH shows where I got stuck behind the bus, circle shows where I caught the possible tornado.
SPC Storm reports, with detailed report of my possible tornado below.

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