April 25 2009 Foss Lake Oklahoma Tennis Ball Size Hail

Mar 05, 2012

Summary:

Day 1 of the first multiple day chase excursion of 2009. Huge model differences made picking a target area hard but trends began to place the action somewhere along the KS/OK border and perhaps the panhandle region. This was farther than I had hoped but I couldn’t let that deter me. We made it to Wichita where we did the traditional 2hr power nap before setting off for Elk City, this would be my first time seeing Oklahoma city and my first real chase deep into Oklahoma. Met up with fellow chase pal Skip Talbot along with some members from StormTrack by the names of Brandon Sullivan and Mike Brady, also from Illinois. Sat in Sayre for awhile before storms began to fire not far from there. The temperature dewpoint spread was much higher than forecast due to surface temps in the low 90s and thus the storms were all high based. This limited tornado threat greatly but the steep lapse rates provided some hail fun. Got into the biggest hail Ive seen which added some dents to the new chase truck. Also noted a high based shear funnel over Foss Lake during the hail storm. After that we dropped south to intercept a pair of supercells near Cordell, also high based but with amazing structure including an awesome stacked plates mesocyclone. Called it a chase once night fell and booked a hotel in Clinton to be in position for the next days setup.
Stats:
Tornadoes: 0
Largest Hail: 2.5″ [tennis ball!]
Highest wind: est 35mph.
Features: Funnel cloud, stacked plates meso, wall cloud, lenticular cloud.
Detailed account:
The drive down seemed quicker than normal, probably because I was driving faster than normal. We had to wait for Matt to get off work so we got on the road later than usual. Knowing we would likely be targeting an additional 4 hours or more from Wichita I wanted to get down there ASAP to maximize a power nap and minimize the chances of me falling asleep and driving off a cliff.
Set off from Wichita along with Mike around 12 and headed for the target zone. I had finally gotten my stream to work but had no way to secure it to my dashboard so we came up with a solution:
Problem 1 fixed…time for problem 2…after 10 minutes or so of streaming the camera would go through all of its features which would show up on the stream. I didnt know why it was doing that so I opted not to stream until I could figure it out…it ended up being a simple fix. Turns out my camera was in “demo mode” I didnt even know cameras had that. Lesson learned.
After taking the Sayre exit and chatting with Skip, Mike and Brandon for a bit, a teaser storm went up way north. Skip was antsy and raced after it. I was skeptical because I know how often teaser storms fire up and then cross the boundary and die…as was the case here…but…we got baited as well. It didnt last long as echoes began to explode to our south. We intercepted the first tiny little echoe east of town as it was nothing more than a rain shower.
It began to strengthen before our eyes and spit out some lightning and moderate rain.
The day had begun. We followed this cell north as it began to produce some hail which at its largest point was nickel sized. After a couple rounds with the core we pulled ahead of it and began to notice a bit of organization. A RFB [rain free base] had developed. The base was rather high due to the conditions mentioned above but it was still worth watching.
Some good structure to keep things going. Eventually we broke off this storm for a better looking storm on radar heading towards Foss Lake. While racing towards it we ended up behind Skip again at random…small world. The storm went warning with hail up to golf ball size. Danny and I wanted a piece of that action since the storm stood little chance of being tornadic given the high base. Skip must have been thinking along the same lines because he made all the turns we planned on making. We get near the lake and the hail starts to fall as quarters at first. So we pull over where we can see the clear slot over Foss lake moving our way. To my surprise a little shear funnel emerged.
We had hopes a miracle would happen and we would get a slender waterspout but knew that would likely not happen. It was still cool to see. Hail was falling the whole time but it was about to get bigger, and this is where it got fun. A few thunks…a few louder thunks…followed by a loud BANG. I began to notice some golf balls bouncing in the grass and decided it was time to roll camera.

In the video Brandon tries to escape, but driving in such a hailstorm increases the impact velocity and he ended up losing a windshield. Skip and I stood our ground and kept our glass, but as you will see the stones got larger and my truck sustained some good size hail dents. Listen at the :21 mark on this video, that is definitely a dent being made!

The sound of all that ice smashing into the pavement was something i never heard before. Large hail fascinates me almost as much as tornadoes. I was extremely happy despite the dents on the truck. Looking out the window I could see the very solid updraft tower that belonged to this storm. Straight up!
Once it had calmed down and we deemed it safe we decided to head out and collect some of the stones to see how big they were.
Another fascinating thing about large hail…it takes on all types of shapes and textures.
We actually kept all these in the cooler. I measured the circles for scale. The outside circle is 3.5″ and the inner circle is 2.75″ the biggest stone appears to be the one in the bottom right corner of the lid, which is a hair smaller than the inner circle. For hail reporting sakes we went with tennis ball which is 2.5″ as it wasn’t quite baseball [2.75″] however, Id be willing to bed the actual size is somewhere in between that.
So that was pretty awesome. We decided it was time to pick up the chase where we left off. The storm was still trecking to the east but there were some better looking storms heading for the Cordell area to the south so we opted for those. To get there we had to punch back through our storm, it still had plenty of hail with it but it was back down to quarter size and smaller.
We made it to the first storm. High based again. We had an amazing view though and the motion was slow. This provided some good photo ops as the storm tried to organize and began sucking up scud and even produced an odd looking wall cloud at some point.
Matt checking out the hail dents on the roof. One is easily seen just above the windshield. There is at least 5 others like it.
Ok back to the storm…
This was part of the inflow stream feeding into the storm. It resembles a lenticular cloud, the kind that typically form near mountains.
The storm began to suck up some scud as a weak wall cloud tried to get going. It started off like this.
And became this after about 5 minutes.
Even though scud is nothing special its still neat to watch the movements, especially when its being sucked into the storm. Well we decided to let this storm go as it was clear it didnt want to produce. So we dropped to the next cell south of town which began to show some incredible structure. Here is Dannys video as we drive towards it.

Daylight was beginning to fade which means my crappy digital camera becomes more useless. This LP-ish storm had some beautiful structure. A stacked plates meso! There was also quite a nice lightning display all around us. All the other chasers seemed to have vanished and we were able to sit there by ourselves and just listen to the storm for a good 20 minute. Reminding me some of what chasing is all about. Being in the presence of natures beauty. Its very relaxing and awe inspiring.
Some structure shots. Im not sure what to do about these damn black smudges that are starting to appear!
Amazing!!!!
Although Im a photo noob and should have not let the powerlines in my shot. Oh well live and learn. The next shot is what I love. Just us and the storm!
Well the sun would fully set after that…but not before the storm produced this weird looking rope thingy in the precip shat that baffled us for a few minutes. Im not even going to stir up a tornado debate on this one. I dont even have a picture of the thing but I think Danny has some video.
After that we trudged through some backroads and I got to have some fun with the all terrain tires. Got into some muddy clay roads but even with the 4WD off I was able to plow right through them and send mud everywhere. Fun stuff! We decided to sit in the path of the storm to see what kind of hail it had to offer. Got one last round of hail up to Nickel size. The storms had very little lightning so we only attempted to shoot it for a couple minutes before deciding to call it a day and head to Clinton where we would stay the night. While we were there things began to ramp up and some tornado reports came out of Enid along with some damage. Thankfully there were no deaths.
Conclusion:
The very large hail definitely made this an awesome chase day. I had low confidence in the tornado threat especially once the surface obs started showing such large temperature dewpoint spreads which would lead to the high based storms. The storms that did go up had excellent viewing opportunities though and the structure was great. Meeting up with some fellow chasers, getting munched by the large hail, seeing the amazing structure and being able to sit with a storm all by ourselves for 20 minutes and just embrace its presence made this an almost perfect chase day. The only thing that would have made it a 10 was a tornado…but alas. The grand prize is a tough one.
Google Map. This is actually a combined map of the 2 day chase trip. The green line is todays chase. This map will probably get tweeked a bit as time goes on.

SPC storm reports for the day.

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