Followed embedded supercell that struggled to produce on a day with high expectations.
Hail: 1.50″ (Ping pong ball)
Strong, negative tilt trough plowing into the plains with moist unstable warm sector already in place. Low level shear forecast to be on the weak side, in addition to some VBV concerns. Lapse rates also forecast to be very steep. CAPE values nearing the extreme side hopefully would negate some of the other concerns. A severe weather outbreak was forecast nearly a week in advance. At the very least, very large hail appeared likely. SPC went moderate risk for hail, but kept things 10-hatched for tornadoes due to some of the shear concerns.
Even during last weeks chases, there was already buzz about this trough as it had high potential. Signals were pointing towards the potential for a classic plains tornado outbreak, but still with some concerns. I made sure my schedule was cleared and was available to chase this and the following days. The day before featured chances for hail across northern Illinois, and I slowly made my way down to Norman, sampling a couple of these cores along the way but never getting anything bigger than penny size. I arrived in Norman at 630am, ready for sleep.
I awoke, everyone at Bens got ready and we (Chelsea and I) were on our way by 1pm with a target of SW Oklahoma. Things were coming together well and the hi-res models were all breaking out supercells. We arrived near the Wichita Mountains with some time to spare and chose to relax along a desolate backroad, just taking in the scenery. Much to our surprise, a PDS tornado watch was issued, and we were beginning to think the day was about to go big.
A supercell went up near Vernon, TX and we began making our move towards it. We waited near the town of Elmer (where I had an amazing chase last year) to let the storm approach. It had the appearance I like to see on radar, a nice cycle shape with deep precip core. Seeing as how the storm was still south of the Red River we decided to wait for it on the Oklahoma side, to allow it to mature more. The storm quickly threw off a left split, with the right split jogging east, another good sign. Structure from afar was good, with a nice meso and developing inflow features.
We moved east to re-position on the storm on some fun backroads, complete with large craters and bumps. Allowing the precip core to skirt us a couple times with small hail. As we moved to keep pace with the storm, I nudged us inside the notch, as the storm took on more of an HP appearance. A few serious attempts at rotating wall clouds were made, with some scud sucking and rising motion. Nothing could sustain itself though. Other storms quickly blew up on this storms flank. It appeared the storms were having trouble moving off the dryline and seeding each other. The storms took on a big outflowish-HP appearance.
I moved us into the cage, skirting the rear flank core once again, with hail a bit bigger (perhaps quarter size) and the next attempt at a wall cloud forming infront of us. This would have been the PERFECT time for the storm to produce as we would have had an absolutely amazing view with noone around, but it wasn’t meant to happen. We tracked the storm further north and went eastbound on highway 62 which runs just south of the mountains. I was thinking back to November 7th 2011 when we saw tornadoes touch down in these very mountains.
Suddenly a few large hailstones slammed the truck, they were probably at least ping pong ball size (1.5″) but may have been larger, unfortunately it only lasted a few seconds. Very large hail was supposed to be the primary threat today but that also seemed to be lacking. As we tracked the storms further our road network vanished due to the Wichita Mountains. I was tempted to leave our storm and make for the tail end storm of the 3, but I figured it would be moving into worked over air and decided it wasn’t worth it.
We basically followed the storm back to Norman, watching some awesome lightning strikes in the process. We arrived in Norman as the squall line hit with some loud booming thunder. Meeting up with fellow chaser friends, we enjoyed a worthwhile “bust” celebration with burgers and drinks.
A couple QLCS tornadoes occurred after dark while we were out eating, but those aren’t worth much anyways.
While today technically wasn’t a bust because we got on some supercells that produced severe hail, wind and a few attempts at funnel clouds, it definitely fell short of expectations. Hopes were high a week out, but the setup just didn’t come together the way it needed to. This will be a setup many can learn stuff from a forecasting standpoint. Days like this remind me that mother nature will always dictate how the day goes. it was a great time despite the lack of big tornadoes we all thought would occur. The storms themselves were severe, and at least we had some intense weather to get into. Until next time….