Hook sliced intense HP supercell, catching hard to view tornado that touched down near Ninnekah, before shortly calling off chase.
Hail: 1.75″ (Golf ball)
Wind: est 75 mph inflow
Deepening low in the Texas panhandle with surging dryline ahead of it. Warm front draped near the Red River forecast to lift north through Oklahoma during the day. Strong instability forecast to develop especially if early morning storms cleared out, this was a concern mainly across Oklahoma. Two targets presented themselves today, one ahead of the dryline in north central Texas (Dallas area) and another across SW Oklahoma along the warm front where helicity would be maximized. SPC went with enhanced tornado probabilities covering both targets.
Today was supposed to be the other “big day” in this week of highly anticipated tornado setups. There appeared to be some potential, but much more conditional. Looking at the two targets I chose the triple point/warm front play in SW Oklahoma. I just keep getting burned going further south on drylines despite their reputation as being the most desired target zones. Kenzie Sloan (Ben’s roommate and long time friend) decided to tag along with me when her other ride became full. We departed Norman around 1pm and moved southwest, pretty much re-tracing the exact route I took Tuesday.
A supercell with beautiful radar presentation went up near Altus, but it was behind the boundary. Still, we had a really easy play on it heading west out of Lawton. Upon arrival the structure was quite elongated and outflow-y.
The storm was having trouble moving ahead of the boundary and tapping the rich tornado air ahead of it. A new storm went up to the south, closer to the warm front and I decided to bail for that one. Arriving on it we noted similar structure, but at least were in good position.
The warm front began lifting north though, and started interacting with the storm we just left. Son of a…so I turned us around quickly and began blasting back towards that storm. That storm was also over the Wichita Mountain area which severely lacks roads. Our only chance to get back ahead of it was to go back through Lawton and up I-44, which thankfully runs sharply northeast, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have had a chance at all. We made good time through Lawton, but the storm was encroaching the interstate already. The only approach was a hook slice.
Fighting what seemed like a 30 minute long barrage of white out rain and hail up to golfball size thanks to 60+mph RFD winds, I didn’t think we would pull it off. I had to slow to nearly a stop a few times because I could not see an inch infront of me. Literally WHITE OUT conditions.
Keeping note of wind direction kept me going, and I was not worried about a tornado overtaking us. I was more concerned about hail breaking my drivers window than anything. Suddenly, clearing emerged. Then the precip ended. We made it.
The storm was grossly HP, and this part of Oklahoma has less than desirable terrain, so gaining a visual on anything was difficult. We cat-n-moused the intense RFD a couple times. Basically stopping while we had a view until it began raining and hailing on us, then driving forward. Finally a very large, rapidly rotating wall cloud emerged and was passing to our south and east. I flipped on the camera and shouted “this wants to do it!” Not more than 4 seconds after, a vortex whirls up from the ground. Tornado.
My camera was having trouble focusing (a recurring problem this year as I seem to keep forgetting to set it to infinity) but luckily I got it to focus just as the tornado condensed about 45 seconds after the first vortex.
The tornado was multi vortex in nature, with a couple more of these spinning up over the course of 2 minutes. I thought for sure it would widen out to a wedge or strong cone given the rapid, violent movement. I moved forward to keep pace and hopefully find a better view, but there was none to be had in the hilly tree infested Oklahoma jungle. At this point the storm began morphing from a supercell into this weird ninja star looking thing. Moving past Chickasha I tried my best to find the notch and re-position for perhaps a more significant tornado shot.
Judging by the shape on radar, and velocity signatures showing only a large RFD surge and no real rotation, I called the chase. It wasn’t worth it anymore, but we kept pace ahead of it just in case. It appeared to be finally lining out as we approached the outskirts of the OKC metro area, and we sat for awhile at a gas station in Blanchard where I uploaded some video. The storms moved east, and I met up with a bunch of chaser friends at Buffalo Wild Wings in Norman for dinner. My original plan was to drop Kenzie off and head straight home, but running into everyone we decided to have one last shindig, and Im glad I stayed.
An extremely difficult chase with an extremely difficult storm to position on yielded us a brief view of a tornado not many were able to see. It makes me feel proud to be able to pull that off, especially in Oklahoma when dozens, probably 100 other chasers are out. That was easily one of the most HP storms I’ve ever had to position on. While some might say hook slicing is foolish and not worth it, thats their choice. As for me, I like experiencing the storm, and nabbing those harder to catch, more skilled prizes. At least I can go home not tornado-less. Despite this though, 2016 has yet to deliver a truly amazing tornado prize to me. The experiences have been great, and I appear to be on my game with catching them when I’m out, but the tornadoes themselves need to step up THEIR game and stop being so brief/HP/after dusk