Sunday, June 5, 2011
Chase 7 May 24th 2011 EF-5 Wedge El Reno, Oklahoma
It was a beautiful morning in Elk City, OK the dryline receding from yesterday’s storms and a cu field scattering western Oklahoma. Today in the forecast was for a similar but better setup for supercells all along the dryline of Oklahoma. Brad Duncan really wanted to come, but had to stay home for his daughter’s t-ball game. Stephanie Baker still was able to ride along for what was about to be a long evening of intense action. Waiting at initiation just a little south of Clinton, OK, we watched cells explode moving northeast converging into the first severe thunderstorm of the day. We followed this north and east for a little while until I realized we needed to get south to the second tornado warned cell in yesterday’s area that was beginning to report tornadoes. Meteorologically I was twisting my head because I should’ve known and forecasted what I call the STAIRCASE CHASE METHOD. The one that we were chasing was also tornado warned too, but had my heart set on the second southern tornadic supercell.
Shep did an amazing job navigating us all the way down there, while I was on top of my game driving through intense lightning and heavy downpours at times. We were near I-40 again way to the east near Oklahoma City just north of Hinton, OK. It was dark and very ominous! Adrenaline kicked in when we reached a clearing and could see a wedge was on the ground in the distance moving in our direction. When I say distance, there was plenty of time to get south and be in position as it moves northeastward into the El Reno, Oklahoma area. As we drive through Hinton, OK we get to a road that drives south and east at the same time. Shep and Stephanie at this point were watching and photographing what was a good sized tornado moving northeast towards Hinton. I pulled over and looked to see the meso and below immense rotation in the distance at it was passing to the north of us. Most incredible rotation I’ve ever seen close to the ground. It wasn’t even fully condense either. I saw the roping stage unfolding when parked watching it pass by. Now in my meteorological sensing I’m sure this energy of rotation fully engulfed into the wedge that dominated most of what was on the ground as it kept tugging along northeast towards northern El Reno and northern Piedmont, Oklahoma. Maneuver driving was engaged just to get back to the northeast to catch up to the wedge. I made some bad decisions on my driving in order to get a better position, but with safety concerns for other people with us. It was for the best. We got to 81 and headed north to El Reno where we ran into chaser convergence following behind the most intense backside rotation of a tornado passing over the road. The rain horizontal and power flashes up ahead made for an exciting but bittersweet moment. This tornado was damaging to many lives.
Piedmont, Oklahoma, a town I’m the biggest fan because I grew up in this town and found what I wanted to do with my life. We were able to go north to see that my neighborhood just east of the town of Piedmont was still intact. To the north though, not so fortunate.
Everything was getting blocked off, which was great work by the emergency response teams. So hats off to them. I hope for speed recovery and hope for those not fortunate of this disaster.
We began back to the east to get to I-35 so we could catch up with a supercell moving through Norman area heading east on I-40. We again drove through the intense updraft, anvil where hail fell ahead of this monster super cell. Again Ryan Shepard, thanks to him for navigating us through to get in position for possible structured supercell. We arrived in Shawnee, another funny, Stephanie Baker who lived there through her college career just graduated from this town with the intention of never coming back. WELL SHE WAS WRONG! LOL. So we pulled in to get gas and saw the Roger Hill caravan following the similar ideas that this was all that was close enough to enjoy. We drove north of Shawnee and I looked over and moved over slowing down quickly. There was our third tornado of the day. A beautiful rope tornado just to our west. The storm began to outflow but in the rising updraft area was this tornado that many others were much closer to have a better vantage point. All in all an amazing day once again. Shep and I talked to cows for a good 5-6 mins too while standing out watching the cell moving northeastward towards Tulsa area. Don’t have this footage, but will get it when I can :)
Golf Ball Hail