On Friday, I called into Intel due to the massive early-issued high risk in OK/KS/NE. Clearly, this was a very unique setup, with the SPC having issued the risk so far in advance.
I left Rio Rancho at around 7:30pm on 4-13-12. I took I-25 to Springer, NM, where I picked up US-412 and took it through NM through the OK panhandle. I ended up calling it a night in Woodward, OK, at around 5:00am. I slept in a truckstop parking lot at the west end of town for a few hours.
I woke up at around 10:00am, and took a shower at the truck stop. As I left, a local man asked if he needed to be worried about the weather. I told him the last time I checked, the risk was much higher to the east, but to keep an eye open.
The skies were overcast and it was a little colder than I’d like for a storm chase moment. I had my observations, but I was pretty well data dead, however. Autonet was useless, as was my smart phone. I went to McDonald’s to use their wifi. The high risk had expanded to cover much of the plains. I’ve also never seen a 45% tornado risk ring.
The sounding from OUN shows how much shear was available today:
The wind fields map on the SPC Comp Map shows this as well:
There was a developing dryline across the TX panhandle as well. This dryline would be the focus of much of the activity today.
After killing an hour or so in McDonald’s, I headed east on US 412, and then north towards Waynoka. As I drifted north, I noticed in the rearview mirror that the skies behind me were starting to clear. I turned around and headed south, ending up in Seiling, OK.
I spent a few minutes at a gas station at the south end of Seiling. I got my weather station running, and played with my video camera for a few minutes as well. I called Bobby Edmonds, who told me he was in Kansas, and advises me to do so as well. I was a good ways into Oklahoma, and by the time I got north, I would have missed the storms completely. Instead, I opted to stay south. Once again though, I was data dead, so I had a quick meal at the Oklahoma Hill Cafe, where they had free wireless. From there, I got a few more updates. Of the most interest was how the CAPE was developing, and the area where it was developing.
From this, I knew it was wise to stay west- the threat maybe over Oklahoma City later in the evening, but for now, storm development will take place over the TX/OK panhandles. After getting these images, I danced around a bit between whether to head north or south. Eventually, the outline of a few cells began to appear to the west, so I went west on US-60. I searched for internet in Vici with no luck. I continued west, doubled back to Vici and then continued west again. By now there were several cells going up with severe thunderstorm warnings on them, though the cells were not very crisp. One cell was leaving the Gage area and headed northeast, so I headed north on NS1895 towards Fargo. I figured I would not catch this cell, but would likely catch the next one that formed to its southwest. I never did, as they were too fast. Once in Fargo, I headed northeast back into Woodward, but with extreme difficulty. Woodward was now tornado warned, and I was in heavy, pea sized hail. Still having no data, I stopped off at the same McDonald’s in Woodward and checked the radar. By the time the radar loaded through all of the McDonald’s agreements, the storm was through Woodward, and another one building to the southwest. I left town on US-270 and picked up the Northwest Oklahoma Skywarn Net, and checked in with them. They said radar was showing a cell approaching the town of Mutual, but that continuing on US-270 meant large hail. Realizing I could not get to the southeast of this storm, I decided to go west in hopes of catching the next one, once again. I turned on the Sharon-Shattock road and went west through more pea sized hail, which I reported. I headed south on OK-34 out of Sharon for a few miles, safely on the west side of the storm. I did, however, stop and pick up a bunch of ping pong ball to golf ball sized hailstones that were strewn about just south of Sharon. Thankfully, I missed these when they were falling. I grabbed a few handfuls to replenish my cooler. It’s ice, right?
At this point, I headed north on OK-34 back towards Woodward to try to catch the next cells coming out of the southeast. I trailed them, but was never quite able to catch up to them. At some point along north of Woodward, with clear skies to the south and west, I gave up the chase and went back to Woodward to spend the night.
Lessons learned in this part:
1. Data is sparse, especially when everyone is running streaming video.
2. Dead-reckoning storm positions hourly from the NWS weather radio are pretty well useless when some of the storms are moving 80 MILES PER HOUR.
3. Busting is much harder when you’ve called into work and intended to chase just this one day.
After reserving my hotel room, I walked to an Italian restaurant for dinner, and then to a Love’s for a few supplies I had forgot to bring. The sun was setting on a clear sky, but the day had not dried out like I expected. I was clearly still on the wet side of the dryline.
And as it turns out, my day was just beginning….