The Storm Prediction Center issued a slight risk and 5% tornado ring for today:
I started the day in Wichita Falls, TX. My fridge died sometime during the night before, and the hotel manager was kind enough to give me a $5 discount. I decided to take a short detour towards my target area of Seiling, OK, and pick up a few new counties. I headed up US-277, then OK-36 to I-44, and then drove through Lawton, OK (lots of traffic, got delayed quite a bit) to pick up ice and some Wendy’s burgers for breakfast. I left Lawton on US-62 and then got on US-183.
and then later in Washita County, I drove past the Washita Court House:
At 18:22z, I was leaving Mountain Park, OK and there were cumulus from the northeast to the southwest. I expected to see them farther to the west than this.
At 18:47z, there were puffs of clouds to the east and maybe some way north. I was targeting the ones farther north. According to GOES, there was a front spiraling through OK from Woodward, OK to OKC, to Wichita Falls, TX. There is a light cumulus line around Liberal, KS
At 21:53z, from just north of Arapahoe, OK, there were cumulus clouds building in all directions. There was adequate shear because the towers were all leaning. The dewpoint in Clinton was 62F, so that was a good sign.
At 22:30z, I stopped in Seiling, OK, there were cells beginning to fire to the north and east. I’m clearly at the back edge of the dryline, so I need to get east. There are no clouds to my west, but clouds everywhere else. The dewpoint also dropped in Clinton, now only 58F. Heading east on US-60
At 21:01z, I am sitting in Fairview, OK. There are cells all over, but the NWS has issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the area. Data dead though, using NOAA WX radio only.
At 21:10z, there are crisp cells going up all around. I’m drifting south through Fairview, OK a little just to get a better vantage point.
I hung out in Fairview, OK for a few minutes, watching some of the cumulus start to develop. I refueled just as a cell began to develop near by. I started to drive away, forgetting that the gas nozzle was still in my car- thankfully figuring it out before I drove away completely! I put the nozzle back and was on the road, watching the towering cumulus in the picture below.
I made a loop around the area (the same area that yielded three tornadoes in the 2011 chase) between Fairview and Canton. The northern cells had merged into a line, leaving one discrete cell to the south. That needed to be the storm that I chased. I followed it east out of Canton to O’Keene, OK.
There was a brush fire (lightning induced) along the way, but I managed to get through that. It looked like a farmer was burning off his field, but soon the emergency vehicles arrived. I pulled off onto a county road when I saw two mini vans full of college students with maroon shirts- it was the Virginia Tech storm chase crew. Seeing as I had chased with them for four years, I chatted with them as we hung out under the wall cloud of the southernmost cell:
It became apparent that we needed to head south and then east to keep a good view of the storm. We headed towards Kingfisher, OK, where we would turn south to follow the storm. Instead, we made it just west Loyal, OK, we watched an exceptionally low funnel cloud that just didn’t quite touch ground:
Realizing that the path to Kingfisher was blocked, we backtracked west until we found a good road to get a long ways south and then back east. We kept playing the south then east game to tag the cell. This cell was spinning like a top, and from these pictures you can even see the cirrus clouds getting spun around near this storm.
We continued through El Reno, OK and headed south some more. There was another cell developing to the southwest of the one we had been tracking. The one we had been tracking was currently wreaking havoc in Oklahoma City, so we began to turn our attention to the next cell in the flanking line:
We were quickly running out of daylight, and pretty soon we were watching this storm through the lightning. At some point, we were able to see a dust whirl through the lightning. Then another dust whirl closer. The farther away dust whirl caught my attention, however. We watched the farther dust whirl for a few minutes and sure enough, a funnel cloud appeared near it. I did not get a picture, but folks on the Virginia Tech crew did. Their blog is here.
The tornado on this storm was short lived, and without daylight, we continued south to avoid the storms. We were finally able to get ahead of them and slightly out of the way, and rented rooms at the Super 8 in Lawton, OK for the night.
Starting Odometer: 249148
Ending Odometer: 249637