Today was a long day in the saddle. We left Rio Rancho around 8am and drove east, originally targeting Fairview, OK. As we approached our exit in Oklahoma, the atmosphere was still dry at our location, and cumulus were developing to our east. We punched on.
You could see how much energy was available in the atmosphere today, based on the CAPE map. The bullseye is 5000 J/kg.
Between about Weatherford, OK and El Reno, OK, storms began to fire in the Oklahoma City area. At first, we tried to run in front of them and drop south, but that was not going to work. We would have been in the hail core (and ultimately the bear’s cage of what became the Shawnee Tornado).
Instead, we bided our time, dropped south on I-44 taking a roundabout approach through southwest Oklahoma City, and then jogged east along OK-9 towards Pink, OK. Between Norman, OK and Pink, OK, we saw our first wall cloud of the trip.
Eventually, this wall cloud began to lose definition, but it tried to reform over Shawnee. We made it to the updraft vault and watched the storm continue to rotate and attempt to form a wall cloud. If you blur your eyes slightly, you can see that many of the features here are striated due to the rotation.
At this point, we had no idea that Shawnee had been hit. We saw several police rush up to the intersection ahead of us, but I assumed there had been a fenderbender (there was), and that the police wanted things cleaned up because of the big tornado threat. We drove through the south and east sides of town, having no idea that there had been damage to other parts of town.
We kept hearing the reports of a tornado warned cell crossing I-40, but were unable to see the tornado from our position. We did have a wall cloud develop on the backside of the storm (the next in the flanking line). We followed it through southeast Shawnee (at this point, not knowing about the damage at the other end of town), and kept up with it to Henryetta, OK. At Henryetta, we turned north towards Okmulgee.
We crept northbound at Okmulgee watching the storm develop. It kept trying to form a wall cloud, but was dropping large hail. About the time that the hailcore was passing over the highway, it was becoming too dark to chase anyway, so we turned back and headed towards Oklahoma City for the night.
Chase-wise, it was a long, but better than average day. We saw some good storm structure, picked up some hail, and saw a well defined wall cloud. We missed the tornado, but otherwise it was a good day. The mileage is a personal best, however.
Starting Odometer: 281008
Ending Odometer: 281859