June 21st looked like a big messy day. Forecast was for thunderstorms, including supercells to form along multiple boundaries in western Kansas. It was thought that storms would congeal into a large MCS and track into northern Oklahoma later. That is in fact exactly what happened. Storms formed first along a weak front in northwest Kansas and tracked south. Other storms formed along old outflow boundaries in southwest Kansas. Eventually they all merged in a large high wind producing MCS. Moisture was marginal, but shear and CAPE were fairly high. As they became outflow dominant, a fast moving convective system produced 80 mph winds and golfball sized hail as it tracked in the Oklahoma panhandle. It was a fun day for lightning, and a well defined shelf cloud formed with the complex. Please click on an image for a larger photo. Enjoy!
We weren’t expecting much on May 14th. We had gone to northwest Oklahoma to watch a triple point area for storm development. Shear, moisture and instability were there, but so was a strong capping inversion. Some models forecast storms late, and others showed no initiation whatsoever. We waited and watched a couple LPish storms form and quickly die as the cap was too strong. We decided to head down I-40 towards OKC and see if anything would form. It certainly did! Off to our north, an updraft formed and looked to struggle. Eventually it intensified and we went north to catch it. We intercepted the strongly rotating updraft northeast of Seiling near the town of Orion. Structure was fantastic. It developed a low hang, rotating wall cloud, which looked like it produced a tornado. We could not absolutely confirm it, however other chasers in the areas said there was a brief touch down. We witnessed a couple of funnels as well. We stayed with the storm until it weakened late evening and then headed off to Oklahoma City. Great day for what appeared to be marginal at best! Please click on a photo to see a larger image. Enjoy!
May 22nd featured incredible surface moisture and very high CAPE values as well. I was a bit concerned with upper level winds, but down low it appeared sufficient for tornadic supercells, especially with vertical stretching due to strong instability. We started the day heading towards northeast Oklahoma in the Tulsa vicinity. By mid afternoon storms exploded near I-40 well southwest of the city, so we headed that way. We arrived west of Okmulgee as a tornadic supercell approached. It produced a nice multivortex tornado about 1 mile to our west, followed by a cone just north of us. As the storm moved northeast it weakened as a second tornadic supercell approached town. This storm would produce at least 2 more tornadoes that we could confirm and possibly a 3rd brief tornado northeast of the city. Structure was nice and for last May storm motion wasn’t extremely fast. All in all a fun day. Later in the evening a couple intense tornadoes occurred in Missouri that fortunately did not cause any loss of life. Enjoy the pics below!
A day of big hopes was April 30th. Great moisture, high CAPE and strong deep layer shear would set the stage for supercell development. We started the day in Wichita Falls, Texas only to move across the Red River into southern Oklahoma. It appeared that storms would form along a cold front and intensify as they crossed the river into Oklahoma. We played with a cell near Randlett, OK initially, which never did much. It was severe, but never looked like a threat to produce tornadoes. Eventually a couple of cells formed in front of the cold front and rapidly became severe. One storm near Byers, Texas dropped a significant tornado just across the Red River from us. We figured since the storm was moving northeast at 35 mph that we would stay on the Oklahoma side of the river (since there are FEW crossings!) and wait for the storm and tornado to approach. To our much surprise the tornado dissipated and the supercell died as it came to us! There was NO reason for the NEW supercell to abruptly diminish! However it did, but not before we were able to get some photos of the structure and of the tornado in the distance. It was only about 8 miles away when it’s demise occurred. Fun day, frustrating day, but we all enjoyed ourselves!
April 3rd took us to southwest Oklahoma to film a commercial for Chevy Silverado trucks. After 2 days of intense filming in Colorado, we took the film crew to southwest Oklahoma in search of a supercell storm. It did not disappoint! Late afternoon a storm formed southwest of Wellington, Texas and moved into southwest Oklahoma near Hollis as it intensified into a formidable supercell! Fantastic structure, hail the size of tennisballs and nice lightning greeted us and the film crew. We stayed with the storm till sunset south of Snyder and then let it go. The tv crew was astonished at the sight of the supercell and came away with fantastic footage to use in the commercial. It will air late spring first on CNN and then later on other channels.
June 12th really didn’t look that good on paper. Weak wind shear should have resulted in storms being multicellular or pulse. However, one storm formed on the Kansas border and drifted southwest and became a very pretty supercell. The big story with this storm was lightning and structure. At one point this storm was producing cgs at the rate of 5 per minute. Instability was quite strong and lapse rates were very steep. The storm drifted westward for several hours and maintained its intensity. At one point it was a pretty stack of plates looking supercell. Colors were fantastic as well. Kudos to local fire departments for getting out and putting out the grass fires that were caused by this cell! There were many!! Mid evening the storm weakened and still gave us quite the light show as we drove to our hotel. Enjoy!
May 29th took us to northern Oklahoma. An outflow boundary and advancing cold front across Kansas would provide the focus for supercell thunderstorms this day. Good moisture and extreme instability, as well as good wind shear would provide the ingredients needed for storms to sustain themselves and be intense. The first supercell formed over northern Oklahoma west of Alva and become severe. Later it would be tornado warned and produce a weak tornado. The structure was quite pretty and the storm exhibited decent rotation from time to time. However it could not focus in one spot and usually had broad rotation. Nonetheless, it was a good long lived supercell and provided us many photographic opportunities along the way for Tour 5 and the Photo Tour #2! Enjoy the pics!
May 2nd showed great promise from the eastern Texas panhandle across western and central Oklahoma. Good shear, moisture and instability would be found and a sharp dryline would provide the convergence necessary to initiate intense supercells. Clusters of storms formed first in southwest Kansas at the triple point, while numerous storms formed a touch later down the dryline. One storm we targeted was severe just northeast of Shamrock, Texas. We were quick to find out the failure mode this day and that would be too many cell mergers, splits and interactions. This first storm had merger issues and never got to what it could be. So, we targeted a new cell to our south that became tornado warned off and on for several hours. As the storm moved east to Binger, OK, it cycled several times and had great structure. It tried to produce but just couldn’t focus long enough to get a tornado down. The lightning on the cell was intense at times and occasionally wouldn’t allow us out of the vehicles. Soon, as models suggested, a long line of storms formed and became a wind producing machine as they marched across Oklahoma, with mesovorticies occasionally developing along the leading edge.
May 18th had amazing potential. Great shear, moisture and instability would be present on a day that SPC had a High Risk out for. The main caveat would be too many storms firing too fast, making for a very messy day. We started the day near Clinton, OK and would chase the first supercell, and most tornadic, southwest of there. This storm produced a couple of tornadoes early on, then too many cell mergers would result a messy modes. It seemed that would be the result of this day, where very few tornadoes would actually occur. After chasing the initial supercell, we dropped south towards the Red River to intercept a supercell that was also tornado warned. Again too many cells on it’s upshear flank would make a messy situation on this storm as well. Still, it was a fun chase day with results that certainly didn’t support the High Risk issued.
May 16th was advertised as a great potential day. The dryline in the Texas panhandle would be the focus for supercell development. It did not disappoint! Mid afternoon brought several supercells to the area, with one in particular near McLean. Strong shear, deep moisture, great instability and lift would set the stage for several tornadoes to form this day. Most tornadoes occurred over open countryside, however one strong EF3 tornado did strike the Elk City, Oklahoma area causing significant damage. We witnessed the McLean tornado from it’s birth to death, then followed the Elk City storm from the TX/OK border to Elk City, where we chose to let it go. The tornado was completely rain wrapped and not visible. Storm structure was also fantastic this day, and the hail was huge, up to softball sized. Great first day for Tour 4!