Storm Chase Log: "Back to the Plains" 4/13/2014

Some times a storm chase doesn't quite turn out like you think it will, but that’s not always a bad thing. Our chase in southern Oklahoma on 4/13/2014 was one of those days.  Our team left Wichita, KS mid-morning with an initial target of Gainseville, Texas.  Towering cumulus were quickly going up along the dryline so there was some concern of earlier initiation than originally thought.  As we were racing down I-35 we watched a number of towers go up and fall to our west on the horizon.  After moving off the dryline, the updrafts just could not break the cap and sustain themselves.  We decided to wait in Ardmore, Oklahoma to watch convective trends, where we met up and conversed with some other chasers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca7mc5h9PW8&feature=youtu.be

On radar, we noted a slight bulge in the dryline just south of the border which seemed to slightly enhance convergence.  It became apparent that if any of those storms were able to get organized that they could possibly right turn and ride along the river.  We decided it would be best to head down into Gainseville after all, and monitor the situation there in case there was a river crossing problem.  After watching updraft after updraft try and fail, it became clear that the racing cold front was going to catch up before deep moist convection was able to take place on the dryline.  It was at this time when we had to make a decision.  Blast south and catch the central Texas supercells, or blast north and let the squall line smack us?  After watching a few radar updates, we decided the Texas storms just weren't impressing us and then we made the observation that the cold front wasn’t undercutting the updrafts on the southern part of the line like originally forecast.  The forward propagation of the front also seemed to slow drastically and the linear nature of the southern part quickly started breaking up and back building into discrete/semi-discrete supercells exhibiting rotation on radar.

It was time to blast north again.  As the first tornado warning in the region of the day went up along the line we devised our plan of attack.  We raced just north of Ardmore to the town of Springer, OK and took the west option to eventually end up in the Fox, OK area where there were good road options.  As we advanced further west, the supercell below the tornado warned storm came into view and it was dramatic.  We found a good viewpoint and watched in awe as the storm lumbered towards us.  Here are a couple of shots from our time of watching:

 Storm Chase Ardmore Oklahoma Supercell

Storm Chase Ardmore Oklahoma Supercell

As a new storm began to back build further south, we knew we needed to get back in the car and get south.  We first tried to core punch west to a south option, but we quickly realized we wouldn’t make it. At this time, the new storm went tornado warned.  We hurried back east to a network of south and east zigzagging roads and were able to get back out in front of the storms.  As we moved closer to the area between Ardmore and Marietta an absolute breathtaking sight filled our vision.  Looking southwest parallel to the storm’s precipitation shield, we witnessed one of the most gorgeous, solid, and bell-shaped mesocyclones we’ve ever seen.  The mothership was coming in for a landing.  We had to stop briefly to take pictures:

Storm Chase Ardmore Oklahoma Supercell

Storm Chase Ardmore Oklahoma Supercell

Storm Chase Ardmore Oklahoma Supercell

At this point, the storm was starting to get towards the river and we knew we didn't have much more time to play with it as the sun was also going down quickly.  We traveled through the town of Marietta amidst the loud cries of tornado sirens.  At this point, the storm had become fairly outflow dominant so any tornado threat was minimal.  Thus, we decided to sit and let it core us.  We experienced mostly dime to nickel size hail, but there were a few quarters.  After the line passed, we attempted some lightning photography and were treated to the silhouette of a dying LP left split supercell:

Storm Chase Ardmore Oklahoma Supercell

All in all, it was a fantastic chase and completely worth the effort.  Now, on to the long drive back to North Dakota where it’s snowing and frigid.  We’ll see you again soon in the Plains, however!