STORM TRACK: July 31, 1986 (Volume 9 Issue 5)
Dave Hoadley writes: Congratulations on your first issue of Storm Track! I thoroughly enjoyed it, including the new section on CHASER NEWS and accounts like John Weavers' one in a million occurrence. I am relieved, well pleased and look forward to ST's continued growth- among the dedicated few who measure their accomplishment in watching the clouds and pursue this standard with total dedication.
Bob Vetter writes; "We've had four heavy thunderstorms this spring (in the Chicago area). The only problem was that three of them occurred in the middle of the night! The funnel funny in the last ST kept me laughing for days with the Twister Tours, F-4's guaranteed. I have a question though. What does the Gene Moore Memorial Park mean?"
(Editor: Gene Moore is a storm chaser who has been known to get very close to tornadoes. He has actually penetrated the leading edge of the vortex circulation being enclosed by condensed vapor and debris. The comment refers to a time he didn't make it out of the vortex eater.)
Robert Carmody has many interesting observations and questions for ST subscribers. "One thing that has caught my attention was the MAXI- type tornadoes that occurred near Pampa, Texas. This twister apparently was like the tornado near Wichita Falls, Texas in 1979 and Binger, Oklahoma in 1981 where the circulation involved a good portion of the mesocyclone. I am trying to understand the prestorm conditions which leads to supercells that spawn maxi-tornadoes. Mr. Don Burgess has worked on a mesoscale forecasting parameter called the Bulk Richardson Number which claims to give an accurate measure of shear due to the unusual veering and increases the winds in the vertical. He mentions that the greater shear values leads to supercells rather than Squall lines. My question is does the formation of Maxi- tornadoes represent the greatest possible case for wind shear aloft, such that, when the original thunderstorm updraft "bends" these vortex tubes from the vertical, a large, powerful tornado develops?" Also, when a supercell spawns tornadoes, it seems like the precipitation driven downdrafts play a more important role in localizing convergence near the surface in the case of small tornadoes than larger tornadoes?"
Howie Bluestein, the one with a middle nickname "Cb" wrote: "We obtained two soundings on May 6, 1986, near a low precipitation storm near Hobart and Rocky, Oklahoma. On May 14, we obtained pressure and temperature measurements near the Snyder tornado. Our last funnel and decent storm of the season was near Shamrock, Texas on June 9th. A final anecdote: On May 8th, we missed the Edmond storm (which spawned a tornado); we were in southwest Oklahoma on the Grandfield Storm. Ironically, I was supposed to attend a folk dance concert in Edmond that evening, but gave up my ticket because of possible storm chasing! My folk dancing compatriots were all within a mile or two of the tornado and subsequently gave me graphic descriptions of it. My old girlfriend had her camera, but opted to seek shelter, rather than photograph the tornado! Grrr.."
"May 7th, approximately 7 p.m., driving west, nearing the, Texas-Oklahoma line, glimpses northward, occasionally reveal, an impressive anvil, and the towers, of the Canadian storm, 60 miles distant, and out of range, at that hour." -- Marty Feely
Marty Feely knew those supercell storms near Canadian were planting tornadoes on the ground every half hour. But he also knew daylight would run out before he could see the rain free base. "Opting for the nearer Childress storms, I headed south out of Wellington, Texas, when I noticed exploding towers flanking the main complex on it's west side. Pushing my chase vehicle to it's limits (55 mph?), I was soon west of Memphis, but now visibility was decreasing as dust was being whipped up by 50 mph outflow winds. West of Plaska, I found myself surrounded by dust so that any remaining cloud features became invisible. Only a diffuse darkness remained to my immediate south. When light rain began, I suddenly realized I was closer than I cared to be."
Rain increased as I hastily retreated north and then west. Near Lesley, the hailshaft caught me. One to two inch diameter hail banged on my roof and bounced several feet off the pavement. I pulled under a small tree and managed to save my windshield. A passerby had not been so lucky; he showed off his splintered windshield as if it were a war wound. I remained and watched the stormy spectacle advance northeastward becoming brilliantly lit and colored by the Texas sunset.
The next day I was fortunate to be in position to view the Edmond, OK storm from just five miles away. I was eastbound on I-40, just staying ahead of storms 30 miles west of Oklahoma City, when the report came over the weather radio that Will Rogers Airport had received marble-size hail at 6:15 pm.
At 6:26 p.m., the weather alarm sounded and a Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued for Oklahoma County. Half-dollar size hail had been reported in southwest Oklahoma City. The warning included a statement: ...Remember, severe thunderstorms can and occasionally produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning... Actually there was to be a warning this time, up to twenty minutes worth, thanks to Doppler radar and spotter reports.
At 6:40 p.m., I spotted a rain free base, then a large conical lowering appeared some distance south of the precipitation shaft. Several funnels alternately protruded from cloud base between the precipitation and the cloud lowering. Then within five minutes, a pronounced wall cloud formed among them and narrowed into a wider and much lower funnel, extending at least half way to the ground directly over downtown Oklahoma City from my point of view. I watched the circular area beneath cloud base turn a turbulent, dusty, deep green color. This was about a close as I cared to get. "I mean to tell ya, it was scary lookin".
Precipitation wrapped around the developing tornado from the NW quadrant of the storm, and together with the deepening blackness, obliterated my view of it. It was 7 p.m. A tornado warning was issued by 7:05 p.m. Ten minutes later, a spotter mentions over the radio: "It does appear that there is some definite activity with this storm...I just saw what may have been a transformer tip over and explode...yes...yes...There's a tornado on the ground ... can see the debris cloud now...We have a tornado on the ground, people take cover immediately".
Touchdown in North Oklahoma City. The tornado would move northward and do it's greatest damage in Edmond. But people were warned, prepared, and knew what to do, and so thankfully no one was killed or seriously injured. Considering how quickly the storm popped up, I feel rather lucky to have seen what I did.
Rocky Rascovich phoned June 28th to relay his excitement about watching a Minnesota tornado the day before. Rocky traveled into the northwest portion of the state to catch up with a cold front. "It was hazy, with periods of rain, and overcast skies", Rocky recalls. A line of severe thunderstorms developed along the front by mid-day. "Then, the sky cleared out around one storm in the line", Rocky explains. A rope type tornado developed from the rain free base and extended horizontally for some length before turning abruptly vertical near the ground. "I was two miles east of Rothsay on I-94," says Rocky. "The tornado touched down about 5:15 pm and lasted for five minutes." Rocky mentioned that there was no sound or lightning with the storm. "I was about a mile away from the tornado, aimed my camera, took a slide, and when I advanced the camera winder, it broke off in my hand". What a chasers nightmare in the middle of nowhere'
Richard Horodner chased Hurricane Bonnie as she arrived on the Texas coastline during the morning of June 27, 1986. Bonnie packed wind gusts to 85 mph just east of the eye wall measured at Sea Rim State Park around 5 a.m. local time. Rich arrived in Sabine Pass at 3:30 a.m. and stayed until dawn, then drove ten or so miles west to the park on Route 87. Rich recalled, "The power was out, I could barely see, the road was flooded around me. It was scary for about an hour". The storm surge rose to 5.3 feet at Sabine Pass that morning submerging coastal roads.
Ken Nakamura wrote: On April 30, 1983, I chased a well developed multi-cellular hailstorm west of Fresno, California. At 2:41 p.m. I pulled off the road at the beginning of the hailfall. It was the usual heavy downpour of rain mixed with small hail. About six minutes later, hail to 1/2 inch in diameter fell, reducing visibility to 200 feet. Then many dime size balls of what appeared to be wet snow, left 2 to 3 inch splash marks of slush on the windshield. The slush balls piled to 1" on the ground. I have asked other people what these slush balls are, and about half said it was soft hail, others say it's snow. I called the Weather Service several times and first they said it was soft hail -the next time they said wet snow. I am curious to know what the slush balls are?
(Editor note: I witnessed a similar occurrence in Denver, Colorado a couple of weeks ago when a strong thunderstorm passed dropping the temperature from 80 to 50 degrees. Natives called it "corn snow" I believe since it looks like a corn kernel or popcorn. The precipitation was light and airy like styrofoam and disintegrated upon impact. The glossary of meteorology defines corn snow as "a coarse, granular, wet snow, resembling finely chopped ice, generally found in the spring." It was interesting to note that this "snow" fell in temperatures well above freezing')
Bob Welch from Virginia Beach, Virginia writes: There were 8 thunderstorm days in April. The highlight of the month was the 13th. The forecast that day was for mostly sunny skies, so my family and I set out for what I thought would be a nice quite drive along the beach. As always, I brought my camera along...because you never know! I headed south and watched a Cb develop to my southwest. As the cloud bases became visible, I stopped to take pictures. A wall cloud with a small rope-like funnel developed to the west at 2:22 p.m., lasting to 2:29 p.m. I proceeded further south and photographed the the rest of the storm and saw another funnel. Needless to say, a framed 8 x 10 enlargement of the first funnel proudly hangs on my living room wall.