STORM TRACK: September 30, 1986 (Volume 9 Issue 6)
Larry Mooney from NOAA in Oklahoma City writes: I wanted to share a brief observation about the Edmond, Oklahoma tornado last May. With all the sophisticated radar data available to us, many people apparently assumed that high technology was responsible for our excellent lead time on the warning (issued at 6:40 pm, tornado touchdown at 7:12 pm). Such WAS NOT the case. The tornado warning was in effect long before any radar indications occurred. Credit belongs to the forecaster who demonstrated a solid understanding of storm dynamics and structure, and to the timely and accurate reports from trained spotters. Moreover, credit belongs to the many storm chasers that have contributed to our understanding of the thunderstorm and its hazards. Chasers have made significant contributions to both the research and operational meteorological communities. The Edmond tornado was just another example of the payback from the chase efforts.
Rick Schwartz chased Hurricane Charley up the east coast and relays this message: "Just as in tornado chasing, pursuing hurricanes has its share of disappointments. Hurricane Charley was never as fearsome as its titled implied. I decided to intercept Charley when every morning news program on August 18, said that Charley was 50 miles south of Ocean City, Maryland, with 75 mph winds, heading N-NE at 15 mph."
"I had been dutifully tracking this storm for two days and decided to drive to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (about 30 miles north of Ocean City) for a possible intercept. Reckoning that by the time I reached Rehoboth Beach the storm would make its closest approach, I anticipated seeing the full hurricane sequence- the lush tropical clouds, the racing scud clouds, and the first rain. Finally, the rain band surrounded the eye of the storm which indicated the demise of the storm was imminent."
"What I saw was sun and fair weather clouds the entire chase. I reached the beach at noon and so no damage. Although the storm eye was only 75 miles away, you wouldn't know it from walking on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk. The walkway was packed with vacationers and all the shops were open. True enough, the beach was closed and stiff breezes whipped the waves into spilling white caps. Merchants had made little effort to tape and board up windows, and with the sun shining, the rain and wind of the morning was just so much small-talk.
"As has been happening in recent years with East Coast hurricanes (i.e. Gloria), most of the wind and rain remained to the east of the storm center. However, Charley perhaps was one of the most useful hurricanes in recent memory as the Mid-Atlantic region received much needed rain and had little storm damage."
"Long time residents say that they've been lucky with the storms of recent years. They say one bad storm makes you a believer. However, vacationers on the boardwalk could be heard muttering something about the weatherman panicking as usual, overplaying the situation."
Randy Zipser suddenly found himself amidst a squall while at work. "The heatwave in the southeast shattered with a vengeance on July 21st. I was at work on the fifth floor of a six story concrete building. The roof was covered with loose gravel and was elevated about 80 feet above the surrounding parking lot. About 4 pm, I glanced out of the window and noticed zero-visibility in driving rain and small hail. The precipitation appeared to be driven by straight winds estimated to be 70 to 80 knots from the southeast. I felt the building shake and then the power went off. A stand of tall pine trees snapped off about 15 to 20 feet above the ground and fell northwestward. Some trees had fallen on cars in the parking lot."
"Nearly every car on the north side of the building had some glass breakage, with many having all four windows broken. About 160 cars were damaged. My car was on the outer fringe of the north parking lot and the windshield sustained two BB-like dings from flying gravel. Window glass was broken on the south and west sides of our building."
Gary Livingston drove within two miles of an F-2 tornado without realizing it until a few minutes later. "I was living in Little Rock, AR, and was driving to work at 2:30 pm when I heard a severe thunderstorm warning on the radio. As I drove downtown, I watched leaves and street debris get picked up by the wind into a gigantic wall cloud about 4 to 5 miles wide with rapid rotation. Little did I know that about two miles to my southwest, obscured by a hill, a tornado touched down causing building damage and killing one person in A CAR! About six police cars with sirens on and four ambulances rushed by traveling westward. The tornado moved northward and passed right over my house. Although the house did not sustain damage, about a foot of leaves were cleaned from our yard. I figured the tornado saved me about ten hours of raking and burning leaves. I was thankful that our home was untouched and that our leaves were raked for us."
Howie Bluestein and members of the Oklahoma University Intercept Team successfully launched a radiosonde into a wall cloud on May 7, 1986. Howie says: "We launched and optically tracked several radiosondes. One went up at Wheeler, Texas, about one hour prior to tornadogenesis; the other was launched from Canadian, Texas and ascended into a wall cloud after tornado #3, but before tornado #4. Its peak ascent rate was 53 m/s (119 mph) at 7 km (4.4 mi). The actual vertical velocity was therefore at least 48 m/s (107 mph), given the still air ascent rate of 5 m/s (11 mph). The balloon probably iced up above 7 km. Our measurement is probably a record for a radiosonde. The intercept crew consisted of Bill McCaul, Greg Byrd, and Gary Woodall (OU graduate students) and me. NSSL provided the financial support."