May 26, 1997 Memorial Day Chase Photos

Tim Vasquez / Gene Rhoden / Jim Leonard

The map above gives a rough idea of the tracks of the Oklahoma storms of 5/26/97. We haven't yet looked at any radar loops to verify these tracks; these are just subjective evaluations based on what we've gathered this evening and is for supplementary purposes only.

Beggs Storm

1826 CDT, 4N Okfuskee, OK, looking W. Here we see the Beggs storm as it begins to organize. (Jim Leonard)

1855 CDT, 6W Beggs, OK, looking W. After blasting north through hills and trees for 20 minutes, Jim Leonard and Casey Crosbie find a little opening in the trees to see a very dynamic tube to their west. (Jim Leonard)

1855 CDT, 6W Beggs, OK, looking W. Again we watch the tornado continue, near Hwy 16. (Jim Leonard)

1927 CDT, 4E Preston, OK, looking W. The last tornado eventually went northeast and roped out. The storm formed a new wall cloud/mesocyclone and this tornado developed near Hwy 75. Chuck Robertson was on Hwy 75 and got video of it crossing the highway. (Jim Leonard)

1928 CDT, 4E Preston, OK, looking W. (Jim Leonard)

1928 CDT, 4E Preston, OK, looking W. (Jim Leonard)

1935 CDT, 6E Preston, OK, looking SW. The second tornado dissipated, but a third wall cloud develops further east. (Jim Leonard)

1940 CDT, 6E Preston, OK, looking SW. A tornado develops, and approaches Jim. (Jim Leonard)

1942 CDT, 6E Preston, OK, looking SW. Closer and closer. (Jim Leonard)

1943 CDT, 6E Preston, OK, looking SW. Here, the tornado is less than a quarter of a mile away. Using the telephone pole as a frame of reference on the last few frames, it's easy to see that the tornado was heading straight for Jim. (Jim Leonard)

1945 CDT, 6E of Preston, OK, looking ESE. Jim moved west of the tornado to get out of its way, then filmed it as it departed east, wrapping into rain and forming an elongated trunk shape. (Jim Leonard)

1946 CDT, 7E of Preston, OK, looking ESE. Another look at the tornado, moving away. At this point, Chuck Robertson was 100 yards south of it, being pelted with branches. (Jim Leonard)

Cromwell Storm

1721 CDT, 4SE of Norman, OK, looking E. Gene Rhoden and myself (Tim Vasquez) while away the afternoon at Gene's house, not altogether convinced that it would do any good to go anywhere. After all, Norman was in an excellent spot all day, just east of the dryline, on the nose of a dry punch, and just north of the best theta-e's. So we pored over data, got a late lunch, looked at some more data, and eventually saw these hard towers springing up about 10 miles to the east of Norman. You can also see a few cirrus patches which are associated with a jet streak that moved into Oklahoma during the afternoon... which we suspect helped get convection underway. Time to chase! (Tim Vasquez)

1745 CDT, 12W of Tecumseh, OK, looking ESE. Wow! Heading down State Highway 9, we are awed by the crisp, solid towers gushing up in front of us like geysers. These JPG's don't do them justice. You can also see the corkscrewed shape of the towers, indicating that the lower troposphere had enough shear to support rotating storms. This tower here was probably reaching about 40,000 feet around the time this image was taken. (Tim Vasquez)

1751 CDT, 6W of Tecumseh, OK, looking E. Get NORAD on the horn! No, never mind, that's not a nuclear explosion, it's just a powerful Cb blooming east of Tecumseh. It's the same one shown in the previous frame. It later became the storm that produced a tornado near Cromwell. (Gene Rhoden)

1807 CDT, Tecumseh, OK, looking E. Driving into Tecumseh, we drool as the storm continues rising east of us. An anvil spreads away to the east on the other side of the storm, and we can see the beginnings of backshearing, which is the process of the anvil spreading against the upper-level winds (to the west, towards us). (Gene Rhoden)

1815 CDT, 7E of Tecumseh, OK, looking E. We peer up towards the top of the anvil, looking at the anvil backshearing and beginning to roll over on itself. Amazing! (Gene Rhoden)

1829 CDT, 10E of Seminole, OK, looking NNW. We can now see under the updraft base. A wall cloud hangs from the base about 6 miles north-northwest of us. This is the cloud that produced the Cromwell tornado about 12 minutes later. (Gene Rhoden)

1841 CDT, 5W of Wetumka, OK, looking NW. Around the time the wall cloud shown earlier begins occluding and producing a tornado, we see a new wall cloud a little closer to us. Unfortunately it produced no tornado. (Gene Rhoden)

1843 CDT, 5W of Wetumka, OK, looking NW. Looking back at the old occluded wall cloud, it begins producing a tornado. This touched down near Cromwell and damaged several homes. (Gene Rhoden)

1845 CDT, 5W of Wetumka, OK, looking NW. A look at the same tornado a couple of minutes later. (Gene Rhoden)

1846 CDT, 5W of Wetumka, OK, looking NW. We zoom in for a closer look. The tornado "lifts" and begins dissipating. (Gene Rhoden)

1847 CDT, 5W of Wetumka, OK, looking NW. This is a nice wide-angle shot showing the storm's structure. It looked fairly LP'ish at this point, with the updraft well-separated from the downdraft off the frame to the right. A pronounced clear slot can be seen punching left-to-right on the near side of the tornado, occluding the circulation. Gene is off to the right, shooting some great video. (Tim Vasquez)

2018 CDT, 1W of Wainwright, OK, looking NW. We left the Cromwell-Wetumka storm to "sidestep" north to the next supercell, shown here. It had earlier produced a tornado near Beggs, which was documented by Jim Leonard. Now, it had taken on HP characteristics and was going through cycles of spinning up and gusting out. We followed it for about 20 miles to U.S. Highway 75, then decided to sidestep back south. (Gene Rhoden)

2020 CDT, 1W of Wainwright, OK, looking N. A glance at the same wall cloud a couple of minutes later, illuminated by lightning. (Tim Vasquez)

2051 CDT, 2N of Checotah, OK, looking NW. When isolated severe storms are on the Great Plains and dusk falls, you can be assured of getting some magnificent photos anywhere around them. We've parted company with the Beggs-Wainwright storm, which by this time was closing in on Muskogee, and are stopping between storms to look at the anvil mammatus shown here, spreading northeast from the Wetumka-McAlester storm. Unfortunately there wasn't much good lightning in the anvil. (Tim Vasquez)

2053 CDT, 4N of Checotah, OK, looking W. A red sunset silhouetted by a line of high-based cumulus towers. (Gene Rhoden)

All photos (c) Copyright 1997 Tim Vasquez and Gene Rhoden. Reproduction for commercial use is strictly prohibited.

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