Robert Satkus --
What a devastating day. Normally I enjoy writing and submitting these
summaries but this is a tough one.
Bobby Payne and I went west on I-40 to the Calumet exit to await
development, somewhat depressed by the extensive cirrus shield spreading
overhead. A few small towers tries to build to our sw, but couldn't quite
get their act together.After and hour or so we could see better towers in
the same area and dropped south from Hinton as storms rapidly developed near
Altus and Lawton. As we neared Chickasha we could see a left moving cell
from a storm split that looked spectacular, however we knew the better stuff
would be further south, and sure enough within minutes a tornado warning was
issued for Grady and Caddo counties. A brief tornado was reported near
We dropped south of Chickasha then wsw towards Cement. We got
1.00" hail in town and a large wall cloud was visible west. As we cleared a
hill we could see a small cone shaped funnel and quickly, a debris cloud. At
first the tornado was more of a wispy funnel with a small debris cloud, but
it eventually grew into a small cone with a vigorous debris whirl. A new
circulation form to the se of the tornado and a funnel came nearly to the
ground. We couldn't confirm a touchdown. We pulled north of Cyril as the
cone shaped tornado continued to our nw. A large wall cloud passed nearly
over us with a possible brief touchdown in the hills to our north.
circulation formed to our ne, and we could see the beginning of a multiple
vortex tornado, which I believe was the eventual OKC tornado. As we chase for
a local tv station, we were told to head to new storms near Anadarko as
there were numerous crews form our station on this storm. Reluctantly, we
turned away from the tornado, racing north to get on a storm rapidly
approaching Calumet. We watched the coverage of the monster to our south in
awe at its size. Our storm was looking good though, with a large wall cloud
to our east. We headed east towards Okarche as the wall cloud really wrapped
up and a cone shaped funnel lowered to the ground. It was about 200 yards
wide and just barely missed Okarche to the west. It moved north to just wsw
of Kingfisher. It was one of the more picturesqe tornados I have filmed. It
slowly roped out, leaving a detached funnel just below cloud base.
We thought that was it and turned our attention to a rotating wall cloud over
Kingfisher. I glanced back west and was amazed to see the tornado still on
the ground, with a white debris plume and a hint of condensation above it,
similar to the Union City Ok tornado of 1973 as it crossed the river. As it
finally dissipated, the storm weakened rapidly. By now we were hearing of
the destruction in the OKC area and weren't sure wether to attempt to
intercept that storm, or head back to the storm producing the Minco tornado.
We turned towards the Minco storm as it was heading towards Bobbys' house in
Yukon. However we could see a new storm exploding to our west near Hinton.
It looked great and we felt the minco storm would pass north of Bobbys'
house, so we decided to head back west.
At first the station wanted us south
on the Minco storm, because this storm was only level 3 on radar, but with
other chasers on it I informed them that this storm was an lp supercell.
They switched over to velocity mode and about had a heart attack! Go west
now said they! We did and as we neared Geary from the east a tornado formed
rapidly, starting out as a rather sinuous, ropy vortex, becoming a larger
multiple vortex and quickly evolved into a wedge. It moved rapidly
northeast, and even though it was now dark, the lightning illuminated it
nicely. It maintained its wedge shape for along time. At one time there was
a debris whirl southwest of the tornado and later we saw a second, small
cone tornado south of the wedge. This process occured another time soon
after. We followed it to west of Kingfisher as it approached Dover, but west
of Kingfisher on hwy 33 we were stopped by debris. It was a narrow path, so
I am asuming this damage was caused by one of the satellite tornadoes.
storm was rapidly approaching from the SW, moving towards Loyal. We stopped
south of Loyal near Omega and through the darkness we saw a small cone
tornado, that roped out after about 2 minutes, just east of Omega. We
followed this storm, again approaching Dover. It spawned another brief
tornado just nw of Dover. Just west of town we saw a new tornado form, ne of
Dover, It quickly grew into a large cone, but we were again stopped by
damage, this time at Dover. Damage was extensive in town. This effectively
ended the chase.
At least 38 people were killed in Ok, with 5 more in KS. The OKC tornado
was rated F5, the Dover tornado F4. Half of the 15,000 homes in Moore were
damaged or destroyed. As I write this I am still waiting to hear the fate of
friends who live in Moore.
Blair Kooistra --
The Storm Prediction Center's 0830CDT Day One convective outlook
pegged north Texas, central Oklahoma, and south Kansas as being at a
"moderate" risk of severe weather.
Instabilities were extremely high, with Lifted Indices at -10 and CAPE
edging over 3000 along a projected dryline boundary in western N. TX and
west Oklahoma that afternoon. Upper air dynamics were also forecast to
be in place late in the afternoon to produce rotating supercell
I left Fort Worth by 1130, target a Childress-Altus line. I stopped
for fuel, new storm data, and lunch at Wichita Falls, and based on
information that the dryline was being pushed eastward faster than
forecasted, decided to head west to Vernon, near the dryline, and wait
for storms to go up. I made it about half-way, to Harrold, stopping to
photograph the brilliant bluebonnet display in the 1890-era Harrold
By 1530, cumulus were beginning to gain height and wider bases. A
tower with transient anvil quickly exploded to the west in Foard county
and died. Two small cells to my north, however, were gaining strength
quickly, and were near a projected moisture convergence bullseye. I
headed west to Oklaunion, watched them intensify for about 10
minutes, then struck north into Oklahoma on US183. By this time, the SPC
had upped the risk assessment to a "High" level, and spotters in the
Lawton area prepared for the arrival of these cells, the northern of
which quickly went severe. I played catchup, going east on US70 to
Grandfield, then north on OK36 through Chattanooga to Faxon (1633cdt),
where I watched the southernmost of the two cells continue to launch
updrafts, which the shear quickly toppled over
playing "tag" withthe first storm, now approaching Lawton, in favor of
dropping west toward the anvil developing some 60 miles west in Altus.
However,spotters soon reported a wall cloud and developing tornado from
the first cell, now located over Lake Ellsworth. I switched on the
portable TV to Channel 7, showing a live view from a "towercam" of the
wall cloud and lowering funnel. though it was 20miles to my Northeast
and a city away, I decided to go for this cell. By 1722 I was just north
of Fletcher on a
farm road watching this storm wildly rotate and put down a long-lived
cone-shaped ("classic") tornado. It was a beaut, but after 15
minutes of watching it, it had gained considerable distance on me. I
took off north, zigzagging on a series of dirt and gravel roads, slick
with red mud that proved trecherous to at least one chase group
The tornado lifted NW of Cyril; by the time I finally
figured out where I was and made it back to Cyril, the storm was again
putting down a tornado, this time a large "stovepipe." I was finally
able to see the tornado again N. of Rorge, and again as I entered
Chickasha from the south on OK 92 (1815cdt), tornado and police sirens
adding to the surreality of the scene. I was on a hill on the south side
watching the LARGE tornado chew through the northwest outskirts of town
and across Hwy 81
The tornado then headed out (1837cdt) into open country between I44
and the village of Amber, gaining intensity and mass. I made the mistake
of getting behind a state trooper on I44 and took my place in a moving
roadblock about 4-5 miles west of the eastbound wedge.
Smallsatellite funnels repeatedly formed on an updraft trailing the main
mesocyclone, and were all but ignored by the state trooper and those
caught in the traffic jam. One funnel made an attempt earthward, but cut
off a little less than halfway down.
With the congested traffic and urban area ahead, I decided to pull
off this storm and head west toward Anadarko, where the earlier Altus
storm had become tornadic and was generating a large multi-vortex
Back to Chickasha (1915cdt), west to Verden for fuel, then north
towards Lake Chickasha on an intercept course, I joined a four vehicle
chaser queue, stopping briefly 6 mi. north of Verden to watch the
wallcloud generate a short-lived multi-vortex tornado; several miles
further north, the tornado returned to view (1950cdt), surprizingly
close, as a large, white "cigar," in the process of roping out.
Pavement was regained (thank god!) at Cogar on OK 37/152; I expected
to see new development to my north, but near the Grady county line, yet
another multi-vortex tornado churned away, about 1/2 mile south of the
It crossed the road in front of us, then set out NE
Canadian River and Union City, where Doppler On Wheels and Dr. Howie
("cb") Bluestein were scanning the storm. I made it across the Canadian
River ahead of the police roadblock and continued to follow the storm
in the deepening dusk as it passed over the little grian elevator town
and finally NW of Piedmont before darkness overtook us entirely.
Spotters and TV chasers reported several tornadoes down in series during
this period; power flashes on the outskirts of Piedmont lit up one
funnel in a spectacular red burst.
These were by far the most vigorous storms I had chased; they were
moderately fast moving, too, about 30-35mph, which made keeping up with
them--let alone getting ahead--difficult to someone not familiar with
Most of my guidence once the storms passed Lawton was gathered by
amateur radio storm spotters and Oklahoma
City TV stations. Wish our coverage in Dallas/Fort Worth was as good
during severe outbreaks.
These were also the first storms I've seen that were killers, and it
makes it difficult to reconcile the joy of watching spectacular
supercell storms with the sobering reality that on this day, more than
30 lost their lives. The coordinated warning system saved hundreds of
lives; even most of the dead were following proper storm safety
protocol. But with storms of the intensity of the 1.5 mile wide wedge
that moved out of Chickasha, nothing short of an underground shelter
would have saved your life. (This doesn't include idiots who venture out
without a clue about the day's weather, of who feel that they can seek
succor under a highway overpass because they saw it on Real TV once.).
Tim Vasquez --
After a late night I woke up about 11:30 am, and already aware of a
possible chase I began looking at weather data. Things looked no easier --
even at this hour the patterns were vague and SPC's outlooks could only
narrow the afternoon's action down to north Texas, Oklahoma, and
Kansas. Oddly the models had backed the winds behind the dryline,
leaving no favored convergent areas. After studying analysis maps and
models for about half an hour, I noticed a subtle boundary-layer
convergence feature forecast in the 21-00Z RUC panels near Wichita
Falls. With 17Z westerlies at Guadalupe Pass TX raging to nearly 50
kts, I suspected that the jet streak and associated dynamics were
actually heading for TX/OK rather than KS. With steep lapse rates
supporting ducting of momentum towards this region, I suspected we'd
see a response in the wind field in line with what the RUC was hinting
at. The decision was made. I settled on a target region lying between
Wichita Falls TX, Childress TX, and Altus OK. Right around that time
my usual chase partner Gene Rhoden called me on his cell phone --
he was in Ardmore OK making his way north from Dallas and would
arrive in about an hour and a half. I also talked to Shannon, who was
studying for finals and finishing a project at the lab; she needed to
stay and take care of those responsibilities.
I met Gene at his house at 1 pm and we looked at data. Veteran chaser
Jim Leonard, who rooms half the year in Gene Rhoden's house, arrived
back from lunch about the same time. After about ten minutes of looking
at data and discussing the situation, we agreed that southwest Oklahoma
was the place to go. We were concerned about a broad chunk of cirrus
moving out of west Texas, which threatened to shut down heating and
keep storms from developing. However since the mid-level cap was not
strong, we had some hope that the cirrus would keep any convective
initiation isolated. Gene and I packed up his Ford Explorer chase vehicle
and left, while Jim continued to look at data (his regular chase partners
are Charles Edwards and R.J. Evans).
Driving south on I-44 in Gene's Ford Explorer, around 3 pm we could see
a thick shroud of cirrus making its way into Oklahoma. We drove into
Lawton OK just in time to see towering cumulus already bubbling
southwest of town. With the dryline still in Childress, we were not
sure whether to abandon this cluster and move west of the moisture
axis, but with nothing visible in that direction we decided to stick with
what we had and move west if necessary. East of Cache OK
at 1545 CDT we pulled into a mobile home sales lot (quite ironic) and
watched the towers mature and produce a weak rain shaft
towers were leaning over and corkscrewing -- I have not seen shear
this evident in towers since the 5/26/97 outbreak in east Oklahoma.
Our storm moved northeast, producing a weak left-split as well as
hail, we followed the right split north and east through the Wichita
At 1647 CDT the updraft base had grown and became
bowl-shaped, and produced a wall cloud with rapid motion. We
parked along I-44 near Elgin OK and by 1651 CDT a weak tornado
touched down about 2 miles to our west
Debris was on the ground,
but the condensation funnel wasn't connected to the cloud, although
it showed very tight, spectacular rotation. This dissipated by 1653
CDT. Cumulus to tornado in only 90 minutes!
This circulation occluded and a new, much larger updraft base began
organizing. We got off I-44 at Elgin and moved north along US 277 to
Cyril, where we parked and got tripoded video of the circulation. At
1720 CDT a new tornado touched down about 4 miles to our west. This
continued until 1731 CDT, widening into a beautiful cone backlit in
shades of gray
As this occluded, we noticed that a new meso
was developing about 2 miles to our south-southwest, putting us
in a dangerous spot. We abandoned our photography of the beautiful
Cyril -Apache tornado and scrambled northbound on NS267th Rd,
which was NOT paved as was shown in "Roads of Oklahoma" -- the
mud became treacherous and at 30 mph we skidded off the road and
nearly dropped into a 15-foot ravine -- with the real possibility of
a new tornado descending on us in 30 seconds!
As the vehicle came to rest, in an instant Gene and I mentally picked
out spots to take cover and sized up the situation. Another look at
the wall cloud (nearly overhead) showed that the strong rotation had
subsided and we were no longer at risk. Now our main priority was
to get out of the mess and get back on the road. I tripoded my video
camera and aimed it east, where an ominous wall cloud was now
then I did what I could to help Gene (and got quite muddy).
Unfortunately the right-rear wheel had no weight and wanted
to spin. Increasing friction with branches and digging out the mud
gave us no traction -- an exercise in futility.
Around this time, we were met by a Dodge van full of local "chaser
clowns" (a phenomenon that has grown out of hand in recent years,
the result of bored 20-year old locals with no chase experience). The
clowns asked about our situation but seemed distracted by the wall
cloud and Gene waved them off. Chaser Blair Kooistra also drove by,
getting out of his vehicle and braving mud to offer help (a big tip of
the hat to you, Blair!), but Gene still wanted to work the truck out.
As Blair left, a Cyril resident with his family and a pickup truck
drove up, and after assessing the situation he felt he could tow
Gene's truck out. Gene's nylon tow rope (from Pep Boys) broke
instantly, so the resident got a chain out the back. This proved
successful in freeing Gene's truck, and we were back in business.
Yet another testament proving the incredible hospitality of folks
on the Great Plains, something I've seen and heard of often in my
15 years of chasing!
The mud had cost us 25 minutes, and with a new tornado nearly 15
miles east and heading for Chickasha, we made a futile attempt to
get in position with it, heading north from Verden and east to Amber.
The large cone-shaped tornado was clearly visible, but the poor
contrast and our being on the move kept us from documenting it.
As it was getting into more populated areas, making it increasingly
difficult and dangerous to chase, we aborted the chase at 1836 CDT
and headed west to another cell which was now moving towards
Anadarko and based on 2-meter amateur reports showed promise.
This cell was much more LP-ish, with very little precipitation, and
we had a fascinating view of its structure as we closed in on it.
The storm was highly striated with a large, vaulted updraft and
colorful backlighting from the sun. Simply beautiful!
At 1850 CDT, admiring the view, we drove south towards Verden
then slightly west on EW130 Rd, dodging two aggressive, positively
stupid dogs who ran for our moving truck and nearly got under the
wheels. We parked on a ridge north of Verden overlooking Lake
Chickasha at 1900 CDT, watching for 15 minutes as the storm
rotated and organized to our west
We backtracked past the stupid
dogs, who once again charged our truck, then edged several miles
north and west on EW 124 Rd, meeting up with chaser Dave Floyd
just in time to catch a violently-rotating, wispy tornado cross
the road half a mile to our west at 1930 CDT
This moved northeast
and grew under a large wall-cloud. Unfortunately with 8 miles of
mud northward on Road NS275, we opted to head east on paved
EW125 to Pocassett and go north on US81. We were sad to see
the growing tornado disappear in our rear view mirror, but 8 miles
of mud was not something we were interested.
Around this time we were hearing of the tremendous damage in
Oklahoma City on the 2-meter radios and viewing the coverage
on our monitor on KWTV-9. It was sobering, and for awhile we
Finally meeting up with the storm 15 miles further in Minco with
tornado sirens wailing, we encountered a large roadblock on the
Canadian River, which proved to be a major chokepoint requiring
a 30-mile detour. Here, the chase ground to a halt for nearly 30
chasers -- a smorgasboard of Who's Who in Chasing lined up at
where only a single TV newsvan (probably KWTV-9)
was able to weasel through. Although I considered this to be the
luck of the draw, Gene was livid at this ironic end to an otherwise
great chase. After 5 minutes of considering
road options, we opted west 15 miles then north, hoping the new
activity to our northwest would organize.
Half an hour later at dusk, we got on I-40 eastbound, and in El
Reno took the Country Club exit to a Texaco where we fueled up.
KWTV anchor Gary England was on the radio in the gas station,
and the cashiers were absorbed in what was happening. We then
headed north on US81 to intercept the Okarche/Kingfisher storm.
Night had fell, and from this point on we relied on lightning flashes
and our 15 years of experience with storm structure to guide us.
Nearing the new storms, Gene asked me how long until we reached
Kingfisher. I glanced at the GPS and said "2 miles". I had to do
a double-take, as I didn't see anything ahead. A few minutes later,
I realized why. We coasted into a dark town was bathed in eerie
blackness and lightning flashes -- the power grid had been taken
out by a tornado. We quickly worked through the lack of traffic
lights and continued 5 miles up the road to Dover.
Around this time we learned on the TV monitor that a new storm
had developed near El Reno and a tornado had touched down
near I-40 and Country Club Road -- where we fueled up 45 minutes
ago! This tornado went on to destroy parts of the city, including
Dover was a disaster area, having been hit on 10/4/98 and again
just an hour earlier. The town was in blackness but busy with
police and residents combing through the debris, littered extensively
across lawns, sidewalks, and the street, and a new storm was
already bearing down to the west. North of town the road
was blocked by power lines and a girder blocking the northbound
lanes; the police were not around and drivers of several vehicles
wandered around, unsure whether to drive over the lines. With
wet ground and seeing no steam on the lines, we elected to drive
over. There were no problems. We briefly surveyed the situation,
seeing a developing wall cloud to our southwest. We scurried
back south, by which time a deputy sheriff had arrived. He waved
us over the lines, screaming, "Tornado!!! Tornado!!! Go south!!!
Fast!!!!!!" After clearing the lines we looked again, and in just
15 seconds a new funnel had widened into a ghostly tornado about
a mile to our west (2151 CDT). We moved gradually through
town, knowing that the tornado would skirt us and the town to the
north, and as the circulation passed north, the tornado widened into
a beautiful, ominous stovepipe shape, departing northeast into open
fields. The sight of this whitish receding stovepipe shape, illuminated
by flickers of lightning, is one of the most haunting, eerie sights
I have ever seen.
Gene and I edged back north through Dover and across the downed
lines. The tornado was now many miles away from us, and we
decided not to pursue it, instead heading north through Hennessey
towards a new wall cloud that had developed to the northwest. We
could still see the stovepipe tornado on the eastern horizon, illuminated
by lightning like a phantom. We sat near a grain elevator, watching
the new wall cloud, however the easterly wind had become quite cold
with outflow from the last Dover storm. As expected, the wall cloud
soon took on a shelfish appearance and rotation in the storm
subsided. We decided to call it quits and head home on US81.
When we got back to Dover, the deputy sheriff had gotten firm orders
that no one was to cross the power lines. So we opted to head north
then east on OK51. About 2 miles from OK74 we steered carefully
around downed power lines parallelling the road -- and finally came upon
a tangle of downed lines with wires crossing 4 feet above the highway;
the damage from the stovepipe tornado. We looked at our options and
chose to backtrack 5 miles and go south on NS292, however 4 miles
down this road we were blocked by downed lines and the fire department
which had just converged on a house that was partially destroyed.
We backtracked again and chose a 3-mile muddy road to intercept
NS283 which would take us (hopefully) southbound west of Dover.
These 3 miles took over 10 minutes to navigate, however we were
west of the tornado touchdown point and was able to continue south
without problems. Kingfisher had gotten its power back by the time
we passed through, and we saw a damage track from the Piedmont
tornado across OK3. Going south through Oklahoma City at 0100
we crossed the Moore damage path on I-35 at Shields Blvd, where
all the highway signs were bent horizontally and debris was
We returned to Norman after 1 am, muddy and exhausted. What a
Shane Adams --
This chase started off in the worst possible way. I got hung up at work way late, and was not on the road until around 5:15pm. I was west bound on Hwy 9, when my cell phone rang. It was fellow ROTATE chaser Dwain warner in ohio, calling me with info. Just as i was beginning my conversation with him, I reached for my shifter to gear-down for a stop. It came off in my hand.
I managed to hang it in third long enough to get pulled over and stop. I ended my call with Dwain, then desperately tried to repair the shifter. It wasn't gonna happen. So, i got out, screamed at my truck, kicked my truck, then called my roomate and occasional chase partner Jeff Johncox to come and pick me up. he had forgone chasing that evening, as he was scheduled for a job interview at six. Upon hearing I was stranded at the hwy 62-9 junction with a tornado bearing down less than a half-hour away, he canceled his appointment and was there in twenty minutes. He's STILL damn happy I called.......
After Jeff arrived in ROTATE 3, we quickly disassembled all the equipment from ROTATE 1 (my POS Ford Ranger) and got on the road, heading to Chickasha.
We were getting excellent scanner reports of the Northwest Chickasha tornado, and decided to turn north on Hwy 92 and intercept it from the south. We had a view of the wallcloud as we turned north on 92, then headed rapidly north towards Amber.
After about a mile or so we heard reports that a new tornado had just formed, straight ahead of us. We looked hard, and after another half mile or so we saw the wedge, moving northeast along I-44. there were several chasers on this tornado, both land AND air, so we just made our way to a good spot on the side of the road, about a mile or two north of 44 and ran video. This was the F5 as it began ripping through Bridge Creek, although at the time we had know idea people were losing their lives.
We watched the now 1-mile-wide wedge as power flashes from transformers blew in sequence, on the left side of the rotation. After about two minutes, we decided to continue north, still running video. As we drove north towards Amber, we got sensational structure video, a huge white bell updraft, with rotation clearly visible even from as far as ten miles away, with the F5 looming underneath. This was the most Ungodly, most fascinating, and most awe-inspiring moment of my chase career to date. I will never forget that tornado.
We lost visibility eventually, partly due to rain, partly due to the fact that the storm was moving away, and I decided to call the Weather Channel and see if they knew about the tornado. As I talked to one of their people, i looked over my shoulder to the southwest and saw the day's second wedge, about 15-20 miles away, underneath a beautiful PL cell. I said "Hey man, I gotta go!" hung up the phone, and wheeled the car around to get a better filming position.
We sat and watched and filmed this tornado for over ten minutes, watching go from Multi-vortex to wedge and then back again. I called the Norman NWS and reported it, and they told me it was west and north of Anadarko. I'm still amazed we had such a view of it from as far away as Hwy 92 north of Amber.
This LP cell produced what I believe to be two more tornadoes in the next twenty minutes, but our video of these was not very impressive, long-distance and sketchy. We decided to head north to Minco.
As we arrived in Minco, we saw (but were hit by only one or two) baseball size hail stones littering the road. We stopped for a quick gas and go there, and as I was coming out of the store, the sirens blew. We jumped in the car and went south out of town, then deciuded to go back north through town, then we turned west on Hwy 152. as we headed west, we were hearing a spotter reporting a tornado crossing 152, which would have put it about 5-7 miles west of us, straight ahead. we pulled over and looked for this tornado, and after about two minutes we finally saw it ahead, crossing the road just as the spotter had said. We quickly jumped back on the road and headed towards it, trying to get closer....
After we had gone about a mile further west, I glanced to the southwest and saw a NEW tornado, which looked like at least an F2 wedge, coming fast. We were in a bad spot. I shouted to Jeff about the new twister, so he could point the camera towards it. So here we were, driving west on 152 with TWO tornadoes right in front of us.
We drove very slowly about a mile further, during which time the furthest west tornado (number 5) dissappeared beyond the trees to our northwest. Meanwhile, the southwest tornado (number 6) was coming fast. My intention was to get us about 400 yards away from it as it crossed the road, to get my very first-ever up-close tornado video. We lost sight of it as we topped a tree-lined hill, and when we saw it again it had moved to within about a quarter-mile away. Jeff immediatelt screamed for me to turn around, and I slowed, trying to calm him down. I began making my six-point turn (152 has no shoulders there) and as I looke back to the southwest before turning back east, I saw multiple vortices tearing up grass and wheat in the field just outside my window. It was my first up-close encounter with a twister, and it WAS AWESOME!!!
We drove away from it for about a mile, while we filmed it out the window as it crossed the road (in the very spot where we had turned around.) It crossed less then a mile away from us. Once we were in a safer position, we stopped the car, got out, and rolled film. It was beautiful, going through practicaslly every phase of tornado development possible: Wedge, then multi-vortex, then classic tornado funnel, then stovepipe, then cone, then rope. We filmed this one for over seven minutes before it roped out. Right after it dissapated, about 15-20 chasers came screaming by us from the west. I assumed they had been watching from the other side of the storm, because we were the only ones east of the tornado as it crossed the highway.
This same wallcloud redeveloped and dropped a quick, brief tornado about 3miles north of Minco, just as we pulled over across from Gene Rhoden and Carson Eads, among others. I don't know if they saw it or not.
We then got caught in the huge roadblock on 81 by the river, but finally just ran it after waiting a few minutes. Good thing we did, because we might not have seen the Union City tornado that touched down just a mile or so northeast of downtown. I saw Howard Bluestein for the first time in the field just as we were entering Union City. That was cool.
We finally made it back home around 5:30 the next morning, after a long night of dodging debris, traffic, showing video to news stations, and yelling at CNN over the phone about stealing our video feed and airing it without our permission. Their check is forthcoming...hahahah.
Fortunately, all my friends in Moore and Oak City are OK....the entire ROTATE Oragnization sends their sympathies to the familes of the victims.
Aaron Blaser --
Chase Summary-central Oklahoma 5/3
Chase target area-just west of Chickasha
Time of departure from okc-230pm
Target route/I-40 west from okc to El Reno, south on US highway 81 to
Chickasha, west on US highway 62 to Verden.
Number of Tornado sightings- 5....only 2 on video or pictures
Total chase distance-200miles
As I got out of the station around 2pm..I had been looking at surface data
and keeping an eye out on the 700MB temps for at least 2 hours since...also
noticed that there was a bullseye of -11 Li's over Lawton and just
south....I knew where my target was...only one small concern this day was
going to be a significant cirrus shield that was moving east from CO/NM/TX
panhandle..that was going to limit the surface heating, but it was already
80-82 in target area..so cutting off the temps would not hurt much with the
high temps and high dew points already in place. I left west on I-40 to El
Reno to keep an eye on some early turkey towers that were trying to develop
near Weatherford, but did not go. I went south for a while on Highway 81 to
near Pocasset <10 miles north of Chickasha> and pulled into a field,
watching the cap strength, the cirrus shield moving in from the 700mb trough
and the interaction with an area of cumulus congestus to the southwest...I
saw an area of cirrus to the southwest but though it was part of the shield
because I was too far north to see the base of newly developed severe storm
in Commanche county, ok. I turned on an AM station on radio and noticed CG
static and kinda close..since I was out of range of Lawton weather radio
repeater..I could not hear warning earlier of the Commanche county cell...I
did get a rare FM station with good weather updates...this from a station in
Altus, ok. Hearing the storm and its track which would take it to me...I
opted to not risk a dangerous core punch on I-44 to get to the storm, so I
decided to get to chickasha and head west about 5 miles to my original
target town of Verden. I got there at 330pm...just as the storm went
tornadic 20 miles southwest of Verden...the storm projection was NNE at
40...so I knew that Verden would see this storm in 30-40 minutes. I also
knew that this town would likely see large hail...so I scouted out a car
wash, told people in 2 convience stores about the upcoming danger and went
to a 100 foot cliff/high spot on south side of verden...watching the fast
moving cirrus then lowering ceilings/rain shaft get closer...the rain shaft
came in and lightning really picked up...by now I am listening to simulcast
weather coverage from KWTV stormtrackers on KXY 96.1FM out of okc. I still
am north of tornado and cannot see it, so the constant reports from KWTV
stormtrackers were a huge help...as the hail began to come in...I decided to
get off my perch and head to the car wash to wait out the hail...as the
tornado got as close as 2 miles south of town, I started to worry about the
large hail and when the opening would appear between large hail and bears
cage so I can jet west a mile or two...all of a sudden..large hail stops and
I bolt out. I get about 2 miles west of my location and there it is...to my
southeast, a wedge tornado...HUGE...I turn around on the highway to find a
good video stop, but have to re-enter town to get good viewing area..by this
time I knew that Verden was spared..so I was able to race to my original
cliff and shoot some video and still pictures, by this time the wedge was
approx. 3 miles to my east...I had a limited time to shoot due to rain
beginning to wrap around me on west side of mesocyclone. After shooting the
stovepipe tornado...I followed it east on highway 62 to Chickasha, due to
heavy traffic ...I did not get any closer to
video and it began to speed away from me. I ended the chase for that tornado
on north side of chickasha with just a couple of very brief opportunities
for photo/video...I did not want to race it up I-44 in case it turned right
and messed up the highway. Another factor in this decision was a large wall
cloud with inflow tails on a storm that I can see clearly 20 miles west of
location..I also knew that this was an LP storm, unlike
the HP monster in front of me..so I went for the new
storm near Fort Cobb/Anadarko. I went back west on Highway 62 through
Verden, about 8 miles later, over some hills, the lowering dropped and a
beautiful backlit tornado appeared IN THE FRONT portion of updraft base
while a secondary rotating wall cloud was churning in the back of the storm
fed by the inflow tails..this tornado was below a corkscrew updraft base and
stayed on the ground, moving slowly ENE for about 10 minutes...changing from
a trunk, to hose, to rope... and getting great video, closeups and good
still pictures . As this tornado dissipated,
the wall cloud in back began to increase spin and size..becoming a bowl...I
was certain it would produce large tornado, but did not until it moved over
rural areas northeast of Gracemont and near Union City, Ok. But by then, it
turned HP and the local hills and setting sun made it difficult to see and
video, but I saw 2 more seperate tornadoes from this storm during its track
from anadarko to north of Union City, ok. Chase ended with catching a
glimpse of another large wedge tornado from I-40 through the lightning
north of Yukon, ok from a distance of 5-8 miles. Finally getting home