The January-February 1999 issue of STORMTRACK features the ST. CHARLES, MO TORNADO, NORTHERN INDIANA TORNADOES, AND THE JUNE 13, 1998 TORNADO OUTBREAK

OUR PALTRY UPPER AIR

I. COMMENTARY by Tim Marshall

Each winter, I spend what leisure time I have transcribing my chase logs and reliving each chase day. I try to figure out where my forecast went wrong and what I did right. It has become clear to me (no pun) that misjudging the strength of the capping inversion is a key point of error. Each year, this accounts for most of the busted chases which is about one out of every five chases or 20% of the time. In a day when we are being bombarded with new technology -like AWIPS, AMOS, and BUILD-10, we are still in the dark ages when it comes to upper air data. Balloons are still being launched twice a day and the stations are 400 km apart on average. What a joke. It is a wonder the numerical models work as well as they do. What we need here is a serious technological breakthrough regarding obtaining upper air soundings. I know that satellite profilers are being experimented with and this has some merit, although errors are still large and their are limitations when there are clouds. So, does anyone have any suggestions? How about equipping all commercial aircraft with sounding sensors that can relay their data to a central location that can be accessed via internet. Or how about deploying mini-dropsondes via aircraft over a potential risk area? Imagine thousands of soundings in an area say between Oklahoma City, Kansas City and Dodge City - a virtual mesonet of soundings.

II. CHASER NEWS

The 3rd Annual 1999 Severe Storms and Doppler Radar Conference will be held March 26-28, 1999 at the University Park Holiday Inn in Des Moines, IA. The conference begins at 1:30 pm on the 26th and runs until noon on the 28th. This conference is geared towards anyone with an interest in weather. Spotters, forecasters, emergency managers, storm chasers…everyone is encouraged to attend! Friday evening is chaser night, so bring your videos or pictures to show. The conference will be held at a different place this year: The University Park Holiday Inn. There is a free shuttle from the Des Moines International Airport so it will not be necessary to rent a car. There are plenty of fine eating establishments within walking distance of the hotel. There are also a few fast food places for those people on a budget. The University Park Holiday Inn has a large atrium area so you can easily mingle with the hundreds of other weather-minded people at the conference. Plus it has a waterfall and lush greenery! Rooms at this four star hotel are $68 and can hold up to four people. They come furnished with coffee makers and even data ports. For more information about the logistics of the meeting, mail me (Paul Vincent Craven) at paul@cravenfamily.com.

The College of DuPage will be sponsoring the second annual Severe Weather Conference for Undergraduates! Because of great success last year, we have decided to do another and incorporating some lessons learned from last year. The conference will be held Thursday, April 8 through Saturday April 10 at the College of DuPage campus in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (about 25 miles west of Chicago). Student rates will be a maximum of $70 for students (slightly more for non-students) and will include break refreshments, two lunches and a dinner banquet. Local hotels have offered some rate discounts for attendees of the conference. Changes to this year's program include more hands-on activities, more time to interact with other students and workshop presenters, and a Thursday night video and slides program featuring attendees' experiences in storm chasing. We will also provide on-line material for attendees to peruse ahead of time, helping provide prerequisite information to help everyone receive the maximum benefit form the conference. Some teachers may want to take advantage of some of the material in courses they will be offering in forecasting or mesoscale meteorology. This will be a great chance to come together and learn from some experts in severe storms and mesoscale meteorology. This year's speakers will include a top researchers and operational meteorologists from around the country who will share cutting edge information about severe weather forecasting, research and observation. A tentative list has already been assembled and will be announced as soon as confirmation can be made. Mark it on your calendar! Also, the 1998 Conference was videotaped and can be purchased for your personal library. Contact Dr. Paul Sirvatka for more information about the video or upcoming conference email: sirvatka@ic1q01.cod.edu Office: (630) 942-2118; Lab: (630) 942-2590, COD Weather Lab: (630)-858-0032, Address: 425 22nd St. Glen Ellyn, IL 60137.

A new group for storm chasers formed (finally) by Jimmy Deguara. The new group which may become known as the "Storm Chasers Australia (SCA)" (name not confirmed but it seemed to be the most popular), has just been established. After some decision as to the date and location, a meeting was held on the 3rd December 1998. Those able to attend were; Michael Scollay, Paul Mossman, Jimmy Deguara, Michael Bath, Matt Smith, Matthew Piper, Paul Graham, David Croan and Mark Hardy. The current committee for 1998: President - Michael Bath, Vice President - Jimmy Deguara, Secretary - Paul Mossman, and Treasurer - Michael Scollay. The fees were decided to be $30 which will entitle you for membership, quarterly issues of the "Storm News" publication, a tee-shirt with our newly designed logo, ongoing support and education and training, full access in terms of article submission and links to the newly designed web site for this society, and other items which are still to be organized if possible. These fees will cover the costs of the web site domain name, costs of producing and posting Storm News. If you wish to find out more about this group, feel free to do so. If you wish to catch up on the latest discussion on storm activity, subscribe to the following listserve list: http://www.australiansevereweather.simplenet.com/storm_news/aussiewx.htm or email: jimmyd@ozemail.com.au

The 1999 TESSA National Meeting will be held on Saturday, April 17th at the Plano Civic Center located at 1520 Ave. K, Plano, Texas beginning at 9am. Guest speakers will be Chuck Doswell, Alan Moller and Gene Moore. Details are available on the Internet on the TESSA News page at www.tessa.org, including a map to the site.

The 1999 STORMTRACK CHASER PICNIC will be held on Saturday, May 15, 1999 at Rocky Rascovich’s house at 5504 Hall Road, NW, Piedmont, OK 73078 beginning at 1pm. Bring your own food, beverage and videotape. The picnic will be postponed to the next week (May 22, May 29, or June 5) if there is a slight risk or better issued at 13z for any part of Texas, Oklahoma, or Kansas. Call our voice message center at 1-817-430-0517 for the latest updates after May 13. See you all there!!

NOTE: The Storm Prediction Center will be changing the Convective Outlook issuance time effective February 15, 1999. Day 1 morning outlooks will now be issued at13Z and 1630Z instead of 12Z and 15Z giving chasers more time to sleep in.

III. OTHER NEWS

UMTATA, South Africa (AP) - President Nelson Mandela narrowly escaped injury when a tornado knocked down part of the pharmacy he was shopping in. Throughout the town, 13 people were killed. The tornado also injured 150 people, uprooted trees and swept roofs off houses in Umtata, 12 miles from Mandela's hometown of Qunu in southeastern South Africa. Most of the victims were waiting at a bus stop when a wall collapsed on them, police said. Mandela, 80, was shopping at a pharmacy on Umtata's main street when the storm hit, spokeswoman Priscilla Naidoo said. He was told to lie on the floor by his bodyguards, who then covered the president with their bodies to protect him while the tornado raged, Naidoo said. The doors and windows of the pharmacy were shattered by the force of the storm, and part of the roof caved in, but the president suffered no injuries, she said. ``The president and his bodyguards escaped unharmed and they went home afterwards,'' Naidoo said. A magazine journalist, Ponko Masiba, who was standing near Mandela when the storm hit said: ``We just heard a rattle and the ceiling started vibrating.'' Mandela, who was on summer vacation at his hometown, often visits that pharmacy, Naidoo said. The tornado seriously damaged the Umtata General Hospital and its intensive care unit.

MIAMI (Reuters) - Saved from a pauper's grave, veteran Miami weather researcher Jose Fernandez Partagas had his ashes scattered in the eye of a howling hurricane. Partagas, who turned a childhood fascination with nature's fiercest storms into a career as a respected meteorologist and hurricane historian, died last August. More than a year later, his friends from the National Hurricane Center dropped his ashes from high in the sky into the heart of Hurricane Danielle. ``It's a rare honor. We didn't want Jose sitting on a shelf,'' National Hurricane Center meteorologist Jim Gross said Wednesday. ``Hurricanes were his entire life. From the time he was a small child in Cuba he was fascinated with them.'' With no family and nearly destitute, Partagas, who was born and educated in Cuba, died at age 62 on a couch at the University of Miami library, a second home as he researched the history of 19th- and 20th-century hurricanes. His body went unclaimed and eventually would have been buried in a pauper's grave. So the National Hurricane Center, the U.S. government agency that tracks hurricanes from a fortified weather station in a Miami suburb, took it. ``We held it until an appropriate storm this year,'' Gross said. Partagas' hurricane center friends and colleagues held a brief ceremony Sunday aboard a P-3 Orion research plane in the heart of Hurricane Danielle as it swirled in the Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles northeast of Miami.

III. LETTERS/EMAIL TO THE EDITOR

Martin Smith of central Illinois writes: " On Sunday, July 23,1967 my family and I survived a terrible derecho. The winds were at least 90 mph, with very intense lightning and flooding rains. It lasted an hour. The buildings were damaged only a little, but large trees were snapped off and whole cornfields were blown flat and flooded. The storm took a while to get here, growing more ominous as it approached. Right before the storm hit, at about 7pm, the sky was black overhead and very GREEN in the west. At first, it sounded like a regular thunderstorm. My older sister and I were on the kitchen floor, taking turns reading from a Betty Crocker children’s cookbook. Suddenly, the power went off and immediately after, the wind and rain slammed the house, where upon we calmly headed to the basement. I thought the house would break up, but it didn’t. Our parents kept telling us not to be scared, but I thought we were going to die just the same. The storm finally ended, so we went upstairs in the dark to check the damage. We were all in shock, like those people after an earthquake in California. Outside, all kinds of portable lights were bobbing around in the darkness. There were trees down everywhere, but I knew it wasn’t a tornado, because everything blown down was pointing east. The next day, it was like after a typhoon. Sunny, but with storm damage everywhere. The damage extended in a uniform pattern all through Fulton County, as well as way north and south of here. The Peoria Journal Star called it "The Great Cloudburst". However, it was not a "cloudburst", but rather, something I call a terrible green derecho. We thought it was gone for our lifetimes, but three days later we had another storm, similar to the first one. Anyway, it made me a storm chaser for life, at the very least.

Erik Maitland, TV Meteorologist in Davenport, IA writes: "As a television meteorologist, I come across this situation all the time during severe weather season. We will interview people who have just been through a storm and are standing in the midst of what is left of their property. Trees are down, cars are destroyed, the house is torn apart, and debris is strewn about all over the place. We know there wasn't a tornado and the weather service is quick to confirm this. We have all the evidence of straight-line winds (including the uniform directional spread of the debris), and none whatsoever of a tornado. As a matter of fact, I was just watching a storm special produced by a Syracuse, New York station on the Labor Day Storm of '98. In it, the state fair director said, quote, "As you know, a TORNADO went through the state fairgrounds this morning." This was obviously an observation he made a short time after the storm passed, based on the debris he saw, well before anybody could tell him what really happened. The reporter then mentioned that the weather service had later confirmed straight-line winds, and not a tornado. The radar from that day was then replayed showing a large bow-echo crossing the region, early in the morning in question. This was another example which demonstrated that most people are still unfamiliar with the potential damage of downbursts and straight-line winds. They seem to think that ONLY a tornado could cause such damage. In fact they get furious and stare at us in disbelief when we mention "wind" in the same sentence as all of the destruction that they have suffered. Maybe this points out the need for us TV-types to educate more, and stress the potential severity of a wind generating storm and not just the tornado producers. I've even had people ask me if a tornado had gone through town when winds gusted to 90 miles per hour simply because of a tight pressure gradient. But back to my real point. My theory? I think it's about psychological validation. People want to be thought of as indestructible and as strong as possible. So, my take is as follows: There is more PRESTIGE in SURVIVING A TORNADO, than being the VICTIM OF WIND! Maybe cause people don't want to be embarrassed by having lived in a structure that could be toppled by a wind (albeit a straight-line wind that contains powers that they're not aware of) they block out that reality and strive to be able to tell the story of how although their house didn't stand up to a "tornado", they did!"

Greg Stumpf writes: On 13 June 1998, while groups of chasers ran the gamut of the non-tornadic supercells on the KS-NE state line, no storms in Central KS, and mothership storms near OKC and Guthrie OK, my wife Julie and I were seemingly the only chasers (that we saw) on a tornadic supercell in Southcentral Kansas. We picked an area near Wichita where we felt was going to be the southern limit of the cap (we were wrong!) and a possible triple point for an advancing dryline and slowly retreating warm front. Storms developed west of I-35 and moved east. We followed one storm beginning near Belle Plaine eastward, north of Winfield, and on past Burden, Kansas. In the early lifecycle of the storm, it resembled a weaker version of the Central OK beasts with a laminar front-edge to the updraft. As the storm crossed the warm front into the cooler and higher-RH air, the base significantly lowered, and a low-level mesocyclone spun up and formed a large wall cloud. Two tornadoes touched down simultaneosly from the large wall cloud (about a mile apart, east-west), and the easternmost vortex quickly become the dominant one. That tornado remained on the ground for about 4-5 minutes before being obscured by rain from a rapidly approaching left-split storm from the southwest. These were Julie's first tornadoes! The storm continued on eastward, but remained non-tornadic. For video captures, see: www.nssl.noaa.gov/~stumpf/burden.html

Allen Pearson, director of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center (NSSFC) from 1965-1979, writes about working with Dr. Ted Fujita (featured in the last issue of STORMTRACK). "I first met Ted Fujita in the late 1960s. I had become Director of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center in 1965 and inherited a group of dedicated severe weather forecasters...Galway...Crumrine... Magor...David, but also an antiquated communications system that would be laughed at in third world countries today. I was seeking the help and influence of scientists outside the US Weather Bureau to help ugrade our system. Fate stepped in when Lubbock was hit on May 11 1970. Ted and the Texas Tech Engineering and Meteorological staffs began the epic work on determining the forces that produced damage in engineered buildings. We had meetings in Lubbock and meetings in Texas. Somewhere in there, I had dinner with the Fujitas and Ted and I began kicking around the idea of how we might classify tornadoes in a manner similar to the Richter scale. I was interested in showing public officials that not all tornadoes were top of the line and that there were ways of saving lives through preparedness. I also believed in putting most of our forecast efforts into hitting the more intense storms since we already knew that was where a good tornado box could make the difference. I was hopeful that I could get the support of the state climatologists in a systematic gathering of tornado data, and our partnership was underway. Ted always took the ball and ran with it once something started. My role was that of a goader-catalyst, keeping him on track as to what we could and could not do within the operational community. Ted began his Lear jet flights and we at NSSFC would pre-position Ted and the crew to areas where we thought there would be development. It was an exciting period. The outbreak of April 3-4, 1974 brought everything together. The survey teams were everywhere and the Fujita-Pearson scale (as it was then known) was used extensively. The outbreak helped us get the data handling equipment we so badly needed. As the years went along NSSFC worked with Ted and Bob Abbey on their project. I spoke to Ted about two weeks before his death. He seemed discouraged about an earlier treatment that either had not been done or had been done poorly. It was the only time I ever spoke with him that we did not talk about tornadoes or something connected with it."

ST. CHARLES, MISSOURI TORNADO: MAY 23, 1998 by Linda Hawkins

I call myself a stationary storm chaser. I recently moved from hurricane alley on the east coast to St. Charles County, Missouri - part of the infamous Tornado Alley. I must have inherited my fascination with severe weather from my dad, who's currently still on the east coast. Back on May 23, 1998, I decided to call him from the midst of the mother of all supercells that my eyes have witnessed so that I could share it with him. Boy did he get a surprise - real time. And so did I!

It all started when I was at my office for the day and thunderstorms were forecast - nothing unusual here. As the convection brewed and late afternoon approached, the watches and warnings went up. Every so often, I pulled up my favorite internet places, the Nexrad summary and the local Doppler radar, as the afternoon wore on. I made one last check about 15 minutes before I left to go home. That last check showed a supercell bearing down from the southwest. At it's speed of 35 mph, I calculated that it would just about meet me at my house after my quite lengthy drive home. I was wrong. The storm was a little behind schedule. As I crossed the bridge over the Missouri River into St. Charles County, the southwest sky was turning black. As I drove westward, the rain started -big drops, one here and one there. The sky turned so dark that my internal dash lights came on --you almost needed a flashlight to read. Then a steady rain turned into a hard pounding rain -the fast setting on the wipers was not fast enough. I could see cloud to ground lightning (CGs) -loud and slightly more frequent than normal -but no hail. Yet. I was weaving in and out of the traffic, saying out loud "excuse me, excuse me!" (which was only traveling at about 20 mph) to hurry home so I wouldn't "miss it" because I had some instinct, that something spectacular was going to happen.

As I turned into my neighborhood, about 15 minutes into the storm at about 5:40 p.m. CST, the rain almost let up to a sprinkle. I arrived at the house and by then the CG strikes were so loud and so close that I immediately unplugged everything. There was no time to check the radar or television. I ran out onto my southwest-facing porch. CGs were hitting nearby in all directions! I called my dad from my portable phone, while standing out on the porch and he enjoyed the thunder crashes with me for about 5 or 10 minutes. He started counting the seconds after the strikes, as he taught me to do many moons ago, and he joked "that was a 1,000 feet", and then immediately after that one "that was 300 feet," which he said with a slightly worrisome concern. The CGs began to intensify and increase in frequency and seemed to be concentrated on the western back side of the storm core. Gradually, the heavy rain began to increase and blow in sheets and the winds picked up to about 40 to 60 mph. Pea-sized hail tinged and tanged on the metal parts of the house and lasted about 5 minutes.

Suddenly, I noticed a black line - moving very, very quickly up from the horizon from due southwest. I stepped a little bit further out onto my porch and peeked around the corner of my house and there it was - a huge, black "V". I blurted with disbelief, "that's a tornado!" But, it was too big for a tornado. Then I felt it. The porch seemed to have a strange rumble. It was not just vibrating under my feet, but everything seemed to vibrate, including the air. I felt it in my bones. It was very subtle and felt like the infamous train but not too close yet. This was the first of two distinct rumbles and it had a definite beginning and end. My dad was silent. I walked to the southern edge of my porch and "zoomed in" with my eyes. It WAS a tornado! I could not believe how wide its base was in the clouds. Although I could not see a distinct, smooth, spinning funnel, I did see scud clouds spinning around a funnel and it was clearly spinning counterclockwise. It was approximately 6:00 to 6:05 p.m. At this point I noticed that the hail had stopped.

Just as I was about to run to the basement (the thought of getting the camcorder never occurred to me), my eye caught an awesome sight which I will never forget. Directly out of the middle left side of the tornado was a sudden TG (twister-to-ground strike). The lightning bolt darted right out of the tornado. It was the shape of a true "zap" from a cartoon and seemed so much brighter than normal lightning. As I carefully hopped over the metal strip in the door frame, a loud scream of static came over the cordless telephone and my dad and I were disconnected.

In the basement, my eyes focused beyond the windows. It was solid white outside. The rain and wind were so strong, that the outdoors blended right in with the drywall on the inside. The concrete was rumbling under my feet. It felt very similar to, or stronger than a 4.2 earthquake I felt once. It all happened so fast and then it was all over. The rain stopped. The thunder was suddenly very distant -and then there was an eerie quiet. Fortunately, the tornado missed my house. I went upstairs and opened my sliding glass doors. Very faintly, off in the distance, I heard the sirens. However, the sirens by my house never went off. I headed out to check the damage and found the strongest damage was only .8 of a mile from my house.

JUNE 11, 1998 NORTHERN AND CENTRAL INDIANA TORNADIC SUPERCELLS by Blake Naftel

Thursday, June 11th, began as a cloudy, warm, and semi-humid day. Although at times the sun would appear and disappear behind the low level clouds, it was starting to look like a promising day for severe thunderstorms. By 3pm, three trailing bow echo type storms started to race across extreme southwest lower Michigan and northern Indiana. I was on the road while this was occurring, heading south on US 131 towards the Indiana border when I hit the first storms of the day. At times, the visibility was reduced down to zero, making me slow down to 35-40 mph. Continuing south and stopping in White Pigeon, MI for dinner, the National Weather Service in northern Indiana issued a tornado watch for all of northern and central Indiana until 9pm EDT (10pm Michigan time). I continued south on US 131, crossing into Indiana, coming to the town of Middlebarry, IN. Skies were still covered with the quickly moving low level scud clouds as I continued southwest through Goshen, IN, stopping there to get my bearings. The local SKYWARN nets were heating up, so I signed in, flipped on the portable TV, and saw there were two tornado warnings southwest of me in Stark and Pulaski counties. I drove southwest out of Goshen, IN on Highway 119 towards the storm. On my way, I noticed lightning had started a fire in a hayfield. I stopped to get some quick video shots of that when local TV came on with a map showing the track of the possible tornado. There was a very pronounced hook echo with this storm, and its was moving in my general direction. In fact, a tornado had been confirmed in Stark and Pulaski counties 20 minutes earlier.

Now heading south on highway 19, I came to the town of Nappanee, IN. The track of the tornado at that time took it near the town of Bremen, IN which was to my west. So, I headed west on Highway 6 towards Bremen. On the way, I saw the shelf cloud, which was very ominous looking and impressive. By the time I got to Bremen (10 minutes away), reports indicated the track of the tornado had shifted more to the east and was now heading for Nappanee. I did a quick reversal of directions, heading back east on Highway 6, then south through Nappanee on Highway 19. I needed to get to an area which was relatively flat and good viewing of the pending storm, so I pulled off on a side road and looked at a map. During this time, (which I didn't even notice until reviewing the dashcam video later on that evening), a moderately large piece of house fell from the sky directly in front of me. The core of the storm soon caught up with me dumping over five inches of rain in a 20 minute period. I continued slowly southward through the core and finally came to the end of the rain. Then, I looked to the southwest and saw a massive, green, grey, and black rotating wall cloud. The wheat fields surrounding me indicated inflow into the wall cloud. I pulled off the road leaving a quick north option out of the direct path of the wall cloud. Pulling the dashcam off the tripod, I rolled tape for a few seconds on the rotation, I knew this would drop a tornado any second, and it did! At first, a tree line obstructed my view as the tornado ripped through a trailer park. Then, I could see dirt and debris going up in the air and heading for me. Now, it was time to book it north. I called in a spotter report to the local SKYWARN net and exited the "bears cage" and set up in a safe position. I tripoded my camera just as the wall cloud with tornado passed over highway 19. Calling in more reports, police and fire vehicles passed me going towards the now devastated trailer park. The tornado lifted and continued to touch down occasionally. Then, the wall cloud veered to the northeast and started moving rather quickly at 40 mph. A small tornado touched down to the south of it and destroyed a barn. I packed up the gear and continued north on Highway 19 back through Nappanee and then pulled off the road to get more shots of the wall cloud. Tripoding my camera again, suddenly, a small, weak tornado touched down to the left of the wall cloud, kicking up some debris. I viewed the tornado while looking northeast and lasted for about 30 seconds. After that, the supercell just basically fell apart.

There were other tornadic storms in Indiana that day. Tornadoes struck near Greentown and Indianapolis, IN at about the same time the tornado I was watching ripped through areas south of Nappanee, IN. The Greentown, IN tornado was a wedge tornado, and the video from that event was spectacular. It was rated an F3, even though it looked a lot like the Andover, KS tornado of 1991. The tornado in Indianapolis was also a wedge, that did some damage in parts of Marrion county. That storm was also rated F3. The Nappanee, IN tornado was rated F2. One good thing to come out of all of this was that no one was seriously injured or killed. Spotters, the National Weather Service, and the broadcast media did an excellent job of keeping on top of this dangerous weather situation as the powerful supercell storms raced across northern and central Indiana. To check out video stills of this and other storm intercept events I've had this year, check out our Michigan Storm Intercept Team home page, at http://members.aol.com/bbkn/chaser.html. email: bbkn@aol.com

1998 HURRICANE SEASON IN REVIEW by Jim Leonard

The 1998 hurricane season produced fourteen named storms of which ten became hurricanes and three became major hurricanes. This was well above the average season of 10, 6 and 2. 1998 also was the most deadly hurricane season since 1780. 1998 also was the first season since 1893 in which there were four hurricanes in progress at the same time, that occurred on September 25. The most notable hurricanes of the season were "Georges" and "Mitch". Hurricane Georges was a classic Cape Verde September storm. The seedling which developed into Georges moved off the west coast of Africa on September 14th and intensified steadly as it approached the Leeward islands on September 19th. On September 20th the hurricane weakened somewhat and moved across the northern Leeward islands as a category 2 hurricane. On September 21st as the hurricane approached the island of Puerto Rico it began to intensify at a fairly rapid rate. The late afternoon of the 21st Georges was once again a major cat-3 hurricane at the same time it was making landfall on the eastern shores of Puerto Rico. The upper air pattern was becomming very favorable for the hurricane so much so it only weakened slightly despite the fact it traversed 5,000 foot mountains. As soon as the storm emerged into the Mona Passage it rapidly intensified then struck the Dominican Republic as a strong cat-3 hurricane. One interesting observation that I noticed is while moving over Puerto Rico the track of the hurricane was westnorthwest as it hit the eastern half of Puerto Rico then jogged southwest to the southern shore of the island and then resumed a straight west track after that. This jog is what I think saved south Florida from a devastating blow from a large and intense cat-4 hurricane. The original track would have taken the center off the north coast or just along the coast of Hispanola keeping the center away from the 10,000 foot mountains. At the time George was moving over Hispanola, the upper air pattern was as favorable as it can be and this is the reason the storm was able to maintain itself despite it going over this rugged terrain. Georges continued its land lover track across the island of Cuba. As was the day before, the upper air pattern continued excellent with perfect outflow at all quadrants. As the hurricane slowly pulled away from the central coast of Cuba on the afternoon of September 24th the convection began to organize. The next day Georges moved over the lower Keys as a loosely organized cat-2 hurricane. Georges brought winds of over 100mph to all of the Keys from Grassy Key to Dry Tortugas with areas from Big Pine Key to Sugerloaf Key the worst hit with wind gusts in excess of 125mph. The hurricane only intensified slightly after leaving the Florida Keys but became better organized. The next two days, Georges moved slowly at first and it looked like a direct hit on New Orleans but as the hours went by, the storm gradually curved more to the north and crossed the coast of Mississippi near Biloxi. The big story was the 30+ inches of rain it produced in the western Florida panhandle. The highest winds along the coast were a little over 100mph just to the east of where the eye crossed the coast. A reported of a gust of 172 mph was NOT accurate. This was a measurement by what is known as a hot wire anemometer which are used at military bases. But when heavy rain occurs, these anemometers go hey wire as in the case of Typhoon "Paka" reported 236mph gust in Guam last year.

Hurricane "Mitch" became the first Cat-5 hurricane since hurricane "Gilbert" in 1988 in the same region of the western Caribbean. Hurricane Mitch reached an intensity of 180mph with a central pressure of 905mb. Hurricane Mitch developed from a tropical wave which moved off the west coast of Africa around mid-October but showed no signs of development until October 21st when a small low pressure system developed on the tropical wave near the coast of Columbia. The low developed into a tropical storm quite rapidly for the first 24 hours then showed signs of weakening for about 18 to 24 hours. Beginning in the early hours of October 24th, Mitch began to intensify at a steady rate to Cat-5 status by the 26th. On October 26th and 27th, the Cat-5 hurricane meandered just off northeast coast of Honduras. The next three days Mitch moved very slowly west then turned south toward the coast of Honduras and moved so slow that hurricane conditions continued on the offshore islands for over 24 hours. During this time, the hurricane had weakened with winds down to 115mph. On October 29th, the weakening storm continued to move more and more inland in a southerly direction and this is when the real disaster began. For the next four days, the weakening storm dumped nonstop torrential tropical rains over Honduras and Nicaragua which claimed at least thousands of lives from flash flooding. On November 2, tropical storm Mitch redeveloped in the Bay of Campeche and began a northeast track toward the lower west coast of Florida. During this period, Mitch was more of a subtropical system then a purely tropical storm as the deep convection and strongest winds were well to the east of the low center. As the system approached the lower west coast of Florida, a supercell blew up over the Florida straits and spawned a F-2 tornado over Key Largo after dark on November 4th. I went down to check the damage the following day and it appeared to me that the size and track of the damage swath the tornado was probably similar to the Treasure Island Florida tornado of October 3 1992 which appears in Tom Grazulis significant tornadoes. update 1992-1995.

http://pw1.netcom.com/~jmlcat-5/index.html , email: jmlcat-5@ix.netcom.com

 

CHASE STRATEGY: JUNE 13, 1998 by Tim Marshall

The progs showed a fairly large amplitude trough (for mid-June) was going to move through the northern Rockies on June 13th. So, the decision to chase was actually made the day before. However, the decision of where to chase would have to wait until the morning of June 13th. Positive features, besides the large-scale trough, were lee cyclogenesis in northern Colorado which aided surface convergence, ample surface moisture in the warm sector with dewpoints to 70 degrees extending up to the Kansas border, nice southeasterly winds across Kansas and Nebraska -an upslope condition, and unusually strong directional shear profiles extending from Nebraska southward to northern Texas. Big negatives were the thermonuclear cap over Texas, Oklahoma and southern Kansas with 850mb temperatures of 23 degrees C at Dodge City and 27 degrees C at Amarillo at 12z. Warm temperatures extended through the lower troposphere with a 500mb temperature of -5 degrees C at Oklahoma City and an 11 degree C temperature at 700 mb. There also was question about the timing and strength of the upper air dynamics. The best lift would be in Nebraska around 00z with weaker dynamics extending southward.

Throughout the day, I expected the dryline to move eastward from the Texas panhandle and western Kansas to just west of I-35 by 00z. The strongest southwest surface winds should approach Hays, Kansas by 00z. With the strong cap in place, I believed convection would be limited south of Wichita, Kansas. So, I forecasted the best chance for tornadic supercells would be from north-central Kansas extending northward to the warm front around Lexington, Nebraska on I-80. I could only get to the southern end of the forecast area from Dallas, so I centered my forecast ellipse over Hays, Kansas and extended the target area north-south 60 miles. The morning SPC outlook was not much help as it called for a large slight risk area over the plains, however, I figured they would upgrade it by 15z or 19z with a smaller moderate risk area.

Carson and I departed Dallas around 7:15am and headed northward on I-35. North of Oklahoma City, we met Gene Rhoden who also was traveling northbound into Kansas. All of us stopped for lunch and analyzed weather data at Wichita, Kansas at noon. We saw the dry punch in southwest Kansas heading for Hays. As expected, SPC upgraded central Kansas and southern Nebraska to a moderate risk at 15z keeping Oklahoma in a slight risk. A nice corridor of southeast surface winds extended across northern Kansas into southwest Nebraska along the warm front. Seeing these favorable conditions, we decided to continue north and stop near McPherson, Kansas where we checked weather data again at 3pm. By 3pm, Tornado Watch boxes were posted for central Kansas and southern Nebraska. We watched high-based turkey towers grow and die along the dryline to our distant west. I became concerned about the unusually warm temperatures to our west which could indicate subsidence. It was 102 degrees F at Russell, Kansas located just west of the dryline. By 4pm, high-based Cb’s were developing north and south of our location while we were in the middle of a convection "hole" -and Roger Edwards’ vehicle "the meatwagon" was no where to be found. Then, a Tornado Watch box was issued for Oklahoma. I started to get that funny feeling that I may have blown this forecast.

Still, I stuck to my forecast and we waited. By 5pm, the high-based Cb’s to our south looked multi-cellular whereas the storms to our north had mushy anvils. Thus, we decided to go north the storms were closer and were moving slower. During the next hour, the storm to our north became a supercell moving eastward along the Nebraska/Kansas state line. The storm structure was better than the others with crisp updraft and large backsheared anvil. Inflow bands extended southeast from the storm. During this time, Sam Barricklow called us from Dallas. He was watching the radar and said there were three storms near Wichita, Kansas of which two had mesocyclones; the storms were moving northeastward around 40 knots. He also said the isolated storm we were on had a top to 55,000 feet and was moving more easterly at 20 knots. No storms were detected in Oklahoma. So, Carson and I started feeling a bit better upon hearing this news. We didn’t want to chase those fast moving storms near Wichita and it appeared the thermonuclear cap prevailed in Oklahoma.

We caught up with the supercell near Belleville, Kansas and watched it evolve into an HP supercell much to our dismay. We kept hearing about confirmed tornadoes in southwest Nebraska south of Lexington and North Platte and we could see these storms to our northwest. We were puzzled why for some (yet unknown) reason, our storm wouldn’t produce a tornado although it was perfectly positioned and just north of the convection "hole". Seeing no other option nearby, we stayed with this storm over the next two hours ending up near Summerfield, Kansas around 8pm. We experienced the ultimate nightmare, when we stopped to look at Weather Channel radar’s and saw this big red cell moving through Oklahoma City - where we had been earlier that day.

 

12Z and 15Z CONVECTIVE OUTLOOKS ON JUNE 13, 1998

CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK...REF AFOS NMCGPH94O.

VALID 131200Z - 141200Z

REF WW NUMBER 0563...VALID TIL 1300Z

THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS TO THE RIGHT OF A LINE FROM 60 NNE DVL DVL 30 E Y26 FSD SZL HRO PBF PRX CDS GCK GLD BFF REJ 60 NW MOT.

THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS TO THE RIGHT OF A LINE FROM SAV CHA BLF CHO WAL.

...SYNOPSIS...

A DIGGING TROUGH OVER THE OHIO VALLEY IS FORECAST TO BECOME A CLOSED LOW OVER THE MIDDLE ATLANTIC AREA BY 14/12Z. MEANWHILE... UPPER LOW MOVING INTO SOUTHWEST UTAH CURRENTLY IS EXPECTED TO OPEN UP AND EJECT EAST ACROSS THE CENTRAL ROCKIES AND CENTRAL PLAINS DURING THE PERIOD IN RESPONSE TO TROUGH DIGGING INTO THE NORTHERN ROCKIES. LEE CYCLOGENESIS IS EXPECTED THIS AFTERNOON OVER NORTHEAST COLORADO...WITH THE SURFACE LOW LIKELY TRACKING ACROSS SOUTHERN NEBRASKA TONIGHT.

---FORECAST PERIOD VALID FROM 06/13/12Z TO 06/14/03Z---...NORTHERN AND CENTRAL PLAINS STATES...

STEEP MID LEVEL LAPSE RATES ARE EXPECTED TO SPREAD OUT OF THE CENTRAL ROCKY MOUNTAINS DURING THE PERIOD...ESPECIALLY ACROSS NEBRASKA AND SOUTH DAKOTA. 700-500 MB VALUES IN THAT AREA WILL RANGE FROM 7.5 TO 8.5 C/KM BY THE LATE AFTERNOON HOURS. ALTHOUGH THE CLOSED LOW IS EXPECTED TO OPEN UP AND DEAMPLIFY WITH TIME AS IT MOVES TOWARD COLORADO...IT SHOULD STILL BE RATHER SHARP/DYNAMIC AS IT ENTERS THE HIGH PLAINS THIS EVENING.

CURRENT VAD WIND PROFILES FROM WESTERN KANSAS TO WEST TEXAS INDICATE SOUTHERLY 850 MB JET OF 35-40 KNOTS...SO LOW LEVEL MOISTURE SHOULD ADVECT RAPIDLY NORTHWARD FROM TEXAS TO NEBRASKA BY THE AFTERNOON HOURS. ETA MUCAPE OF 1500-2500 J/KG APPEARS REASONABLE OVER SOUTHERN PORTIONS OF THE SLIGHT RISK WITH 1000-1500 J/KG OVER THE NORTHERN PART.

COUPLE OF FORECAST PROBLEMS EXIST WITH SCENARIO. FIRST IS DEGREE OF VERTICAL WIND SHEAR. WOULD EXPECT STRONG DIRECTIONAL SHEAR... SUFFICIENT FOR SUPERCELLS /TORNADOES ALONG THE DRYLINE AND ESPECIALLY NEAR SURFACE LOW OVER WESTERN NEBRASKA. ETA/AVN APPEAR A TAD TOO WEAK WITH 500 MB WIND MAX OF 50-55 KNOTS SPREADING INTO COLORADO/KANSAS AREA DURING THE LATE AFTERNOON/EVENING HOURS. SECOND PROBLEM IS EFFECT OF SUBTROPICAL BRANCH OF UPPER JET PER ETA SOLUTION. 00Z AND 03Z ETA BOTH DEVELOP PRECIPITATION FROM NORTHWEST TEXAS INTO OKLAHOMA AREA DURING THE DAY. SOME EVIDENCE EXISTS IN SOUTHEAST NEW MEXICO...WHERE SHOWERS ARE DEVELOPING... THAT A WEAK IMPULSE IS HEADING NORTHEAST AS FORECAST BY THE ETA.

CRAVEN/CORFIDI.. 06/13/98

ACUS1 KMKC 131513- SWODY1 - -MKC AC 131513

CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK...REF AFOS NMCGPH94O.

VALID 131500Z - 141200Z

THERE IS A MDT RISK OF SVR TSTMS OVER PORTIONS OF KANSAS AND NEBRASKA...TO THE RIGHT OF A LINE FROM P28 20 WNW HLC 20 NW BBW 35 ESE MHN BIE 25 SW TOP 40 ESE ICT P28.

THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS TO THE RIGHT OF A LINE FROM 60 NNE DVL DVL 10 W ABR FSD SZL 25 S UNO 40 NW JAN ACT CDS GCK GLD 25 WNW BFF REJ 60 NW MOT.

...SEVERE THUNDERSTORM FORECAST DISCUSSION......GREAT PLAINS...

MODERATELY STRONG UPPER SHORTWAVE TROUGH IS FORECAST TO MOVE NORTHEASTWARD TOWARDS CENTRAL PLAINS TDA. AMS IS VERY UNSTABLE S OF FRONTAL BOUNDARY OVER OK AND TX AND THIS AMS IS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP NWD INTO KS AND S CNTRL NEB BY LATE AFTERNOON AS WARM FRONT LIFTS NWD. SHEAR PROFILE ALONG AND JUST NE OF WARM FRONT LIKELY TO SUPPORT SUPERCELLS WITH TORNADOES POSSIBLE...PARTICULARLY IN MDT RISK AREA. OTHER MORE ISOLATED SEVERE ACTIVITY MAY DEVELOP SWD ALONG COLD FRONT/DRY LINE INTO WRN OK BY LATE AFTERNOON. OTHER ISOLATED SEVERE ACTIVITY IS POSSIBLE ALONG W EDGE OF MOISTURE AXIS NWD FROM WRN NE INTO DAKOTAS AND ALONG WARM FRONT OVER AR AS IT BEGINS MOVING NWD. ..JOHNS/EVANS.. 06/13/98

JUNE 13, 1998 CHASE by Josh Gilpatrick

Around 4 pm, I saw the anvils from a small line of storms west of Oklahoma City(OKC). At first, I was not too impressed but soon forced myself to go chasing anyway. I left my house in northwest Oklahoma City around 5 pm and headed northwest on Highway 3. The severe storm already had a tornado warning out for it. When I reached the city limits, I was forced to use back roads due to road blocks set up by the police. I could see the storm's updraft and base which looked like an LP (low-precipitation) supercell. The storm appeared to be dying, but I decided to stay with it anyway and followed it to Guthrie. When I was a little west of Guthrie, the storm's rotation tightened and two wall clouds formed. Updraft towers came into view, making for some great photographs through the next series of events. The southern wall cloud formed a funnel that hung around for a while then extended closer to the ground and a debris cloud formed for a brief period before the tornado dissipated. Then, the wall cloud fell apart. The other wall cloud then strengthened and a second tornado was reported west of Guthrie. I could not see this tornado due to trees. The storm rapidly dissipated, so I headed south on I-35 to go back home.

While driving south on I-35, I heard on the weather radio there was a tornado at El Reno, just west of Oklahoma City. As I arrived back in Oklahoma City, I saw the multiple striations on the storm to the southwest, and I also saw two wall clouds. I got back on Highway 3 then turned onto a road that was parallel to Lake Hefner and stopped in a tractor store parking lot to look at the storm. I could see one of the wall clouds coming towards me rotating violently, so I decided to maneuver around it before it formed a tornado. I got on a little lake road and went over a bridge where I experienced violent winds. When I got off the bridge, I turned onto Britton road on the west side of the lake. I had driven around the wall cloud and it was beautifully lit and strongly rotating. I stopped in a little retirement home parking lot and waited for winds to die down a little while watching the rotation over Lake Hefner. When I glanced over the wall I could see a spray of water on Lake Hefner. Some of the spray was moving south and up into the storm, and some of it was rotating, identifying the tornado. For a moment there were only seven or eight cars parked along the lake, but about five minutes later, hordes of people (not chasers) came up in their cars to look at the tornado. I watched the tornado move on shore on the other side of the lake, taking a picture every once in awhile, and just letting the moment soak in. The storm moved off a little before I could see the classic storm structure. I decided to go home. This was my first solo chase and first chase resulting in a tornado sighting --so I felt proud. discostu@ionet.net

BRADY AND MAXWELL, NE TORNADOES: JUNE 13, 1998 by Roger Hill

I departed the Aurora, Colorado area around 1800z after my analysis showed a triple point in the southwest Nebraska panhandle. My target area was south and west of North Platte. When I left town, the temp and dewpoint were around 70 and 40 degrees F, respectively, and the winds had increased from the southwest to around 15 mph with gusts to 26 mph. Skies were partly cloudy with high based cumulus over the foothills being ripped apart. Driving northeast on I-76 there was some high based towers going up to my north and northwest in Weld and Morgan counties with some virga present -but nothing impressive. After exiting I-76 at Brush, I headed east towards Benkelman, NE where there was a field of cumulus. At Akron, CO the winds had increased significantly from the southwest sustained at 24 mph with gusts to 46 mph. The temperature and dewpoint were 73 and 41 degrees (F) respectively.

After arriving in Benkleman, Nebraska around 2015z, there were thunderstorms going up to my north and northwest. The temperature had risen to 83 degrees with a dewpoint of 58 degrees (F). Winds had shifted to southeast at 28 mph with gusts to 42 mph. I watched as one towering cumulus after another developed overhead and moved north, but the strongest storms looked to be to my east. I decided to drive north through Imperial then head east on I-80 to North Platte. At 2145z I encountered a severe storm near Sutherland, Nebraska with marble sized hail, rainfall rates of 2.5 inches/hour, and east/northeast winds gusting to 44 mph. About ten minutes later, I cleared the rain shaft to see a scorpion tail shaped funnel about twenty miles to my east. As I approached the storm, the funnel dissipated after touching down briefly. I noticed another wall cloud to the east about five miles away that developed into a nice cone shaped funnel. After a brief touchdown, it moved north of the town of Brady and dissipated. It passed over an area of about three miles before dissipating. I found many trees limbs down in town, but no house damage. As I followed the tornado damage path northeast from town, I could see many tree limbs down and wheat fields flattened, but rarely saw an actual tree down. I drove to Gothenburg, Nebraska where I saw Al Pietrycha (who has great data on this event), grabbed a burger, and headed home around 0100z. Later I discovered that the cell in the next county east had really gone crazy. email: rhill1@ch2m.com

THE MAXWELL, NEBRASKA TORNADO: JUNE 13, 1998 by Al Pietrycha

A late start to the chase day would ultimately prevent us from reaching my initial target of Hastings, NE. None-the-less, the triple point setting up in southwest Nebraska would prove to be fruitful for us by day's end. Upon leaving Boulder shortly after noon, we headed out on I-76 towards Nebraska. By this time convection was well under way in Northeast Colorado associated with the cold front and approaching short-wave trough. This placed us under overcast skies and intermittent rain throughout the drive into Nebraska. The surface air mass remained cool and relatively dry until we reached Ogallala, Nebraska. At that point, we were approximately 25km north of the warm front. Our dewpoint shot up into the low 60’s (F) with ever increasing warmth in the air temperature as we traveled east on I-80. Visually we could see that skies were clear to the south, but deep, moist convection was well under way to our east. This would need to be penetrated if we were to get far enough east to then drop just south of the warm front in anticipation of the progged dryline bulge.

We encountered heavy rain as we approached North Platte. A tornado warning was shortly issued for this cell, placing the tornado to our southeast of us as the cell traveled north. Moving off I-80 and proceeding east on US HWY 30, we began to encounter 0.75-1.0" hail that quickly increased in intensity. At this point the winds shifted, backing around from southeast to northeast and then north. We realized we were entering the west side of the hook and continued forward cautiously. Within a matter of minutes and just west of the town of Maxwell we broke out of the hail curtain to be greeted by the tornado ~ one mile to our southeast.

The tornado could be described as narrow white scorpion's tail, descending from the parent cloud at a 30 degree angle with a pronounced bend towards the ground. We watched the last five minutes of its life as it slowly progressed north. Based on the damage survey, this F1 tornado caused roughly $250,000 in property damage over a path of four miles. As this tornado dissipated, we noticed another well-defined wall cloud on the east side of the same cell and continued eastward towards the town of Brady. As the wall cloud crossed over HWY 30 another tornado developed. Unlike the first tornado, this one exhibited much broader, stronger rotation and displayed multiple vortex characteristics. It kept to open fields as it moved north and away from us. Due to poor road options we were not able to stay with it. Meanwhile, looking back to the southeast, we could see the tornadic cell near Elmwood showing off firm cumulus towers, backed-shearing anvil, and overshooting top. That storm looked most intriguing but realizing the show was over, we turned for home.

General observations: Eight tornadoes were officially logged for Nebraska this day. Seven of the eight tornadoes occurred after the storms had crossed north of the warm front, becoming tornadic within 30km of the boundary. Additionally, these cells were all cyclic tornado producers. For synoptic data on this day visit:

http://clem.mscd.edu/~pietrych/cool/980613.html, email:pietrych@mrd3.nssl.ucar.edu

NORTHERN KANSAS STORMS ON JUNE 13, 1998 by Don Lloyd

A strong short-wave trough ejecting out of the Rockies, lee cyclogenesis, and strong mid and upper level jets suggested that supercells would form in northern Kansas by late afternoon. We reached Alma, Nebraska at 3:30 pm and downloaded some surface data. However, the sky was already confirming our forecast. Weak towers were forming on the dryline and fizzling. Eventually, one tower glaciated and the new updraft growth was phenomenal. Soon, the updraft looked like an atomic bomb explosion with rock hard tower, a thick cumuliform anvil, and great gnarled knuckles. We drove south to Phillipsburg, Kansas then east on US Highway 36. Just east of there, we found recent 3/4 inch hail scattered on the ground at 4:36pm. The storm turned more of an easterly direction as mounds of congestus billowed up on the south flank and were consumed by the parent updraft. Updraft rotation was evident early and grew more pronounced forming bands on the sides of the main cloud tower. The storm looked LP-ish early then assumed a more classical appearance. We followed eastbound and watched a succession of RFD induced clear slots and updraft occlusions. Inflow ahead of the storm raised huge amount of dust that raced into the updraft at speeds up to about 50 mph. At Rt. 28, we drove north and east watching the beautifully sculpted storm. We were convinced it would tornado at any moment, but each clear slot/occlusion only produced plumes of dust from the RFD and one possible tornadic spin-up northeast of Burr Oak, Kansas. A new rain filled RFD signaled the transition to HP. Now chasing with Al Moller and Martin Lisius, we drove eastward along the Kansas/Nebraska border. The storm weakened at dusk without producing a sustainable tornado.

GUTHRIE AND OKLAHOMA CITY STORM CHASE: JUNE 13, 1998

by David Gaede

The first storm of the day developed near the Enid, Oklahoma area and moved northeast towards Ponca City where it only produced quarter sized hail. Another storm then developed in Kingfisher county to the west of Oklahoma City and moved northeast.

I had driven south from Blackwell, Ok on I-35 hoping to intercept the storm in the Guthrie area which was about 60 miles to my south. The storm began to dissipate as it approached I-35 but another updraft began to build rapidly to the west a few miles west of the dissipating storm. Surface inflow was about 30 mph along I-35 and began to increase as the storm approached the west side of Guthrie. A wall cloud began to appear with slight rotation. You could begin to see the inflow from mid levels increasing from the southeast with a very pronounced beaver’s tail becoming more obvious along with the wall cloud staying consistent with time. Rotation began increasing in the wall cloud, and the storm structure made it obvious this was now an LP Supercell. A very pronounced RFD slot began to appear on the flanking line and the tornado formed and touched down a couple of miles to the west of Guthrie, It was probably an F1 that last for about 5 minutes. The tornado then roped out as it moved east northeast just to the northwest of Guthrie. Outbuildings and barns was the only thing I heard of destroyed by this tornado.

A severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for counties to the west of Oklahoma City a few minutes earlier and it was reported that radar indicated rotation was increasing in this, the third storm. I then moved south about 20 miles to I-44 & I-35. Those of us who have chased in Oklahoma know that from I-35 to the east can create a challenge trying to get the best viewing of storms caused by the increase of hills and trees.

I positioned myself at Remington Park, about one half mile west of I-35 and one quarter mile south of I-44. I briefly saw the first tornado on the west side of Oklahoma City in the Lake Hefner area. By this time this was a full fledged supercell moving east northeast at about 30 - 40 mph and was cyclic. My worst nightmare is always to be on the west side of a major city and get cut off from the storm as it moves east because of sightseers and traffic. I elected to wait on the storm to come to me on the east side of town where road options would definitely be better.

After the Lake Hefner tornado dissipated the storm cycled and developed a larger wall cloud as it moved east, a few miles north of downtown Oklahoma City. Several reports of debris seen on the ground were reported as the rotating wall cloud continued to move east northeast at about 40 mph. The wall cloud appeared to spin up several small vortexes with no large condensation funnel obvious. By this time, the wall cloud was just to my northwest and the surface inflow where I was, about one half mile southeast of the wall cloud, approached 70 mph!! A rotating wall cloud resembling a giant flying saucer approximately 3 miles across had developed. Shortly thereafter a large clear slot, RFD, had now worked its way down the southwest side of the wall cloud and it was pretty obvious as to what was about to happen. A large violently rotating funnel began developing towards the ground. A large radio tower was the first victim of the developing tornado about one mile to my north.

The tornado then became very visible as the condensation cloud was now violently rotating all the way to the ground just to the west of Frontier City on I-35 in north Oklahoma City. There were hundreds of people at the amusement park when the tornado struck, but just a few minor injuries were all that were reported at the amusement park because of the warnings issued . This was in the area of the I-35 and I-44 junction. The tornado continued moving east northeast and had a damage path approximately one half mile wide destroying several houses, overturning tractor trailer rigs, truck stops and totally destroyed a 2 story boot store on the west side of I-35. The tornado continued to track northeast along I-44 for several miles. The National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma classified it as F1 and F2 tornado damage. Mailing address: 12011 E 90th North, Owasso, OK, 74055 e-mail: tstms@aol.com

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Here are some excellent web sites regarding the June 13th tornadoes:

http://mrd3.nssl.ucar.edu/~pietrych/ http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/~nws/storms/13june98

http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/swat/Cases/980613.html http://weather.ou.edu/~marko/1998/summary.html

http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/~zaras/13jun98 http://www.chaseday.com/tornado-okc-1.htm

 

CENTRAL OKLAHOMA TORNADOES: 6-13-98 by Steve Miller

My analysis that morning showed a volatile weather situation setting up in the western half of Oklahoma. I targeted between Cheyenne to Woodward for initial storm development. I expected severe storms with at least a couple of brief tornadoes in the western half of Oklahoma. Here is why:

SURFACE: Southerly surface winds at 20-30 mph sustained were occurring in response to a deepening surface low in Kansas. Seventy degree (F) plus dewpoints were advecting north rapidly in response to the low level jet. Surface temperatures would be in the mid- 90's to near 100 degrees (F) over the forecast area along with cooling mid-level temperatures from -8 to -10 degrees (C) at 500mb. The CAPE would be very high exceeding 5000 j/kg. I expected a sharp dryline to develop from eastern Texas Panhandle and punch into western Oklahoma. I was cautiously optimistic as there have been too many scenarios setting up like this, but strange things happen like the dryline crawfishing westward (instead of punching eastward) just as storms start to fire. Still, I felt that if things materialized as I hoped, it would be a good chase day.

UPPER LEVELS: The ETA model was progging a moderate short wave to approach western Oklahoma later in the afternoon and evening with good vertical velocities. The AVN model agreed, but was a tad slower and a bit weaker. In watching the water vapor loop that morning and taking into consideration the active southern jet stream this year, I leaned towards the ETA model forecast. I also expected a little more cooling at the mid levels nearing -10 degrees (C). The cap would strengthen some throughout the day with warming 700 mb temperatures, but with the strong dryline convergence and approaching upper level energy, I expected the cap to break by late afternoon. Also, a 500mb jet of about 60 knots was nosing into western Oklahoma which verified at about 1:00pm with profiler data. The Jayton and Vici profilers were starting to indicate some directional shear. However, the models were trying to keep the wind profile mostly unidirectional. I had thought that with such an intense surface low in Kansas and the winds backing to the southwest at 700mb in response to short wave, the directional and speed shear would set up nicely. Although the 700mb winds were weak to start with, they were starting to pick up at 1:00pm in addition to some indication of backing to the southwest. The 250mb jet was screaming along at about 100 to 120 knots from the west-southwest to west.

I drove over to Blair Kooistra's house, loaded up his vehicle and we were off. He too was expecting the same area and we discussed the moderate risk for Kansas. However, if things didn't materialize, Kansas was close enough to adjust our plan of attack. We headed up Rt. 287 out of Fort Worth towards Vernon. After finding a place to hook up the computer, we analyzed the 1:00pm data and liked what we were seeing. Surface temperatures were soaring in southwest Oklahoma and already busted 100 degrees (F) at Childress and Altus. The 500mb jet was nosing towards western Oklahoma and there was a slight drop in mid-level temperatures. The 250mb jet was screaming near 120 knots as well. Surface moisture was making excellent progress into the area with dewpoints near 70 degrees (F) advecting into the target area. Wind profiles started to look better and were already showing good directional shear. Surface winds were really starting to pick up and intensify. A dryline bulge was forming in west-northwest Oklahoma. Good moisture convergence was setting up in western Oklahoma. We decided our initial target was looking the best and headed that way up Highway 283 through Altus where we ate lunch. Bank signs said 109 F and it certainly felt like it! We noticed some turkey towers to the distant northwest -was this the dryline? We continued north through Mangum towards I-40.

At around 3:00pm, we arrived at I-40. By this time, elevated "popcorn" towers were going up all around us but nothing was getting organized. Still, this was encouraging as it clearly showed instability. The towers were leaning indicating good wind shear. Two particular cloud towers looked different from the rest north of Elk City. Their cloud bases were getting a little broader with a very compact and crisp tops. These towers would build up a little then get mushy and produce rain showers. The towers would try to build, but with little success. However, they were persistent. We stayed with these cells and headed east on I-40 paralleling the "showers".

All of a sudden, these "showers" started gaining more vertical growth. Shortly thereafter, a tornado watch was issued for central and west-central Oklahoma....and we were right in the middle of it on the western edge! High five’s ensued. Right after that, these "showers" grew into severe thunderstorms with warnings going up for Custer and Blaine counties. The storms started to go nuts with each successive updraft more powerful than the one before and in rapid succession. It was time to intercept!!

We wanted to get out ahead of the storms and look at them from the southeast --at the same time being prepared for any sudden right turning or southward propagation. Once positioned favorably, we decided to start cut north a bit to intercept the storms. The main updraft was starting to take over reducing the threat of southward propagation. It was quite a treat to watch the entire transformation from rain shower to supercell right before our eyes. From I-40, we took Rt. 281 north through Geary and to Greenfield.

At about 5:00pm, we saw a developing wall cloud to our north-northeast about five miles away. The storm anvil was really well defined and crisp. Taking into consideration the storm might turn right, we took off east along a dirt/gravel road. The wall cloud continued to organize and rotation became evident (no need for the radios now!). We went a few miles to the east keeping up with it until we found a nice clearing through the trees. There, we setup to video and shot some stills of the wall cloud. Seeing that the storm was picking up forward motion, we decided to try and find Highway 33 and head east to keep up with it. Just as we started heading out, I looked over my shoulder and noticed this big red cloud of dust rising towards the wall cloud. Tornado #1! Blair quickly picked up on it and scrambled for his video camera. He bailed out while I pulled off the road and got some great video of the dust cloud rising up into the center of the wall cloud. The touchdown was brief and fairly close about 1/2 mile away.

After some tricky navigation and a wrong turn (Oklahoma county roads have no signs and all look alike), we finally found Hwy 33 just east of Watonga. We soon caught up to the back edge of the storm just south of Omega when we saw a white funnel roping out. The storm had gained some distance on us, but we were on an excellent intercept path. As we came into Kingfisher, tornado sirens were blaring. However. the storm appeared to have weakened some in the updraft area, but new towers were continuing to build. We finally caught up to the storm and got right under the new updraft region near the Kingfisher/Logan county line. A wall cloud quickly formed and began organizing and exhibiting rotation. It was quite a treat to watch the whole process from the very start. The wall cloud started growing a tail cloud and a nice inflow band quickly established itself. This was truly an amazing sight.

A new rear flank downdraft (RFD) started approaching the wall cloud from the north. When it collided with the wall cloud, rotation quickly increased and became organized. We followed the wall cloud east on Highway 33 to near Twin Lakes. As we got closer to the Highway 33/74 intersection, the wall cloud was rotating pretty rapidly producing brief little needle funnels. All of a sudden, we looked up and saw a sidewinder! A long funnel cloud was extending horizontally out the upper portion of the wall cloud. It was wriggling around like a snake and persisted for at least a couple of minutes. At this point, fellow chasers Glenn and Bronwyn Dixon met up with us. Anyway, the funnel continued extending towards the ground and made contact about two miles northwest of Guthrie (despite storm reports of it being 3 miles to the southwest). Tornado #2! It soon roped out as the updraft was finally stretched out and cut off. But another wall cloud was already forming to the southeast. We quickly loaded up and headed out to catch it. As we passed through Guthrie, another loosely organized funnel cloud formed but it quickly fizzled out. It was at this time that thick mammatus from a supercell anvil further southwest started "seeding" the updraft area of the Guthrie storm. We got to I-35 and started thinking the Guthrie storm was going to die pretty quick. We should have pulled off the storm right then and headed south to intercept the other storm. However, we decided to continue following the Guthrie storm another ten minutes until we saw the updraft finally die.

Now, a well defined anvil loomed over us with pronounced mammatus. Television broadcasts confirmed what we already knew, a storm was tornadic near El Reno moving east. A quick calculation would give us just barely enough time to get south of the storm and hail core. Our vehicle really needed gas, so we looked for the easiest and fastest access to a service station and eyed the perfect spot -a Love's gas station near the I-44/35 intersection by Frontier City Amusement Park. Blair and I were like a Richard Petty pit crew in action! Blair told the girl at the counter of the impending danger as the TVS (tornado vortex signature)trajectory was targeted on this area. She made a lackadaisical reply. Most people I had warned at the pumps also seemed indifferent as if I was crying wolf. Anyway, we certainly had sense enough to continue high-tailing it south on I-35. We soon encountered part of the precipitation core with a couple of spatterings of mushy nickel hail. Once past this, we saw a breathtaking updraft about 8 to 10 miles to our southwest with about a three miles wide wall cloud. A large lump formed in my throat. This was the biggest mesocyclone I have ever seen. Blair and I both were speechless for about thirty seconds. Feelings of elation and exhilaration were tempered by feelings of dread as I realized this monster was bearing down on northern Oklahoma City. It was about 7:30pm.

We were scrambling for a good place to setup and view storm. Blair pointed out an excellent spot on the east side of I-35 near Remington Park with good escape routes. Glenn and Bronwyn Dixon were still with us as we stopped and set up the cameras. The whole sky seemed to be rotating as we watched the giant striated updraft slowly churn over the city. It looked like a scene out of the movie Independence Day. We thought we were about to see a horrifying nightmare unfold before us with a large wedge plowing through the city. It was at this time the brief tornado/waterspout formed in Lake Hefner. There was little protrusion of a funnel from the cloud base and some faint spray from the lake kicking up. Tornado #3. Shortly thereafter, another faint debris cloud kicked up again as it briefly touched down in The Village area knocking down a radio tower and producing F1 damage to some homes and businesses. Tornado #4. After this, the wall cloud's rotation eased up some, however, I noticed a new RFD rushing toward the wall cloud from the north as evidenced by some scud clouds. We moved south as we were too close to the path of the wall cloud. As we setup the cameras again, a funnel began to form under the well organized wall cloud just as the RFD notch started to cut into it. The funnel lowered and touched down just north of us near Frontier City Amuzement Park sending debris into the air causing F2 damage. Tornado #5 crossed I-35 and lifted it neared Arcadia Lake. We paralleled to wall cloud on Hwy. 62 watching it become more rain wrapped and slowly disappear from sight. The visibility was getting poor as well as the road network.

So, we tried to catch a third supercell approaching southwestern portions of Oklahoma City that was exhibiting a TVS. It was moving fast and cut off our attempt to intercept from the east. We decided to go around the north side of the storm along I-40 and encountered very strong outflow of at least 50mph broadsiding our chase vehicle. We eventually got around the backside of it heading south on I-44. We soon decided to end the pursuit as the third storm began weakening and daylight had run out. After nearly seven hours of intense chasing, we could finally relax. We headed down to Norman where we got a room, ordered a victory pizza meal, reviewed the video, and watched TV news coverage. I got very little sleep that night as the adrenaline was still running through my veins. This was definitely a life time chase to remember. Big congratulations to Blair, Glenn and Bronwyn in seeing their first tornadoes.

In retrospect, it just goes to show once again that chasing a moderate risk is not always the best area. The moderate risk was for Kansas and these tornadic storms occurred in a slight risk area in central Oklahoma. This demonstrates that risk areas issued by SPC (Storms Prediction Center) deal with coverage of severe weather -not intensity. There is absolutely no substitution for doing you own very detailed analysis and ignoring what everybody else says except for clues about something you might have missed. Do not let the models do the forecasting for you...use them only as guidance. They have burned a lot of "forecasters" (model interpreters). My approach is to look at ALL the models to get a basic idea of what they say then do MY OWN forecast based on current analysis and trends. I check and see whether the previous 12 hour model forecasts match up to the actual (current) analysis. The best way to gain experience is analyze your forecasts to see how well you did...what you nailed and what you missed.

The one thing that really disturbed me on this chase was the lackadaisical attitude by the general public regarding weather warnings...especially tornado warnings. This could have been a major disaster. The Frontier City Amusement park had over 1,000 people in it when it got a glancing blow by the tornado. With severe storms and tornadoes in the area for a couple of hours with another storm bearing down on them, park officials evidently did nothing until the actual tornado was bearing down on them. This was definitely a very scary storm and painfully obvious by its appearance that it was severe. Even without hearing any warnings, just looking at the sky could tell you a vicious storm was approaching.

Another problem is people that do take the warnings seriously sometimes do some dangerous things like parking underneath a freeway overpass as to obstruct traffic preventing others from seeking shelter or escaping. I have no problem with seeking shelter under an overpass as a last resort, but don't park your car in the middle of the interstate! There should be some extremely harsh and stiff fines for such violations. It is only a matter of time before this results in unnecessary loss of life. On the same line, law enforcement officials should NEVER block traffic on major interstates during a tornado. This happened during the Jarrell tornado creating a humongous parking lot along I-35 for several miles. No offense, but law enforcement officials are not "experts" in severe thunderstorm dynamics to 100% guarantee and predict what a tornado will do or where the next one will form. In fact, I don't believe anybody is expert enough to do that. With the erratic, unpredictable and unusual nature of the Central Texas tornadoes that day, that monster F5 could have easily plowed into the parking lot on I-35.

JUNE 13th CHASE SUMMARY by Robert Satkus

One of the best chases of my life almost didn’t happen for several reasons. First, I have been sick for the past five days but today I felt OK. Second, my usual chase partner Val Kastor informed me that he didn’t think things would be that great today and he went out with his girlfriend. My only option was to drive her junky truck which leaked worse than the Titanic since my car was having problems. I wasn’t going to miss the show so I drove the scary truck.

I left Norman on I-35 as towers were visible to the distant north. The towers were crisp but were high based and were slow to develop. North of Guthrie, I could see the towers were developing more rapidly and they soon anviled out. A severe thunderstorm warning was soon issued for this high-based storm. Then, a new storm developed near Watonga and I turned west towards Enid as the anvil quickly streamed overhead. At first I was reluctant to head west and turned back to the north. Then at Braman, I decided not to go any further and double-backed heading south to the Watonga cell. Mark Hill called and reported a rotating wall cloud. He and Will Bakula saw a small, dusty tornado near Watonga. This storm was moving eastward and I intercepted it near Guthrie. I continued south to the Seward Road exit. The terrain was somewhat hilly and I knew this was a relatively high spot. I stopped to view the updraft to the west. The storm looked like something from the high plains of Colorado being high-based and sculpted with nice striations. The core of the storm seemed to move faster than the updraft and soon outran it. At this point, I thought the storm was falling apart, but a lowering slowly developed. The wall cloud became better defined and ragged funnels formed briefly. I lost sight of the cloud base for a few minutes and then was greeted with a beautiful, narrow, cone-shaped funnel to my northwest by a few miles. I continued north to Highway 33 and exited. I saw a debris cloud under the funnel through the trees and the funnel was almost to the ground. Sirens were wailing in Guthrie which added to the sight unfolding before me. After five or eight minutes, the tornado roped out. At one point, there was a detached piece of the funnel halfway between the funnel and the ground. As the circulation crossed I-35, the updraft completely occluded and a new lowering formed to my northeast. I talked to my brother Kevin, a 911 dispatcher, and he confirmed my suspicion that this storm wasn’t looking very good anymore. He told me of another storm that was increasing in intensity to my west near Kingfisher.

I could see the Kingfisher storm. It looked LP type with a barber pole updraft and large lowering, however, I thought it may be moving into "worked over" air. Indeed, the storm appeared to weaken as I headed south. As I entered Oklahoma City, I could see a large core to the west, but little else. I wasn’t too thrilled about chasing in a metropolitan area, but did anyway. When I reached I-44, I caught a view of the updraft. Yikes! It was amazing. Striations literally to the anvil - a huge rotating cylinder. I headed west but lost sight of the cloud base through the trees and building, but caught occasional glimpses of a wall cloud. I doubled-back heading east on I-44 and missed the brief spin-ups over Lake Hefner and on May Avenue. When I reached I-35, I could see the wall cloud had lowered dramatically and rotation was quite pronounced. I knew a tornado was imminent and exited on to the service road at Wilshire road. I took a few photographs before heading northward to Britton road, about one mile south of Frontier City Amusement Park. Just as I pulled over, a funnel quickly formed and extended half way down to the ground. Inflow winds were in excess of 50 mph. Within a matter of seconds, a debris cloud developed and then the condensation funnel came all the way to the ground. I drove towards the funnel coming to within 1/4 mile from Frontier City. Suddenly, I saw a huge chunk of debris rise into the air and then fall over. It was the roof of a two-story building just north of Frontier City. The condensation funnel rose briefly as the debris cloud crossed I-35. Strong RFD winds around the tornado toppled a semi-truck a few hundred yards away from me. Debris was flying through the air everywhere. At this point, I forgot about the tornado and only wanted to get out of there. I turned my chase truck into the wind as debris was banging off the vehicle. Suddenly, right next to me on the east side of the road, a large tree was uprooted by the wind and a telephone snapped about twenty yards north of me. I have to admit, I was scared. Looking around, several vehicles had been overturned and there was debris all over the road.

I regained my composure and headed for an underpass. There were a lot of people seeking shelter there screaming and crying. It was incredibly dramatic and I still get chills thinking about it. I stopped to help remove debris from the road and decided I chased enough for one day. However, I could see another supercell to the southwest and looked like it was headed for Norman. As I set out to chase that storm, the truck had other ideas as the water pump failed spewing water all over the place. I had to sit in front of a damaged Conoco station with no power for over two hours with no way to get a hold of anybody since the phone lines were overloaded. Anyways, it was one of my best chases ever, plenty scary but also frustrating. There were no deaths and 21 minor injuries reported, mostly in the amusement park. The NWS did a great job as well as the spotters and media to inform the public.

 

JUNE 13, 1998 OKC TORNADOES

#1: Lake Hefner Tornado: Time: 8:02-803pm CDT- This tornado touched down as a waterspout over Lake Hefner then moved onshore on the east side of the lake. It moved east and dissipated between Lake Hefner Parkway and May Avenue. Numerous boats in dry dock suffered damage at the Oklahoma City Boat Club as the circulation passed slightly south of the marina. Boats in the water suffered little, if any, damage. Traffic signs along the east shore of the lake were bent and a storage shed was destroyed. Minor roof damage also occurred to homes immediately east of Lake Hefner Parkway. Rated: F1.

#2: North OKC Tornado: Time: 8:07-8:08pm CDT - This tornado formed near NW 84th Street and Walker, then traveled northeast until dissipating immediately east of the Broadway Extension, one-quarter mile south of Britton Road. A large portion of a roof was removed from a home near 84th and Walker and street signs were torn from the ground. Several vehicles were damaged by flying debris. Minor roof damage occurred along 84th, 85th, and 86th streets. On 87th and 88th Streets near Harvey, several homes suffered major roof damage and the western half of the New Life Baptist Church was destroyed. A portion of the church roof was thrown southeastward across 88th street causing major damage to a home. Rated: F2

#3: Nichols Hills Tornado: Time: 8:08pm -8:11pm CDT - This tornado touched down one block west of May Ave and Pembroke Terrace and moved eastward to Woods Park in Nichols Hills. Considerable damage was done to a strip mall in the 7400 block of North May Avenue. Windows were blown out of several business, several lost roofs, power lines were downed and large signs were bent. On Pembroke Avenue, an RV was thrown into a house, a car was overturned, trees were toppled and roofs were damaged. This tornado was rotating anticyclonic! Rated: F2

#4: Frontier City Tornado: Time 8:12pm - 8:23pm CDT - This tornado touched down about 1/4 mile southwest of the intersection of Bryant Avenue and Hefner Road. It moved northeast crossing I-35 at the Frontier City Amusement Park parking lot and then continued northeast along NE 122nd Street finally dissipating 1/4 mile northeast of I-44 and Douglas Blvd. Major damage occurred to businesses along I-35. The tornado also damaged numerous vehicles in the Frontier City parking lot. Damage in the park itself was mainly from strong inflow winds into the tornado circulation. A Texaco truck stop was severely damaged. Empty tractor-trailers were overturned in the parking lot and rolled tens of feet. One trailer was briefly airborne and landed on another empty trailer. Numerous homes suffered major damage in two subdivisions one to two miles east of I-35 on NE 122nd Street. Several homes suffered nearly complete roof loss; no means of anchoring the roofs to the exterior walls was noted with these rural built homes. Rated: F2.