September-October, 1997 STORMTRACK features the tornadoes on May 25 and 26, 1997.
EL NINO AND TORNADOES
I. COMMENTARY by Tim Marshall
There has been too much discussion on El Nino lately. It seems like every disaster or event is blamed in one way or another on El Nino. Try using that excuse next time you are pulled over for speeding: "You see officer, the air was so warm -and uh -less dense -uh -due to El Nino - uh, that my car went faster than it should." I doubt the officer would be convinced. Iím also having a hard time trying to understand what, if anything, El Nino really does. The term in Spanish means "the boy" refers to the Christ Child and denotes the warm southward moving ocean current that appears every few years around Christmas time off the coast of Ecuador and Peru. During an El Nino, Peruís fishing industry collapses as the fish avoid the warm waters. The birds that feed on the fish also suffer. El Nino is part of the Southern Oscillation, an irregular shift in the larger scale weather patterns over the south Pacific and Indian Ocean. However, it would seem to me that the farther away you get from it, the less affect El Nino will have on your local climate, especially when you jump into the Northern Hemisphere. And to go beyond climate and think that the rain today must have been from El Nino has to be unfounded. There are too many interactions in our atmosphere to think that one thing can directly affect another. I am as guilty as anyone of these falsehoods. How many times have I said, CAPES are too low so Iím not chasing? OR the LIís are only -4C so some storms might be severe, but they wonít be tornadic. Just recently, I was told the Spring 1998 chase season will be terrible. El Nino is supposed to shift the weather patterns to the north, giving our Canadian friends all the tornadoes. Should we plan to chase north of the border next spring? No thanks Iíll be right here with my cameras ready.
II. CHASER NEWS
The 19th Conference on Severe Local Storms will be held September 14-18, 1998 at the Radisson South and Hotel Tower in Minneapolis, MN. Abstracts should be submitted before March 16, 1998 to Harold Brooks, NOAA/NSSL, 1313 Halley Circle, Norman, OK 73069, fax: 405-366-0472, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"New Eyes on the Storm: 21st Century Weather Technology that Warns You Sooner," the August cover story of Popular Science magazine, was written and photographed by storm chaser Jim Reed of Wichita. Jim Reed is a freelance writer and photojournalist who focuses on severe weather and human behavior. Jim moved from Los Angeles to Wichita in 1992 to broaden his understanding of severe weather. Popular Science is distributed to nearly 2 million subscribers and to newsstands and bookstores throughout the U.S.
Dr. James Fleming has published the "International Bibliography of Meteorology, a 700 page catalog of the worlds 56,000 citations in meteorology from 1889. Contact DIANE publishing for more information. 610-499-7415
The Friday, October 3rd, meeting of the Oregon Tornado Chasers's Society was held in the recreation center of Knoll Terrace Park, about 2 miles north of Corvallis, Oregon. In attendance was Society President Richard Halter, vice-president Terry Long, Shawn Smallman and Greg Erk. Members discussed the recent spate of tornadic activity in Oregon (5 confirmed tornadoes in the past 3 weeks), and watched chase videos. Featured was Tornado Video Classics II, two successful chases from 1995 taped by Mark Hill (Richard's chase partner based out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), and the first public screening of Richard's video record from his 1997 chase trip. Formed in April, 1996, the Oregon Tornado Chasers's Society (OTCS) was established to increase public awareness in Oregon of severe weather risks, report on interesting weather phenomena from Oregon, and also to feed the voracious appetite of it's founders for severe weather information. Meetings are held monthly during severe storm season, and one meeting is scheduled during the fall, and during the winter. The Society publishes its e-mail newsletter, The Mesoencyclical, on an erratic but timely basis, and during periods of interesting weather, the OTCS will send out alerts, warnings and after-action reports. The OTCS has 15 members who participate mainly via e-mail, as they are scattered over much of the US (though the bulk of its members are in Oregon). Correspondence and information from the OTCS also goes out to members of the IRC-based Undernet channel #weather, and a wide variety of individuals who's interests include NW weather, such as the State of Oregon Climatologist, George Taylor and Jim Little, lead Meteorologist for KOIN-TV in Portland, OR. Anyone with an interest in severe weather is welcome to join; applications for membership are answered as quickly as possible, and new members receive a Certificate of Membership, and a copy of the OTCS Charter via e-mail. To contact the OTCS, email should be forwarded to Richard Halter at email@example.com. You can also view the OTCS web page at proaxis.com/~rjhstorm/chasers.html
III. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
David Hoadley had about an average year. " I saw three tornadoes and video-taped two small ones, including the one southwest of Burton, Kansas on May 25th., west of Tribune, KS on June 11th; and a quick spin-up ground-tube under the rotating storm base southwest of Wheeler, Texas on June 12th (seen briefly before could stop to tape) . The latter was easily the best overall photography and a VERY (!) dynamic cloud base -almost overhead. The Tribune storm was a thin tube, one-third of the way down from a small cell that hardly had an anvil. I also got some nice video under strong clockwise-rotation 25 miles southwest of Abilene on June 16th. The Jarrell day, I was in Joplin but the convective outlook said nothing about tornadoes. Also, the low in northeast Oklahoma and cold/warm front locations suggested Arkansas would be best. However, the moderate risk was across the southern third (lousy chase roads), so --suspecting an early MCS (mesoscale convective system) situation with all that moisture-- so I went home. Overall, I found forecasting more challenging this year, especially on such days as June 15th, when the 12Z outlook put the moderate risk in southwest Texas, then moved it to Kansas at 15Z, and at the end of the day found a Tornado Watch in Iowa. It is tough to chase a day like that. But I was in at least 11 tornado watch boxes, usually in the middle and at prime time; also saw some beautiful country in the Conhas Valley of New Mexico and visited the Little Big Horn park in Montana."
Jim Leonard summarizes his chase of Hurricane Danny. "Friday I left Miami Florida to intercept Hurricane Danny as I was in route the storm was moving very slowly toward the Alabama Florida border. I spent the night at Marianna, Florida after arriving there at 2am, I woke up at 6am to find the center of the Hurricane on the coast of Alabama on the eastern part of Mobile Bay. As I approached the storm, it was apparent that the center was not moving and was anchored over Mobile Bay so it maintained its strength until I arrived. I went west on I-10 then went down to Hwy 98 from Pensacola Fl. to eastern Mobile Bay. As I went west toward the bay, I noticed my winds were backing from southeast to the northeast at speeds around 40 to 50 mph range. Because of the backing of the winds, this would mean the winds would be offshore on the west facing shore of the bay. So, I decided to go south on Hwy. 59 to Gulf Shores were the winds were on shore (from the south) and gusting to around 70 mph when I arrived. Thinking there may be better winds further west, I took Hwy. 180 (a coastal road) toward Ft Morgan were I encountered west and southwest winds gusting frequently above 90 mph along with very heavy blinding rain. It was great!! As I was heading west on Hwy. 180, I found that the road was the only thing that wasn't under water. I stayed in the area for a couple hours and took tons of video then, I headed back east for much needed rest at a motel near Perry, Florida."
Joann Doe writes about a hair raising experience. "On July 6th I was on my way to pick up my daughter at a friends and I came accross heavy rains and lightning. As I was driving I noticed lightning overhead. Just a few seconds later I experienced or how I describe it a bomb going off in my car. The car clicked off as well as my radio and my air conditioner then, everything kind of clicked back on. The radio as well as air conditioner were blown but the car seemed fine. When this happened my body experienced a warm sensation as well as then inside of the car was warm and smelled of burning rubber. As I mentioned before the car was running and seemed to be running fine so I kept on going. After I calmed down I pulled over to the side of the road and called my husband. The "check gauges" came on and husband said to get to a safe place and pull over..so I proceeded. It was still pouring down rain and I could'nt see a thing because the window was completely fogged and defrost was not working so I proceeded slowly then noticed the car feeling sluggish..eventually when I pulled over I got out and found I had three flat tires and my antenna to the car was missing. There were no markings where the antenna had been and no other visible markings on the car. Yes, being in an automobile is indeed a safe place to be." Although the car suffered a direct lightning strike, the occupants were ok.
Lon Curtis summarizes his May 25th chase: I chased south central Oklahoma Sunday afternoon and evening. I drove from Marlow to Duncan on US Hwy. 81 in time to catch the Duncan/Comanche tornado which took ~5 railcars off the tracks. South of Duncan, I traveled east on Hwy. 53 from Comanche for about 15 miles watching the same parent storm with continuing wall cloud and one brief anti-cyclonic funnel cloud (near Loco). I saw other wall clouds (too numerous to detail earlier) from north of Lyndsay to near Blanchard (on OK76) with a tornado reported (but not seen by me) east of Chickasha. I was forced to retreat back south from this HP storm which within the hour, caused injuries while crossing I-35 near Purcell. Returning to Central Texas on I-35 after dark, I encountered golf ball hail and extremely strong inflow just south of Gainesville (tornado warning in effect). I stopped briefly about five miles south of Gainesville to watch a large cell with wall cloud just southwest of town. I fled south when Cgs increased in immediate vicinity to over ten strikes per minute and inflow dropped to dead calm(!!) over a period of a couple of minutes. If this was "the outbreak" of this year, my share of it was well worth the effort. Hope others got some of the show.
MAY 25, 1995 CHASE STRATEGY by Tim Marshall
I could hardly believe my eyes. The weather parameters were shaping up for a tornado outbreak today. A low pressure trough had deepened and moved into the Rockies bringing decent southwest flow over the plains. By 12z on the 25th, a 500mb closed low was situated over southern Idaho with a negative tilt trough extending southeastward. A 55 knot westerly mid-level jet streak at Albuquerque was timed perfectly to hit the dry line about mid-day over central Kansas in advance of a short wave trough. I couldnít find any negatives!! The big question mark was guessing the southern extent of the cap. I guessed convection would not extend south of the Kansas border with exception that something could go up in Oklahoma along the outflow boundary. I figured more classic supercells in Kansas with HPís in Oklahoma. At the surface, low-pressure was located north of Dodge City, Kansas with a stationary front extending eastward across the state. Cool east-northeast winds were found north of the front whereas southeast winds were encountered south of the front at Wichita and Chanute. Dewpoints of 70 degrees were entering south-central Kansas. Anticipating that the surface low and dryline would move east during the day, I placed my forecast ellipse along a north-south axis from Great Bend, Kansas to Medicine Lodge, Kansas. Pratt, Kansas was the target town. This was a textbook type severe weather episode so it would be like fishing in a stock pond. Right?
Carson Eads, Ellen Meyer, and I made it to Medicine Lodge, Kansas by 1:30pm. We had plenty of time for a nice leisurely lunch. We plotted maps and watched the Weather Channel. At 2:45pm, we heard of a Tornado Watch Box being issued for Oklahoma and north Texas. However, we decided to hold our position and stick to our forecast. Another hour went by and we saw turkey towers form and die west of town. Then, cirrus anvils came into view along the northern horizon. At 4pm, the Weather Channel showed three supercells in a line north of us along I-70 and other supercells in south-central Oklahoma. We were right between the convection!!! Thinking that the dryline was going to fire late, we decided to head north. As we approached Great Bend, Kansas, we heard of a tornado on Rt. 281, just north of us, moving east. We caught site of the tornado near Hosington at 5:20 pm. At first we saw an elephant trunk beneath a large, blocky wall cloud to our northeast. The main precip core was west of the tornado! Over the next ten minutes, the tornado dissipated and reformed into multi-vortex, a V-shaped tornado, and a rope. The wall cloud then occluded northeast of Odin, Kansas and the storm would not produce any more tornadoes. Seeing storms firing up to our south, we dropped south to Hutchinson and arrived there by 7:30pm. A severe storm just passed through the town. We could see the updraft to our east, but had to stop for gas. At 7:35pm, we heard of a tornado just east of town confirmed by a spotter. However, this storm did not look very good with a small updraft and no backsheared anvil. We were awed by a tail-end charlie storm to our south with chunky backshear anvil decorated with inverted towering cumulus. Since the storm east of town did not look very impressive, we chose to drop south. We reached Conway Springs in Sumner County near 8:30pm and heard that a large tornado was forming to the south of us. Unfortunately, we were out of position and about 30 miles from the action area. It was difficult hearing the play-by-play account of the 18 minute wedge south of Wellington. But we canít complain too much for it was a successful day. Other tornadoes formed from storms along the boundary in central Oklahoma.
MAY 25, 1997: THE DUNCAN, OKLAHOMA STORM by Roger Edwards
Steve Corfidi and I left Norman at 4pm, after a mesocyclone had become apparent in the storm to our southwest (I'll call it the "Purcell" storm). We couldn't leave earlier because we were on duty! After getting caught at every possible traffic light and getting stuck behind a couple slow-poking locals, we finally broke out of the anvil rain and saw a distant fuzzy meso occlusion taking place to the west-southwest. We missed the Middleburg hose by ten minutes. We headed south and got southeast of a new strong meso which formed east of the Middleburg circulation. The associated wall cloud rotated quite well for 10-15 minutes before wrapping lots of rain around the circulation. Fearing massive chaser convergence and media frenzy as it headed for I-35 at Purcell, plus seeing the obvious HP transition, plus with it heading for a right-moving rendezvous with the south Canadian River, we left it and headed south. Along the way, we met Gene Rhoden and Tim Vasquez, who had seen and filmed the intermittently rain-wrapped cone at Middleburg. Gene's exact quote: "You ruined our storm!" Welcome to the Edwards Effect, Gene. We intercepted a weak storm with a brief wall cloud near Lindsay; but I could not positively call this a legitimate supercell. It was very small and quickly got choked by lots of anvil rain falling into its inflow from another big storm apparent to our southwest (what I call the Pauls Valley storm).
We intercepted the Pauls Valley supercell west of Purdy, just as its meso was starting to get well organized. A big wall cloud formed under a striated-bowl updraft and began rotating very rapidly, complete with textbook clear-slot and RFD (rear flank downdraft) occlusion - but no tornado! It did produce two short cone funnels during this phase; however the Edwards Effect was still overwhelming the atmosphere. This storm was headed into hilly country with crappy road options; and we believed it was about to go HP also. Steve and I were not too thrilled about its prospects for anything else photogenic. So we noticed a tremendous convective explosion farther southwest, west of Duncan (the "Duncan" storm), followed quickly by the most rapidly backshearing anvil I have seen in years. We gassed up in Ratliff City and headed west to an unmarked blacktop road four miles west of Velma, then turned south for a look at a rapidly organizing meso to the west. The best view was from a farmer's driveway; he not only gave us permission to park there, but held an umbrella over me while I was filming, then gave us Pepsis and opened up his garage (which faced west) so we could observe the meso from dry shelter! We filmed a neat little tornado to the distant west (the same one that overturned rail cars south of Duncan) which lasted about 8 minutes. It was Steve's first hose, and we quite clearly heard the hail roar up in the vault too (also a first for Steve). Steve is now the first lead forecaster to directly verify his own tornado watch. It was nice to snag a tube in my 19Z moderate risk, too. Those feats were near impossible in Kansas City!
That meso quickly occluded, spawning an even more spectacular (albeit non-tornadic) meso that was striated and bell-shaped. We followed this meso for over an hour, filming a very long, slender funnel cloud for about 3 minutes just N of Loco. It occluded, followed by a 3rd meso with a flared base over Fox. By now, the storm was weakening, with extreme tilting and greater forced ascent -- indicating the buoyancy/shear balance was going bad. [We later found out there were still tornado warnings being issued.] We stayed with it till dusk at Springer, then headed home on I-35. All in all, a very enjoyable chase -- probably not as "meaty" as those who were able to get to Kansas but not bad under the circumstances! It seems as if every one of those Kansas storms south of I-70 dropped tubes at some point.
TORNADOES IN SOUTHERN KANSAS ON MAY 25, 1997 by Bill Reid
Todd Lindley, a friend who works at the Amarillo National Weather Service called me at 9 a.m. to see if anyone was chasing. He had just finished the midnight shift, and his normal chase partner, John Holsenbeck, a forecaster at the Amarillo National Weather Service, had to work until 4 or 5 p.m. I told Todd that I would love to hook up and met him at his home in Clarendon, Texas at 11:30 am, and we took off east-northeast on U.S. 60 from Pampa into Oklahoma.
There were two areas to consider this day: 1) the surface low near Medicine Lodge, KS, and the dry line with associated old outflow boundaries in south-central OK. We chose to play the low in Kansas, because a year ago (almost exactly to the date in 1996!) in a similar situation we missed the Sublette tornado, near the low, and got stuck with yucky storms in Oklahoma on the dry line. Todd used his cell phone to stay in contact with John at the NWS (National Weather Service)-that was great! John kept us up-to-date on the tornado watches and surface parameters, etc. A great-looking storm exploded southwest of Oklahoma City around 3:30 p.m. We could see it to our south-southwest from about Fairview, Oklahoma but we let it go. We wanted to stick to our forecast area between Alva, Oklahoma and Anthony, Kansas. Towards 4 p.m. we were very concerned as tornadic storms were along I-70 in KS, way to the north, and we were in mostly clear skies with ugly small cumulus near the Oklahoma/Kansas border around Manchester. We had passed Howie Bluestein and Warren Faidley and a lot of other chasers in northwest Oklahoma, waiting around for the storms to go up. It looked like it might be a futile wait. We continued north on Highway 14 towards Kingman, and storm towers finally started to go up ---- a lot of them! Too many!
Tornado warnings were issued for the Kanapolis Lake area to the north, and meanwhile we had a heck of a time deciding where to head. We tried to head north out of Nickerson, northwest of Hutchinson, but we couldn't find the road north, even with the Kansas Gazeeter! That stupid town is turned all around! We were hailed on and rained on in Nickerson, and severe storm warnings were all around us, it seemed. The storms looked unorganized and outflow dominate, the worst. We decided to try to get a look at the Ellsworth County tornadic storm which was heading into Mcpherson County, so we zigzagged on local roads around Windom to do just that. During this time the smaller storms were dying, and the bigger storms were strengthening. It was close to 7 p.m., I think, and we finally had a decent view of the McPherson storm to the north. It looked bad, real bad, that is, real pathetic. It was outflowing all over the place, not tornado conducive. Todd and I were in cool, rainy conditions, and our spirits were low. There were more big storms to the south, however, so we headed south out of Buhler, east of Hutchinson. The skies to the east were wicked and crazy, but not really organized. Tornado warnings started coming in for storms south and southwest of Wichita. We had to get south FAST!
Between Buhler and Haven, just north of U.S. 50, Todd yelled out "TORNADO!" and pointed to the east-southeast! I glanced over there and saw it briefly, but then a line of trees obscured everything. Another quarter mile south we had cleared the trees and we had a great view of the tornado! It was beneath a nice updraft, but was not really in an area where you might be looking for a tornado, though the clouds were very chaotic over there. I stopped the Pathfinder along the right shoulder and grabbed the camcorder, while Todd jumped out to snap photos. The tornado was relatively long and thin, an elephant's trunk, and was five miles away (as we figured later --- this tornado wrecked two farm houses in Burrton.) The contrast against the storm clouds was rather poor, and the video a little shaky as I zoomed in --- but the tornado was still spectacular. The tornado drifted north a little and kinked itself from straight and narrow to right-angled and narrow. I considered tripoding the camcorder, but the tornado appeared weak and transient. I might end up with very little video if I spent a minute to tripod. It turned out I was right -the tornado weakened rapidly after two-minutes (max) of videoing at 7:39 p.m. Todd managed to get a good photo of the tornado, and my video is okay. We were a lot happier now! We headed east down U.S. 50 into Burrton, where the sirens were going and a rotating wall cloud just to the east appeared ready to drop another. We were in rain on the west side of the rotation, and we gave up on the wall cloud as it appeared to weaken to the NE. Lots of chasers were watching the action along U.S. 50 just E of Burrton. Todd and I feel that the outflow from the dying McPherson County storm to the north helped to spin up the Burrton tornado. Now we wanted to hit the next storm to the south.
A magnificent, highly-sheared storm tower loomed above us just to our east, west of Sedgwick. We went east towards the storm's base, which had an obvious circular look to it. We could see another awesome storm to the south, the tornadic storm in Sumner County. A low and turbulent base was just to our north when we reached I-135, so we took the Interstate north and exited at route 196, west of Whitewater. A rotating wall cloud was just to our north as we headed to Whitewater. Funnels descended and we were tripoded and in position for a memorable event, but nothing descended to the ground. It was just after sunset during this time. Another ropy funnel descended to our south-southeast as we headed back west to I-135 in the dark, but it couldn't reach the ground, either. All during this time we were hearing about a large tornado with the storm south of us. We did not know what was happening in Oklahoma! It was 10 p.m., and Todd and I grabbed food at Wendy's in Wichita. We watched the local TV show beautiful tornadoes --- all of which were much closer to our original forecast area along the Oklahoma border. Oh well again. Todd was inclined to get home to Clarendon, so we went south to Oklahoma City and west on I-40. I was very sleepy as I dropped Todd off in Clarendon, Texas at 4:30 a.m., so I dropped myself onto his couch and went to sleep!
HARPER CO. KANSAS TORNADO: MAY 25, 1997 by Brian Morganti
On Sunday, with all the dynamics finally coming together for tornadic storm development throughout central Kansas & Oklahoma, the chase would truly be on for everyone. We decided to head toward the triple point somewhere south and east of Dodge City, Ks. Traveling east on Highway 412 through Enid, Oklahoma around 2 PM a tornado watch was issued Grant, Alfalfa, Garfield Counties, etc...we were right there..but where to go? No towers were going up, so we decided to proceed no further west than the intersection of Route 8 & 412, for fear of running into the rapidly approaching dry line. Arriving at that destination about a half hour later, we pulled into a picnic area to watch and wait. It wasnít long till we were joined by eight other chase vehicles, including the Channel 5 crew from Oklahoma City. About an hour later after ideas were exchanged and a hint of some towers forming it was time to move. Part of the group decided to head north on 8, then east on 64. We intercepted Jim Cantore doing the 5 PM live broadcast for TWC (The Weather Channel) just outside Nash, Oklahoma. They indicated tornado on the ground south of Norman, Oklahoma and another one near Russell, Kansas. Too far to attempt an intercept. There appeared to be an agitated area of convection taking place back to the Northwest. I was reluctant to go back there, as we already experienced a dewpoint drop from 69 degrees to 60 just 15 miles further west. The surface dryline was arriving fast, with clear blue skies to the distant west.
This appeared to be the only option so we headed back to Route 8 and drove north Kiowa, Ks. The towers were starting to grow rapidly and a dark rain shaft with rainbow appeared to our east, and a "hailbow" further to our north. Things were getting real interesting and the tension was heightening! Somewhere along Route 2 going northeast the chase group started to break up. Some chasers lingered to take photos & video, myself included, other racing toward the developing storm. A visible wall cloud and occasional funnel cloud could be seen in the more dominant storm to our north, but things were changing rapidly with the smaller, but exploding storm to our north. Route 2 turned due east north of Hazelton, Ks, and the this previously smaller, but now dominant storm was now to our northeast with a ragged rotating light gray wall cloud hanging from a black rain free base. Time to pull over! We were about to go down a hill leading to the town of Anthony about 1/4 mile away. I could not see the ground due to some distant trees and low buildings, but I was not about to chance racing through town, and miss the show. I just got my cameras set up when the town tornado sirens alarmed, and a distinct funnel cloud was taking shape. A moment later a light condensation funnel was visible and a large red dust swirl came up from the ground. TORNADO ON THE GROUND. The show was brief, less then two minutes, but thankfully it occurred over open country just on the other side of Anthony in Harper County, Kansas.
I tried to follow this storm further, but soon found myself under developing rain shafts, with zero visibility just ahead...it was time to back off. We went back through to Anthony for a quick stop at the Diary Queen. After being swarmed with curiosity seekers with lots of questions. (Are you a storm chaser?, Whatís all that equipment do?, etc. etc.) We quickly moved to a quieter spot just south of town. We spent the next hour and half till well after sunset shooting slides and video of the most beautifully front lit retreating storm structure, complete with large fibrous cirrus anvil and mammatus. Below were the boiling cumulus towers changing in color from white to yellow to pink to black at the base. This was all further enhanced with the occasional cloud-to-cloud lightning --just awesome!
CHASE SUMMARY ON MAY 25, 1997 by Robert Satkus
The weather situation evolved from marginal to potent in less than 24 hours. A strong upper level storm was moving closer to the plains with surface low over southwest Kansas and trailing dryline into Oklahoma. Instability was high with CAPES (convective available potential energies) of 4,000 plus, good wind fields at all levels, and surface dewpoints in the 70ís. For the first time this year, a significant severe weather outbreak was shaping up with Oklahoma and Kansas in the bulls eye. My initial target area was Enid, but unknown to me, a weak outflow boundary was located from west of Enid to west and south of Oklahoma City. My chase partner Val and I drove north and stopped near Gutherie. Low clouds were moving in restricting our view. It definitely looked like we were behind some sort of boundary. As we sat and waited, Jim Leonard called and said he didnít think things would rotate where we were. He was up in Kansas. We still sat. Finally, we took off to the southwest after Mark Hill called and described a monster storm near Chickasha. We dropped south through western Oklahoma City and broke out of the low clouds. The storm came into view and already looked like a supercell with rock hard convection building into a backsheared anvil and an overshooting top. We continued south to Newcastle as the first tornado warning was issued for Grady County. As we got to Blanchard, we got hit with golfball-size hail and heard reports of a tornado between Tabler and Middleberg. South of town, we saw the wall cloud to the southwest. After several minutes, a tornado became visible through the rain and haze. It was a small cone, moving slowly east. Contrast and visibility were poor, however. Mark Hill and Terry Kern got some great photos and video of the tornado. We watched the tornado for about five minutes before it lifted. As we prepared to leave, lightning hit a tree about 100 yards from us.
We continued south to near Dibble where we saw the updraft occlude and die. However, as we turned east then south towards Criner, a new, large wall cloud formed off to our west. The approaching gust front wrapped into the circulation, but it didnít do anything while the contrast was good. As the circulation moved north, rotation increased dramatically. A small, ragged funnel briefly formed with multi-vortex characteristics. There was a brief spin up with some debris about one mile to our north-northwest. The circulation occluded in heavy rain and it was apparent that this storm had evolved into an HP supercell. We moved east, when another tornado was reported north of us, but it was not visible. As we turned on Hwy. 74 towards Purcell, we heard a report on the radio of a tornado to our west. I looked in that direction through the rain and hail, and I could see what appeared to be a wedge tornado about a mile away. (We later found out the National Weather Service survey team confirmed a 3/4 mile wide damage path at this point). We turned back south as the storm appeared to turn more to the right. At Wayne, the circulation wrapped up just north of town. A tornado was reported in the area, but we couldnít confirm it. As we traveled further east, we saw the huge rotating wall cloud. Looking through the precipitation, we saw a stove-pipe tornado develop instantaneously about three to five miles to our north. It appeared to be in the river bottoms south of Corbett. We could see it for about three or four minutes. The tornado soon became obscured in rain. From there we went to Rosedale, but the storm was so wrapped up, nothing could be seen. We gave up on this storm and headed for another cell near Pauls Valley returning later with some great video. What a day.
May 25th CHASE by Don Lloyd
My target area was Wellington, Kansas. (I tend to forecast to the east, so I can drive towards the convection as it goes up.) I liked this location relative to the surface low in northwest Kansas as well as the backed surface winds, and the triple point to the west. I reached Wellington at 2pm, and made the decision to move north of Kingman to an agitated area of convection around 4pm. There, I watched turkey towers and congestus repeatedly develop and dissipate. Noting the development of storms farther northwest, I stayed put thinking the activity would propagate to the southeast. At 5:15pm, I saw explosive storm development just to the north with new updrafts pushing up every 15 minutes, backshearing slightly, and being overtaken by next updraft. I drove north on Partridge Rd (South of KS Hwy. 61) to intercept. At 5:25pm, the storm had a solid rain free base and knuckles forming on the cumuliform anvil. At 5:55 pm, passing through Nickerson, I saw a wall cloud with definite funnel/possible touchdown though we could not confirm due to obstructions. Just after 6pm, a new wall cloud developed with good rotation. The rear flank downdraft quickly cut a clear slot, a brief funnel forms, and then the mesocyclone occluded. This storm continually propagated to the east-southeast producing several wall clouds with subsequent updraft occlusions. Shelf cloud development along advancing rear flank downdraft was wild and turbulent, with obvious baroclinic shearing wrapping into the mesocyclone. At 7:30pm , a new wall cloud produced a funnel followed by a dust whirl about a minute later. I was near the town of Yoder in Harvey County (this was the Burrton tornado). A slender and photogenic condensation funnel developed, widened slightly, faded, darkened, faded again, with a brief but beautiful mature stage, then roped out in about one minute. Meanwhile, to our south, the Sumner County storm had blown into one the most impressive tornadic supercells I've seen this year. I took an east-southeast course, between cells paralleling the Harvey County supercell (which produced several more wall clouds, funnels, and occlusions). Towers were backlit by the setting sun; the anvils and mammatus were illuminated. The storm enters Butler County and produced an excellent display of nearly continuous cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning. By this time, it was getting dark, and it was time to find a motel and watch the video.
TRIPLE POINT TREASURE: MAY 25, 1997 by Ron Thompson
May 25th, 1997 was the best chase day Iíve ever had. I started from Altus, Oklahoma and headed northward to position myself southeast of my target zone which was centered over northwest Oklahoma. I positioned myself between Orienta and Fairview just as a tornado watch was issued for the area around 3pm. By 4pm, small towers were building and leaning over at about 45 degrees before being torn apart as the cap was being tested for a weak spot. I felt like spinning around and chasing my tail, like an excited hound dog preparing for a hunt. I felt it was only a matter of time for a tornadic storm to develop. I headed north and slightly east as the bulging dry line passed me. At 6:30pm, I felt my dreams were starting to come true as one storm, then another, developed south of Medicine Lodge, Kansas. A little after 7pm, I found a road that paralleled a now giant storm as it rolled and boiled not more than ten miles in front of me.
I closed to within 3/4 mile of the rotating wall cloud on Highway 44 near Anthony, Kansas. At 7:28pm, I pulled off the road, as the wall cloud increased rotation. Then it happened! As I was filming, a funnel cloud appeared beneath the wall cloud as the tornado sirens blared away to the west in Anthony. The funnel quickly proceeded toward the ground as a translucent, heavy red cloud of dirt rose from the ground to meet it. In a clearing between trees, the sun lit up the whole scene and BINGO, I got my FIRST tornado picture! I followed the storm for the next hour, and had accidentally placed myself in unexpected danger since I was suffering a bit of chaser euphoria. As the storm was going through one of its many occlusions, I turned north on Highway 49 from Rt. 44. What I thought was outflow precipitation ahead of me was actually the edge of the bears cage being formed by an already well established new updraft area. After looking around and finding myself beneath the updraft, with long scud stringers rising rapidly all around, I drove to safety. About five minutes later, spotters reported a large tornado on the ground. It wasnít discovered until later that I had witnessed the beginnings of the Perth, Kansas wedge.
MAY 25, 1997. "D" (DILLOCAM) DAY by Charles Edwards
May 25, 1997, Cloud 9 Tours started the day like many other chase days. We woke up in a hotel in Wichita, Kansas. There was added excitement in the air. We had waited for this day all season. "Outbreak" had been anticipated for several days, yet there were too many things that could go wrong. I was cautiously hopeful. We had a casual brunch then headed west. Richard Bedard drove the Van while I navigated. Casey Crosbie drove the "Dillo Vehicle", and Jim Leonard led the way in his car starting in Wichita. We were not far from our target region. Our first stop was in Harper, where we filled up the gas tanks and got drinks to fill the ice chest and snacks. We knew we were going to be waiting around watching the sky for a while. We continued southwest and stopped outside of Hazelton under the western edge of a cumulus field.. We eventually moved north to some dirt roads near Sharon. Here we could see the line of storms to our north. It was still early (only 3pm), and we knew conditions were right where we were.
Jim talked to several chasers in other locations getting reports of conditions elsewhere. One report was "Large tornado on the ground" headed towards Norman. This is one of the worst nightmares for a chaser. To travel hundreds of miles only to miss a tornado in your own backyard!! There were also tornado watches and warnings in northern Kansas. We were stuck in-between. I knew we couldnít get south in time, and if we went north, things could develop in southern Kansas affecting the convection further north. Still, the hope for storms in our location was good enough that we decided to stay put. The cumulus field shifted slightly east, so we moved to a road just south of Harper. By the time we arrived, a storm formed just to our west. I moved to a location just north of Harper, while Jim and Casey continued north then west to get closer. Soon a tornado formed and lasted almost ten minutes. The condensation funnel only reached half way down, but a debris cloud formed to confirm it was a tornado. Soon, another storm formed south of this one. We were afraid it would cut off the inflow to our storm. There also was a heavy hail core to our south. By the time Jim and Casey returned from their close encounter, the hail core moved out of the way and we went south to intercept the new storm. As soon as we got to the south side of Harper, a tornado was visible to our southeast. We continued south to Anthony, then east on Kansas Hwy. 44. Casey led the way. The storm put down several brief tornadoes just north of Hwy. 44. Jim and I got stuck behind a road block, but Casey continued ahead. He reported back to us on the radio. After punching through rain curtains, he reported power line flashes and spin-ups all around him. Indeed, his video showed this clearly. Jim and I were finally allowed past the road block and we continued toward the east. The mesocyclone weakened briefly allowing us to get east of it. Just before Perth, Kansas, a bridge was out. We were forced to take a detour to the south on gravel roads! We went two miles south then took another road to the east.
A few minutes later, one of my passengers looked back and calmly reported a tornado behind us. We all looked back and confirmed a large tornado forming. We came to the intersection of our east-west road and South Drury Road and turned south. Casey called back reporting that he was going north to deploy the Dillo-Cam (a video camera encased in a fiberglass housing filled with lead designed to be hit by a tornado). I yelled back not to deploy since the tornado was too close and big. He either didnít hear my transmission or chose to ignore it. After deploying the Dillo-Cam and almost getting eaten by the wedge tornado, Casey rejoined us. We all watched the large tornado move across the road to our north. We went south to another east road and then turned north on Hwy. 81. The tornado was now wrapped in rain and we couldnít see it. It got dark as rain curtains wrapped around us. We all decided it was time to give up on this storm. It was too dangerous to continue. After going south on Hwy. 81, we stopped near South Haven and discussed the events and what to do about the Dillo-Cam. Since the roads we were on would be impassable now due to mud and debris, we decided to call it a night.
The next morning we went to recover the Dillo-Cam. Telephones were down across the road and we had to walk about 1/2 mile to the spot where the Dillo-Cam was deployed. It was nowhere to be seen. After searching for a while, I noticed an orange object out in a wheat field. I ran out after it excited that it had been found. I was soon disappointed to find out it was only an orange bucket! We talked to several locals and asked if anyone had seen the Dillo-Cam. We handed out our cell phone number in case they came across it. After discussing this with emergency preparedness people, we gave up our search and prepared for another chase day. Less than 20 minutes passed when the phone rang. They had found it!! They offered to bring it to us too. Excitement was in the air. Was this really the Dillo-Cam? Did the tape record anything? Was it in one piece? We were told someone found it near Wellington Lake, about nine miles away from where it was deployed! That was hard to believe. It was intact and weighed 80 pounds. How could it have been moved that far and remained in good condition? We didnít know the answer until I watched it for the first time with Casey. To our amazement, it continued to record till the end of the tape. The tornado was visible at first, then it got dark. The wind picked up and hit the Dillo-Cam with gravel. Then a rapid increase in sound. Suddenly, gravel stopped hitting it and there was just wind. It sounded like the inside of a jet engine. Was it airborne? Did it really fly nine miles? Soon water washed mud from the lens and pwer lines could be seen dangling down in front of it. The mystery was over. The Dillo-Cam never moved.
MAY 26, 1997 CHASE STRATEGY by Tim Marshall
Today looked like a repeat of yesterday only further south. Overnight, the stationary front had slipped southward and was oriented from near Chanute, Kansas to Clinton, Oklahoma. The surface low moved south to near Enid, Oklahoma. I anticipated explosive storm development due to high CAPES and high surface dewpoints. HPís seemed likely especially given the mid-70 surface dewpoints and weaker low-level wind fields. There were still plenty of positives. The upper level jet (300mb) was bringing 50+ knots across the area and we still had 50 knots from the west at 500 mb. A vorticity max was progged to strike the area around 00z, 6pm. I anticipated the weather systems would not move during the day and favored northeast Oklahoma. I placed my forecast ellipse north-south, along Rt. 99, parallel to the dry line. Bartlesville and Tulsa were on the east edge of the forecast area and Ponca City and Stillwater were on the west side of the forecast area. I figured our chase team would end up in Tulsa by the end of the day.
Carson Eads, Ellen Meyer, and myself left Wichita just after noon and crossed the front near Blackwell, Oklahoma. Winds shifted from northeast to east and skies cleared a bit from overcast strato-cu to scattered. We continued further south and stopped at the Dairy Queen at Billings where we were in light south winds and very humid conditions. We spent the day there. Around 5pm, Dave Hoadley stopped by. At 5:43pm, we encountered a wind shift from south to west. Towers were going up all quadrants. We decided to head eastbound to get ahead of the towers. We then noticed a monster Cb to our northeast along the Kansas border and a developing Cb to our southeast. A Tornado Watch Box was issued near 6pm. We reached Pawhuska around 6:50pm and heard of tornado reports from near Westport and Seminole. We then dropped south and saw two supercells near Hominy. Both updrafts were small but rotating and had beavers tails. The storm farthest west had a wall cloud and appeared to produce a tornado in the Arkansas River Valley between 7:34 and 7:37pm, but we were unable to confirm it being 15-20 miles away. At about that same time, a confirmed tornado traveled between Beggs and Preston, about 30 miles south of Tulsa. As we drove back to Dallas that night, we saw an incredible supercell south of Ardmore with the updraft continuously lit from within by lightning at midnight!
McBungle in the Jungle: May 26, 1997 Chase by Roger Edwards
Steve Goss, Mark Darrow, Chris Porter and I left Norman shortly after 4 pm (Mark and I had to work until 4), and headed east on I-40 with the intention of stair-stepping toward our target area southwest of Tulsa. We were deliberately avoiding the turnpike and its few exits. While leaving Chandler and then gassing up at Stroud, we noticed two of three persistent areas of towering cumulus and cumulus congestus northeast through southeast exploding through the cap. The northern area soon did its best imitation of a thermonuclear detonation, becoming the Keifer/Stigler storm, while the southern cell more slowly evolved into the Beggs/Preston storm.
Both had spectacular sunlit structure; but we chose to intercept the southern cell due to the other's path toward south Tulsa (re: 4/24/93 lesson). We had very few uncluttered vantage points along US 75 looking west, once we got east of the storm, and even fewer to the west along Hwy. 56. As expected in eastern Oklahoma, hills and trees made viewing terrible; and we missed seeing one or more tornadoes as a result. We did see one brief, low contrast funnel to the north-northeast when the storm was southwest of Beggs, which was immediately mentioned on Tulsa NOAA Weather Radio as a tornado reported by a "spotter." We could not confirm it as a tornado from our view and will not count it as such.
We got temporarily delayed by idiots parking under US 75 and blocking the Hwy. 16 underpass; while we were honking at them to move, a cop drove up and ordered them to move. (Thank you, OHP!!!) The mesocyclone was on Hwy. 16 east of the intersection, with rapidly rotating rain curtains around the west side, so we proceeded slowly east right behind it until reaching a police roadblock and having to turn around. While going back west under US 75, we noticed an old lady outside her car gazing east and snapping her Funsaver. After going up the entrance ramp to 75, we saw why: a tall, front-lit-yellow tornado -a thick, helical and sunlit tube dangling westward toward us out of the west edge of the mesocylcone and about three miles to our east. The time was 1944 CDT. It formed a thin rope at the top and bottom, maintaining a fat, bulbous middle section for a few seconds before dissipating altogether. This whole sequence lasted less than 20 seconds -- not enough time for me to find a safe pull-off, then get out and shoot slides or video. One of my partners -- unnamed for protection -- did get a few frames of video of the tube (which others in the car saw via replay through the viewfinder) -- but he accidentally recorded over it while we were at the McAlester McDonalds a couple hours later!
Matt Crowther and Betsy Abrams were just north of us; I hope they got a better view AND some pictures of it. Despite no photographic documentation, the memories will last a lifetime: a few seconds of the prettiest tornado I've ever seen...and the first tornado ever for Steve Goss. Incidentally, he is the third person this year to witness the first tube of his life while chasing with me in the Meatwagon. A cure for Edwards Effect is Found!!! Anyway, this was advertised as the rope stage of the Preston tornado, which we never could see due to intervening trees and terrain. The Tulsa Local Storm Report depicted the path as continuous. It may be, but we could not determine if the damage was continuous after the tornado crossed US 75 and had no visual on it. Only an aerial survey would give us a better answer.
The rear flank began to decay, with more forced ascent and less buoyancy as evident in the increasing tilt, narrower, more fuzzy towers, and obvious ingestion of rain-stabilized air from merging cells immediately to its southeast. We ended up unsuccessfully attempting to reach the Dustin/Indianola beast before dark by diverting eastward around it, only to have it pass north of us while we were in McAlester. At the McDonalds there, we ran across Tom Grazulis and Mark Herndon; Erik Rasmussen and the sub-V.O.R.T.EX. crew were nearby as well. Overall, this was another worthwhile chase from the standpoint of fascinating storm morphology and processes, despite the frustrations of dealing with the mountainous jungle and some bungled videography.
CHASE SUMMARY: MAY 26, 1997 by Robert Satkus
The final day of the Memorial Day Weekend brought extreme instability to the region with CAPES of 7000 j/kg and LIís of -14C over eastern and southern Oklahoma. As the dryline moved east, my chase partner Val and I hung around Norman to see if the cap was going to break. We finally left around 4pm heading east on Rt. 9. We passed the dryline near Tecumseh and saw towers beginning to develop along and ahead of it. Two storms developed and we opted for the northern one which had a large single updraft (the southern one looked multicellular). We stopped north of Okemah on Highway 56 with the base a few miles to our west. The base was small, but had a laminar, circular appearance suggesting rotation. There was little precipitation. Rotation in the wall cloud was weak but persisted for about five to eight minutes before new one developed further northeast. The process occurred two more times with rotation increasing each time. Just west of Okfuskee, a large wall cloud formed. Visibility was poor due to haze and trees. I felt a tornado was imminent. We turned east on Hwy. 56 and as we came out behind some trees, there it was! A classic cone-shaped tornado about two miles from us with good contrast. It moved slowly east-northeast for several miles, with the funnel occasionally lifting from the ground, however, a debris cloud was visible the whole time. After several minutes, it appeared the tornado roped out, and we were just about to head further east, when I noticed debris at the surface. The tornado was still present although the funnel was not visible against the base of the storm. It soon reappeared, rope like, and definitely was on the ground. We had to head east to get ahead of it and we could get occasional glimpses of it through the trees. Then, for about ten minutes we couldnít see anything due to the hills and trees. We finally got to Okmulgee and turned north on Hwy. 75 and we saw a large wall cloud to the northwest. We stopped about five miles north of town and unfortunately, a large hill was between us and the wall cloud. A large funnel formed and appeared to touch down, but because of the hill, we werenít sure. Later, we found out it was a tornado between Beggs and Preston. There was violent upward motion on the left side of the funnel which lasted about three to four minutes before dissipating without roping out. Instead, a much larger circulation developed and a multi-vortex tornado developed. This tornado caused damage in Preston. Officially, this was listed as one tornado, however, based upon what we saw, it appeared to us as two separate tornadoes. The multi-vortex tornado crossed Hwy. 75 as people drove right into the circulation, but surprisingly, no one was swept off the road as the vortices were few and far between and went between the cars. One subvortex did develop on the road and move east of the highway. Building material (sheet metal?) could be seen flying through the air. As the tornado continued east, rain began wrapping around it and we could see a large vortex spin up. We dropped south and tried to get ahead of it but to no avail. What a weekend!