6/11/97 chases by Shane Adams


From: Shane Adams (david-brown@ou.edu):
Subject: chase stories

On Wednesday, June 11, Greg Clark and I headed west down interstate
40 towards a moderate risk area. We chase (on occasion) for KWTV in Okla-
homa City. We called the station to let them know we were in the area if 
they needed us, and they put us on the clock.
      We were after a storm nearing Sweetwater, Ok, but soon realized if
we wanted position on that storm, we'd have to go south of the storm by  
12 miles, on west, and then back north and east to get around behind it.
      Well, we'd made a lot of moves to get up behind the Sweetwater cell
when we noticed a wall cloud to our west, set perfectly behind an intense
rain/hail core.
      We stopped to shoot video, and called the station to tell them we
were aborting the Sweetwater storm to focus on this new storm, which was
about 5 miles west of Twitty, Tx.. The wall cloud "teased" us, forming
several protrusions that looked suspicious, but nothing solid. At least
then.
     We were losing visibility (partially due to rain, and because of
a line of trees it was moving in front of,) so we packed it up and back-
tracked south, about three miles on Texas 83, until we found a farm road
that gave us a good route west. We drove down this road about two miles
until it formed an "L", and set up there.
     A classic rain-free base had formed right of the precip core, with a
wall cloud going to the left (southwest side.) For several minutes the 
wall cloud developed, at first only slowly rotating, not too organized.
Minutes later, however, it began spinning in a much more organized fash-
ion, gaining velocity rapidly. (Unfortunately we didn't have a tripod to
steady the shot.)
     After about five minutes, the wall cloud formed a narrow wedge, 
about halfway to the ground. From this formation, a debris cloud app-
eared on the ground, as a small, sinuous funnel only visible about 1/4
way to the ground rapidly moved from right to left under the wall cloud.
     After about twenty seconds the debris cloud became less defined, as
the small funnel dissappeared. Then a new funnel formed between the 
ground and below the cloud base (out of thin air) as the tornado expelled
its last bit of energy, before dissipating completely.
     Well, us two rookies were pretty happy, but the most exciting part 
of the day was yet to come. After the first tornado ended, the wall cloud 
intensified into a massive rotating supercell, as it tracked southeast 
toward I-40, west of Shamrock, Tx..
     I'm not sure if that storm was the same one that produced the big 
one, but we were moving west on the interstate, staying with the storm.
I think it either split, or another one formed beside it, as it was 
suddenly upon us. We saw wrapping precip on three sides of us, all but
swallowing us inside the Cage. At that moment, I believe, we made the
decision that probably saved our lives. 
     We knew we had to run, the question was, "which way, east or west?"
     Well, we went west on a southside service road, as a gustnado formed 
ahead and to the left of us about an eighth of a mile away. I totally 
freaked for about ten seconds, until I realized it wasn't a full-fledged
tornado. That event was over quickly, and once again our worries were 
focused on the possible tornado crossing behind us.
     we retreated about three miles up the access road before we found a 
place to turn around. We headed back east, not knowing the danger lurking 
only two miles ahead. After going about a mile, we encountered sus-
stained winds of 50 or 60 miles an hour, so we pulled to the side to call 
KWTV, asking were the main circulation was. (Now we're both in our first 
full-time year of this, so we have lots to learn, like how to tell when 
you're two miles from a rain-wrapped F-3.)
      They told us the tornado was crossing the interstate, so we filmed 
into the rain, not seeing it. After about three minutes we headed east 
again. We drove through a 1/4 to 1/2 mile-wide damage path, with trucks 
turned over, large trees snapped in half, and cars smashed flat, 
including one blown 100 yards off the road and slammed into the base of a 
tree. It was sobering.
      Fortunately, I have heard of no fatalaties from this incident.

                               Shane Adams

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