I was stuck at work until 3:40pm due to meetings, and was not able to go out on VORTEX's last field mission.
However, storms were already firing as I left work. One tornadic storm was up in Beaver County, and VORTEX was with that one at that time. Other new storms were developing in Gray and Roberts County, so I opted for the quickest way west...on I-40. I figured I'd get on different storms than VORTEX, but Erik R. proved me wrong. These storms were all firing on the dryline, and the surface winds were nicely backed (as evidenced by the OK Mesonet plot). Dewpoints feeding into the storms were in the upper 70s, almost unheard of, and a contributor to the very hazy conditions.
Anyway, as I was heading out west, I was hearing the reports of the tornadoes doing damage in Pampa. I decided to take Route 6 west out of Elk City to intercept that storm. In Sweetwater, OK, I topped off my gas tank, even though I was only 4 gallons down. I learned a lesson 5 years ago in the Eastern Panhandle that gas stations close early and power can be knocked out for many miles by one storm. At that time, I now had two options, the Roberts County storm (previously in Pampa, now a 1/2 mile wide tornado reported), and a new tornadic storm near McClean. I chose the southern storm, for obvious "southern storm" reasons (easier to move in that direction, edge of cap/lid so no seeding by other storms, etc.), and becuase the Roberts county storm was moving over open country with little roads.
I got to a county road 3 miles east of McClain, and saw through the haze (thick haze too, visibility of lower cloud features was about 4 miles), a nicely rotating wall cloud. A small funnel appeared on the right side of the wall cloud, which made a debris cloud up to it. That lasted about one minute and was my first hose of the day, and this was about 3 NE McClain. Next, I went east 2 miles to the F.M. road to Kellerville and drove up 5 miles to about 1 mile south of the edge of the circulation. A stovepipe tornado developed to my NNE and I watched it for about 3-4 minutes as it moved away from me into bad contrast as the hook of precip began to wrap around the SW side. Therefore, I had two options. Go north then east through the core and possibly drive out into the tornado, or head back south to I-40, east to Shamrock, and north to Wheeler on U.S. 83 to get ahead of it again. I chose #2, and during that 20 minutes, I missed the rest of the tornado (but some VORTEX teams got it great).
So I drove to Wheeler, headed east on TX152, and then took the F.M. road up to Allison. I could start seeing through the haze, the circulation of interest. I heard VORTEX saying they had a huge wall cloud SW of Allison. As I approached the wall cloud, I happened to notice that this wasn't a large wall cloud, but a large wedge on the ground! 10 seconds later, I heard a VORTEX transmission of the same thing. It must have just condensed at that time. I ended up getting about 1 mile SSE of this behemoth, and watched as the edge of the condensation was scraping through trees about 1 mile away. The tornado was about 3 times wide as it was high (a "triple-wide wedge") and was moving *very* slowly (about 5 mph). It lasted about 15-20 minutes until becoming invisible due to rain wrapping around the south side. While watching this, I was in gusty (55-60 knots? must check the VORTEX mesonets near me for confirmation) S-SW winds with the classic atomized rain I've witnessed before within the Bear's Cage. The contrast was pretty poor, and the light low, so I only shot a few photographs with my fast film camera (Fuji Provia 400).
I tried to survey the area, but power lines over the road were too low and dangerous for my little CRX. What I did find was 0.4 - 0.5 miles of F0-F2 damage, but I never found the conflunece line of the tornado path. It was estimated by others as 1 1/4 miles wide and an F4 or F5. More on this later.
Also, the Kellerville tornado was at least F4, and another "pavement peeler" as was Pampa, and Dimmitt from 6/2/94.
That made 8 tubes for me this year, and it's now time to hang up my chase gear, as the summer ridge has arrived. Oh, but I am heading to Colorado for a few days in a few weeks. Maybe a spout or two to top 1995!
Greg Stumpf, NSSL