10/8/97 OK Chase by Bill Reid

From Bill Reid:

Fun day in OK today (Wednesday).

I left L.A. (solo) Tuesday, 9 a.m. --- aiming for Amarillo --- and caught
almost three hours sleep in the car 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. CDT Wednesday between
Tucumcari and Santa Rosa --- the cold front came through during that time,
dropping the temp from about 60F to 52F, with a shower and increasing
westerly winds, too.

The forecasts on the radio were not encouraging --- the system is
apparently "pulling out" faster than earlier progs had shown.  No storms
for Amarillo.  Supercells/tornadoes/good chasing do not appear likely in
the Panhandles or western Oklahoma now --- drat.

I called Dean Cosgrove --- the 15Z is out --- slight risk east of Childress
to Gage line --- probably a squall line, but the OKC discussion mentions
the "T" word --- okay, I'll keep going east!

Stratocumulus was clearing out of the Texas Panhandle as I entered Oklahoma
around 1 p.m.  Where should I go?  Dean thought Enid --- I did not disagree
--- but skies were mostly sunny from Elk City to Clinton, and Enid was
cooler and cloudier, according to wx-radio, so I had lunch at Clinton and
waited.  Winds everywhere in W OK were southerly, except at Clinton where
winds were SSW (15 to 30 mph).  Dew points were great (69F), and temps were
up in the mid-80s by 3 p.m.  There seemed to be no good area of surface
convergence, so I was grasping for something to guide me --- during the
afternoon I relied on radio ---a.m., f.m., and NOAA, and I caught The
Weather Channel in the lobby at Days Inn in Elk City at 1:30 p.m.  The
satellite loop showed a hint of a line of storms forming in western OK, as
wx-radio was predicting.  I didn't want a squall line, so I drifted east
and northeast of Clinton a little, hoping for a supercell in front of the
squall line, as on May 7, 1995, in the same region.

The strato-cu finally evolved into storms around 4 p.m.  There were a lot
to choose from right away, in almost every direction.  I opted for the
"tail-end Charlie" down south of Weatherford, though the updrafts over
Kingfisher and Garfield counties to the ENE looked very good.  I piddled
around on some bad paved roads northwest of Binger as my storm got away
from me to the NE.  It had a beautiful updraft and a heavy rain and hail
shaft, but no indications of rotation.  I was bummed.  Other
similar-looking storms were to my north and south, too.  I could see the
dry air and clear skies not too far to my west, and I thought that the dry
line was about to scream past me, with nothing to show for the chase save
for a few pretty, but run-of-the-mill, storm slides.

"Home of Johnny Bench" said the sign at Binger.  I felt like benching
myself.  There was still an hour or two of daylight, but these were boring
storms.  I headed west for Amarillo, but there was another storm in my way.
 Maybe I can drive into some hail or get a CG on video.  I stopped and
watched the storm base close in on me --- I was about 10 miles west of
Binger.  Then the wx-radio alarm sounded ---- "probably one of those
biggees way up by Enid," I thought.  But no, it was for the storm right in
my face!   A severe storm warning, hail to quarter-size, strong winds,
northwest Caddo County.  It didn't look especially well organized from my
vantage point.  CG bolts increased suddenly nearby and a very heavy core
was just to my north, so I knew the storm was for real.  Two minutes after
the warning --- the wx radio alarm again ---- a tornado box!  Yes!

My storm did its thing, weakened quite a bit, and moved northeast.  Other
somewhat isolated updrafts were very pretty to the south and southeast.  My
barely-severe Caddo County storm developed a little lowering, as did
another storm to its northeast near Yukon, but it was near sunset and it
looked like the whole thing was lining out.  I did not want to chase into
OKC, either.  While I lingered about 13 miles east of Binger, these two
cells "lining out" to my NNE quickly developed new lowerings and decent
laminar banding at the low to mid-levels.  Time to get closer!  I set up a
few miles west of Mustang a little before sunset and videotaped and
photographed the beautiful storm just to my north and NNE.  I was far
enough away to get the whole tower in my 20mm wide-angle lens.  The storm
didn't have much of a supercell appearance above low/mid levels, but it did
have a little of that "upside-down wedding cake" look at its base.  A
low-level, laminar inflow band sailed off well to my west.  The other, more
distant storm (near Guthrie), had a doppler-induced tornado warning with
it.  It had an even better laminar look on its leading edge.  The wall
cloud and other scuddy fingers of doom threatened the ground about five to
10 miles to my north, but I could not discern rotation.  Local news/wx
people are reporting "two and one-half tornadoes" around OKC this evening.
I did not observe any.

Storms keep coming up through OKC tonight --- I am just out of their way in
El Reno.  Flash flood warnings are now up for OKC and vicinity because of
these training storms.

I guess the moral here is "never give up!"  I had pretty low expectations
all day, and it looked like a bummer  chase day all the way to 7 p.m. ----
when something finally clicked!  The long drive was worth it (I am also out
here from L.A. to job hunt).  This weekend's system looks better.

William Reid
Woodland Hills, CA
CompuServe 73551,2512

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