August 11, 1996 S. Oklahoma/North Texas Chase By Amos Magliocco


After months of carefully reading the discussions here, I never imagined
that I would be so bold as to post a report of my first true chase for all
of these knowing eyes to see.  But this was quite a storm.  Parts are mildly
embarassing, others may be textbook examples of what not to do during a
chase.  Either way, we saw some great features and at best, this report may
serve to amuse.  I'll be brutally honest.

        SUNDAY 8/11/96 9:00 AM:
                I woke up and plopped down in front of TWC long enough to
hear a pleasant-looking lady say "possibly violent storms" as she pointed to
an area north of my home in Denton, Texas.  At the computer, I examined
every map and data summary I could understand and then I read the SPC
convective outlook describing the tremendous instability in the Red River
valley and slight chance for isolated supercell development.  I have what
most of you would consider a rudimentary understanding of storm structure
and behavior, but my forcasting prowess is even worse.  So we went the wrong
way.

        8/11/96 12:30 PM:
                Yes, and it took awhile to convince Cleatus Estes, my chase
partner, that I was not insane and after having read the convective outlook
to him word for word, he signed on.  We headed north on I-35 towards
Gainesville and turned...right.  Heading east, the cumulus cover thickened
and actually began to look promising around Bells, Texas.
        "My gut says stay here," I told Clete, though my gut doesn't know
any more about convection than I do. So I stuck to my guns and led us
further east to Bonham, Texas, our home town.  Here, I rationalized, we at
least have the advantage of knowing the road network.  We stopped at his
house around 2:30 and no sooner had I found TWC than the big red box went up
over a large portion of Western Oklahoma and North Texas including the
counties to our west.
        "Let's go," I said and we went back the way we came--all the way to
Gainesville.

        8/11/96 3:45 PM approx:
                All of these times are approximations, actually, as we had
no tape recorder nor did we bother to keep a log. (Lesson #17 or so)
Turning north on I-35, we were now listening to the NOAA reports of the line
of storms developing in West-Central Oklahoma, but the locations were not
described.  I wanted to stay close to the Red River as all the information I
had seen to this point suggested the strongest instabilities in that area.
So at Marietta, we turned left on State Hwy 32 and headed west, paralleling
the river.  There were small towers going up to the south, but just as
quickly had their heads lopped off by shear which I assume was unusually
strong.  There was also a taller and stronger-looking tower to our NW.  So
the question was whether to abandon the river and head north or to continue
to patrol the valley, waiting.  

        8/11/96  4:30 PM:
                We turned north on 76 (don't know what sort of
classification to give this trail--it is a thin gray line in the
Rand-McNally, which failed me this day--lesson #32.4)  We went north on 76;
then we got out, looked around and went south on 76, having decided that we
should have continued west after all.  Then we tried to cheat:  we wanted to
go west, but we didn't want to wait until we got back down to 32.  We wanted
west now--and so we left the map onto a gravel road.  Very stupid.  The road
wound up and down and around and around.  We stopped and got out to take a
peek when a kind gentleman and his son stopped by in their pickup to see if
everything was alright.
                "Y'all cloud watchers?" he asked.
                We continued to follow this narrowing gravel path when the
transmission from NOAA in Lawton (?) came crackling through, although very
weakly.  We made out a tornado spotted in Jackson county, far to the west,
and a strong storm headed southeast through Grady county, which I estimated
to be to our immediate north, though I didn't actually know where the hell
we were.  This part of my report is the most difficult to write, mainly
because I consider having left the pavement (and the map) to be the most
reckless and dangerous thing we did all day.  We quickly back-tracked toward
76, though this turned out to be easier wished than done.  There are few
signs on gravel roads.  

        8/11/96 5:10 PM:
                My first serious question involves a long line of what
looked to me like cirrus clouds high above to the NW, in the general
direction of the storm bearing down on us.  Was this the markings of a
frontal boundary?  Was it caused in some manner by the upper-level
disturbance over our heads?  I'm sure there's a simple answer, but I've yet
to read anything about this sort of feature.  Back on 76 now, we headed
north to Wilson, Oklahoma.  The intersection of 76 and 70 (running E\W) is
actually a T, and the northern continuation of 76 is a few miles to west of
the initial intersection.  We headed west on 70 at Wilson, Oklahoma,
continued west and then turned north again on the continuation of 76.  This
is where we met the storm.

        8/11/96 5:30 PM:
                The storm was moving SE around 25 to 30 miles per hour
according to NOAA.  Suddenly we were underneath what I suppose was a shelf
cloud or the RFB itself.  Anyway, there were what appeared to be mammatus
and very well-defined, although I thought that these were usually associated
with the underside of an anvil.  Things were moving quickly now and in our
direction.  There were clear striations on the main tower and sharp inflow
bands on the SW side.  Strange as it sounds, this thing was upon us in an
instant, and it looked to me as if we were about to core-punch
involuntarily.  This was not at all where I wanted to be and was plotting
how we might get around to the southwest side of the thing and let it parade
on by when my partner, who was driving, said: "Look."
                There was a wall cloud...and it was rotating...and the
rotation was sustained.  I don't have the experience to estimate the speed
of rotation, and I didn't gain any this day.  Along with the rest of the
monstor and a hard, black rain shaft behind, the whole carnival was coming
toward us.  I got spooked.  We turned around and headed south again on 76
toward the intersection of 76 and 70.  As we turned around to head back, we
noticed someone in a van with multiple antennae pointing a camera at the
wall cloud. I commented to Clete that it looked like Sam Barricklow, who
appeared later in day.  Mr. Barricklow, was that you?

        8/11/96 5:40 (approx):
                At the intersection of 70 and 76, we stopped at the Texaco
on the southwest corner to regain our wits.  I was desperately trying to get
anyone or anything on the 2 meter amateur radio.  I was unable to make the
repeater in Duncan, and could no repsonse from any of the three (?) in
Ardmore.  I had a hand-held scanner searching the entire 2 meter band and I
was flipping through all of the spotter frequncies I had pre-programmed into
the radio earlier for that area.  Nothing.  This was very frustrating and if
anyone has any explanation as to why there was no one on the radio at all, I
am curious.  There is nothing wrong with my rig as later in the day I
participated in a SKYWARN net in Denton County, Texas after Clete and I had
escorted the beast across the Red River. The second most dangerous thing I
did Sunday was desperately try to find somebody to whom I could report this
rotating wall cloud.  I think Dr. Doswell wrote that one should keep one's
head "on a swivel" and mine was not.   
        Suddenly, very strong outflow winds rushed from the west.  We went
east.  As I flipped through the stored frequecies, Clete turned the scanner
back to NOAA bank just in time to hear a Tornado Warning issued for Western
Carter county, describing a tornado as having been spotted near Clemscott,
just a few miles north of where we had seen the wall cloud.  I still wanted
to get closer to Ardmore to try to make one of the repeaters...at the time
it appeared to me that there were no spotters in the area at all.  
        As we headed west again on 70 toward Ardmore, multiple emergency
vehicles whizzed past, running code.  We continued west, planning to get on
35 and position ourselves south of the storm and allow it to pass to our
northeast.  We picked up I-35 and headed south. The storm had an angle on us
now, however, heading SE as we headed due south.  On 35 we saw what I
condidered the most beautiful spectacle of the day.  To our west, we watched
a dust plume rise majestically into the air and spread apart at the crest,
like a blossoming flower.  It was such an elegant and serene display in the
midst of the turmoil and I cursed myself again, for we had no camera.  This
was not a mistake; it was a tragedy.

        8/11/96 6:50 PM
                I couldn't understand why we couldn't get far enough in
front of the thing to round the corner.  When I got home and watched the
Doppler loop, it was apparent that the storm was expanding to the west as it
moved SE (is this a "right-moving" storm?) and we had not even the slightest
chance of getting that far in front, especially since...we had to stop in
Gainesville, Texas to relieve ourselves.  We had another potential
Barricklow sighting on the service road and when I went in the convienience
store, we were dry and 150 seconds later I emerged back out into blinding,
driving rain.  "Draw your own conclusions about hydration," Dr. Doswell
writes. Indeed.  Here was the dime size hail and the genuine fear of a
rain-wrapped tornado.  South fast--all the way to Valley View, Texas where I
came in range of the Denton repeater just in time to participate in the
Weather Net, along with K5KJ, which was something of an honor for a novice
spotter and very new Tech licensee.                 We took up position in
the middle of a CG extravaganza just north of Valley View and described to
net control some of the storm's history.  I told him that we had chased it
most of the afternoon, but now I think that actually it chased us.  

        8/11/96 8:50 PM
                5 miles northwest of Sanger on a country road watching the
backside of the cell to the south and the lightning was everywhere--cloud to
cloud and cloud to ground--completely spectacular electrical show.  I ached
for a camera. To the far northwest, a thunderhead weakened in the distance
and the sunset was colors that I had never seen, as vibrant and swirling as
the storm that left them in its wake.
                The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that our storm had
75 mph winds and dime-size hail.  Straight-line winds caused light damage in
Denton, Texas and over 10,000 people were temporarily without power.
                The storm gave me more questions than answers and was quite
unforgiving of my rookie mistakes. But then learning is the whole point,
isn't it?            

____________________________________________________________
Amos Magliocco KC5VPD
elmo@iglobal.net