Early Father’s Day Gift…of Storms

July 22, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Summary 

May, OK
3 Jun 12

SHORT: Intercepted splitting, intermittently severe thunderstorms in NW OK.

LONG: This would be the inaugural day of Elke’s and my annual Great Plains vacation together, and as always, one brimming with hope and anticipation for two weeks of adventures across whatever lands the atmosphere lured us. The medium-range pattern suggested (ultimately correctly) that we would be spending a good deal of time in the Dakotas, Wyoming and western Nebraska. Until then, and along the way there, we had this risk for high-based but potentially severe and photogenic storms in northwest OK and southwest KS.

Overnight MCS action had left a morning outflow boundary from southwest AR through OKC to the northeastern TX Panhandle. A departing MCV aloft, followed in close order by a weak 500-mb shortwave trough, would yield only subtle shifts in the muddled large-scale support for convection over the area near the dryline-outflow intersection. Deep-layer flow was modest; so some storm-scale help would be needed to even get sustained rotation. Nonetheless, it was a chance for a scenic storm along the way to future days’ chase chances, and in the company of friends.

David Fogel’s dad Bob happened to be in OKC for a wedding the prior day, and joined him, Keith Brown and the two big dawgs for the afternoon to see firsthand this long-described phenomenon of storm observing on the Great Plains. It was a great pleasure to meet Bob at long last, and to share a chase day with him. We all headed out of OKC and up the Northwest Passage, stopping for automotive, human and canine fuel in Woodward as towers erupted to the NW. We intercepted what became the most interesting and persistent area of convection near May, a little bitty splitting updraft pumping out a great big anvil.

It was a rather easygoing and relaxing scene–a good one for Bob and DF to savor before they had to return to OKC for Bob’s flight the following morning. The dawgs seemed more interested in relaxing than in the storm, but they were well-behaved and apparently didn’t fart too much.

As for the storm, it drifted S, then split some, then propagated back NW, expanded, and dissipated, as we maneuvered around the May/Buffalo/Laverne area. When it became obvious the convection was falling apart, we bid farewell to the Fogel men, Fogel dawgs and Keith, and headed toward DDC to spend the night. Along the way, we found a line of utility poles apparently tilted by severe winds at some recent time, with replacements already in the ground.

Dinner and lodging (and even the faucet water) were lousy; so we made haste out of Dodge the next morning on the road northward to what proved to be a very enjoyable two-week sojourn over the blue highways of Middle America.

Junk Storms in Eastern Oklahoma

June 1, 2011 by · Comments Off on Junk Storms in Eastern Oklahoma
Filed under: Uncategorized 

Dewar to Wainwright OK
22 May 11

SHORT: Agonizingly slow-developing small cell Henryetta-Okemah followed by beefier but disorganized storms same area.

LONG: Once we got awake and organized, the Ozarks of SW MO and far NE OK seemed too far (and too unfriendly terrain-wise). Any nearer target for the day was rather nebulous, given the lack of a sharply defined boundary ahead of, and of strong lift along the Oklahoma segment of the dryline. However, we pulled out of Norman to the sight of towering Cu up and down a SW-NE aligned dryline located to our SSE through NE. Despite the SSW winds to its E, high SRH beckoned in eastern OK; and the dryline’s confluence (and convergence) zone became better evident with time during the afternoon in both clear-air mode reflectivity and VIS satellite imagery.

As the day before, following close behind (but not too close, since I was consuming pork rinds): the Dude, Three Chicks and a Dog chase team. And yes, given that we were headed to eastern OK, it was fitting that I was wearing a cartoonish “EVERYONE LOVES A REDNECK” shirt DF gave me as a birthday gift.

We waited at Ada only a short several minutes before towers erupted into a Cb to our NNE, S of I-40 and E of the dryline. Meanwhile a growing left-mover was charging NE from a splitting process down along the Red River, while the right-mover was dying. With nothing in between, we targeted the cell approaching Henryetta.

On composite reflectivity, the storm seemed to level off at under 50 dBZ for well over an hour, despite a healthy (if episodic) chimney of towers shooting forth into its anvil. With MLCAPE up to 6,000 J/kg in its presumptive inflow region, this didn’t resemble the thermonuclear detonation, as have other storm initiations on giant-CAPE days in the same area like 26 May 1997. Instead, when we got closer to the storm between Henryetta and Okemah, it sported pulses of small updrafts.

As we positioned along US-69, the W edge of the Bigfoot jungle beyond which chasing in OK is just not worthwhile, another storm erupted to the immediate SW of the original cell, to our W, and also near Henryetta. To our N, through haze and intermittent low clouds, we also could see the top 1/2 of the tornado-warned supercell SE of TUL, itself headed into horrendously rugged terrain N and NE of Fort Gibson Reservoir. We let the base of this new storm get closer; but it remained rather flat and featureless, with only shallow, transient and innocuous lowerings.

The atmosphere from the new Henryetta storm southwestward past Ada then erupted almost all at once, using up a raft of that giant CAPE air in massively multicellular form. We gave up on the chase day, shot a gap through the big mess, and headed home.

Only after arriving back did we learn that a few hours NE of our junky storms, in Joplin, a rain-wrapped EF5 tornado engulfed much of Joplin, causing the worst tornadic death toll in the modern weather-warning era. Clearly the environment was a good deal different from there to where we had been–much of it on the storm scale. Horrible fortune played a part too; the same tornado several miles N or S would have missed town, likely causing few if any casualties. In a year of rotten placement of several cities with respect to the tornadoes that would strike them, this was the worst in terms of human toll.

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