OKC Tornado in November

November 10, 2004 by
Filed under: Summary 

SHORT VERSION:  Woke up after day-sleep.  Quick data examination.  Left house.  Blew off towers SW of Norman.  Fought through eastern OKC buildings/stoplights/jungles for glimpses of Jones tornado. 


Before going to bed for the day (at 8 a.m. after a night shift), I thought of the “ifs”…
* If convective mode was discrete and not forced/linear
* If the air mass can heat into the 60s with 58-60 F sfc dews
* If we can get something to form really closeby instead of
just a little too far to intercept, as is the usual problem when I’m coming off night shifts.

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, it would be Christmas every day.  So being as pessimistic as Squidward about this situation, I shuffled off to dreamland, admittedly, dismisssing the interceptable supercell probabilities as too low to get excited about.  Besides, if everything miraculously did come together, Elke would be paying attention and would wake me up when she got home from work at 3.  So…

Elke came home from work and woke me up with word of big towers to the W.  Say what!?!  Discrete convection…could it be?  That got my attention and I woke up far more excited than when I crashed 7 hours before.  5-minute diagnostic data perusal showed that the air mass thermodynamically was verifying the most optimistic of prior model guidance, which did resemble so-called “cold core” supercell situations.  Quick inspection of TLX VWP and Purcell profiler winds showed low level shear was excellent.  Towers could be seen visually. 

Still negatively coloring the perspective were:
1. Prior forecasts as far out as day-3, suggesting that the boundary layer theta-e would be the main concern (but that sfc dew points in the upper 50s/low 60s — if they could materialize — would make things much more interesting). 
2. The razor-thin area of insolation-heated air between the billow clouds and the line of Tcu.  Temps in the low 60s…yuck!  But I told myself that yes, it was cold enough aloft to offset the sfc coolness and give us a sfc-based lifted parcel.

So…what the heck…it was close and we had a couple hours before having to pick up the kids.  Out we went.  From Sooner Rd and Indian Hills, on the N side of Norman, we observed some towers over and S of town that were being sheared strongly over, with tiny bases…


…and proceeded N to the projected position of what was now a mature thunderstorm over downtown OKC, producing audible thunder.  The base came into view S of I-40 and had intermittent ragged lowerings, but had a rather cold/fuzzy look at times too.  I got the distinct impression from inspecting this nascent OKC-Jones-Chandler supercell in person, as well as the other towers to the S, that the convection was “running on fumes.”  But it was discrete convection, so as Rich alluded earlier in the day, there was hope for a cheezenado — much preferably after the storm left the city.

Hills, buildings, the gnarly crosstimbers forest, continual stopping at red lights — as expected in eastern OKC…this all made viewing very brief and intermittent — and photography almost impossible — when trying to keep moving with the storm.  We noted a classic looking RFD occlusion to our N from I-40 and Sooner Rd, so the E-N-E-N-E-N zigzagging began.  Onward, chainsaw brigade!

By the time we got SW of Choctaw along S 15 St, we intermittently observed (but couldn’t photograph) a strengthening wall cloud under its base with scud rising fast.  The warning went out.  Spotters were all over this thing.

Bobby Prentice relayed:

 0436 PM    TORNADO    3 E SPENCER    35.52N    97.32W

I probably saw this for a fraction of a second, to our N, while blasting E through the jungle on 15th.  I told Elke that I thought there might be a tornado in there.  I wasn’t confident enough yet to call it in.  Then, after turning N on Henney Rd..

 0443 PM   TORNADO   JONES    35.57N   97.29W


We saw this one form and die, and were able to witness glimpses in between.  Rick — not that you need it, but I will confirm this report for you, already made by what seemed like bazillions of spotters and 2 TV chopper crews.  🙂

Bobby also wrote:

“The helicopter views were quite good and probably much better than could have been obtained by chasing from the ground in the cross-timbers of eastern Oklahoma and Lincoln counties.”

Absolutely!  If you view(ed) the chopper footage you had a far better view than was possible at ground level.  But as the numerous obstructions permitted, we could see rotating plugs and coils of condensation forming near ground level and rising, spiralling, dancing, sometimes hovering detached from both ground and cloud base, and sometimes attached to both ground and cloud for just a second or two.  In desperate search of a safe vantage, we settled for a school parking lot on the N side of N 10th St between Henney Rd and Choctaw Rd. 

With no lightning around, near the rear flank gust front,  I grabbed the camera and leaped atop the car like to see above the trees a little better.  Of course, the condensation vanished right as I began snapping slides.  I don’t know if I caught any of it on film.  [Video was not even attempted…no time!]  Elke, thankfully,  barely managed to get a shot of the tornado with her digital camera from a vantage about 4-5 feet lower than mine — and just a few seconds before it dissipated.


Contrast enhanced:

Zoomed and contrast enhanced:

We went back into jungle zigzag mode and the rest of our story
essentially duplicated that of Bob Conzemius:


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