2009 Season Opens Early

February 11, 2009 by
Filed under: Summary 

Central OK Supercells, Bow and Lightning
10 Feb 9

On day-2, the best target area appeared to be north TX or the Red River region, based on doubts about the ability of the moist sector to return northward appreciably into OK. Those doubts, in truth, were unfounded. Not only did the 60+ degree surface dew points make it to the Red River, they reached I-40, and the inflection point between the returning moist-sector dew point gradient (also perhaps a weak warm front) and the dryline itself exerted a decisive influence on the events in central OK. When the atmosphere amends your forecast for you, you must be flexible enough to adapt your target area and strategy! I adapted northward 160 miles, but in hindsight, 15 more miles would have worked out best.

After joining Bryan Smith at Battlestar Norman around noontime, we watched the bend-o-the-boomerang leap northward with astonishing speed from the Nocona/Bowie area to west of Norman, whereupon two storms quickly formed and cruised NNE, then NE. Bryan, his wife Carolyn and I headed W then NW to Mustang, with the idea of sampling some of this “early stuff” before catching the “good stuff” farther S, in what we thought was better air, later. Then came the tornado warning and reports for the storm to our NNW and N, just out of reach. We were unwilling to stern chase it through a metro area, but briefly glimpsed some lowerings in the distant N, under the updraft region and through the murk.

Our concentration turned to the next storm headed our way. A couple miles back S of Mustang, we watched it cruise by to the W while experiencing bone-chilling cold temps of 55-59 deg F in the rainy easterlies. The inflow air, left behind by the Edmond storm and rained into from heavy anvil above, felt like the breath of the Abominable Snowman, and our storm looked the part. That storm roared past, and we headed down to just SW of Tuttle to watch the “Anadarko” storm cruise toward some point a few miles to the W. It had more interesting banded structures aloft, and a rather large base. The inflow temps were in the upper 50s at this point, and we weren’t optimistic of its chances to ingest better surface air. As the storm repositioned itself to our NNW, and the inflow veered to SSE and S, temps jumped into the 60s, and low level structure improved dramatically (17 mm wide angle and super-enhanced crop), with a clear slot and narrow, short-lived, nearly ground-scraping lowering. That lowering didn’t appear to rotate much, if at all, and soon became somewhat clunky looking and scuddy. Nonetheless, any storm that looks like this deserves some scrutiny, especially when nothing else farther S shows much promise, and an earlier storm along much the same track produced a hose.

So much for hesitation to chase through the OKC area. With this storm being the only thing going that was worth tracking, we wheeled up OK-152, I-44 and I-35, watching ragged wall clouds come and go, and hitting much colder air N of Edmond (back into mid-upper 50s F). This was our last view of the storm, from the SSE, with a sfc temp of 55 F, between Edmond and Guthrie. It looks like a ground-scraping wall cloud, and maybe it was, but a lot of that looked to be an artifice of high RH in cold temps (a.k.a. rain and hail fog the updraft was ingesting).

Ryan called to inform us that nothing of great importance was happening within daylight’s reach, and(as we suspected) the activity to our SW had gone linear. Phooey on that! Bryan’s head was spinning by now, given that he had worked a 12-hour overnight shift and had been awake all day since, so I dropped him and Carolyn off at NWC he could get some long overdue sleep. On the way down I-35 from OKC, we could see a small tower try to develop just S of Norman (and ultimately fail), as well as a deeper Cb with overshoot in the very distant S, which became the tornadic Lone Grove storm after dark.

With a well-developed bow echo now charging NE toward Norman, I shot a quick dark-storm-looming scene looking SW over the facility, then picked up Elke and the kids at home. We headed over to the mysterious and legendary Tower of Doom (TM) to take RJ up on his invitation to watch the show roll past, capturing a few aerial lightning filaments looking W under the gust front and looking E into the trailing precip.

Sure, we didn’t experience the rush of excitement of those who were fortunate and willing enough to brave the urban storm intercept earlier. But this, remember, is February. To have a couple of rotating storms, a bow echo and some lightning cinched 10 days after January means the 2009 season is off to a mighty fine start. This was a way to “tune up” for the meat of the season in another couple of months, but perhaps more importantly, a soothing atmospheric poultice, applied to an accumulated ache of yearning built over months of frigid deprivation, for the unrivaled amalgam of brute force, sinuous dynamism and imposing beauty that is the supercell.


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