May 10th, 2010
To set the scene, this was my first chase ever. A high risk in Oklahoma- a heck of a way to start off lol. Left late in the afternoon after I got out of school, Chris Allington (www.intotherfd.com) and I picked up Tyler Burg (www.tonightssky.org) and headed south for Wichita, KS.
The drive ended up being more eventful than expected. We were getting low on gas north of Salina, so Chris punched into his GPS to find the nearest gas station. It ended up taking us into Minneapolis, KS. An expansive town with apparently no gas stations open after 10pm on Memorial Day. Practically running on fumes, we tried to find some dirt roads that would provide a shorter route back to highway 81. As the highway came into view down the road, our dirt road ran out and was blocked off by an orange construction gate. Great. Finally found our way back to the highway, but we literally had nothing left in the tank. Fumes ran out just as we started back south and topped a hill. Great, out of gas on the side of the highway. Miraculously, we happened to run out where there was a rest stop at the bottom of the hill. Coasted in there, called AAA roadside assistance, and waited for someone to deliver three gallons of gas to us. Think that slowed us down by more than an hour on top of our already late start. Grabbed some McDonald's in Wichita (slowest drive thru ever) and crashed in our hotel just before 2am. Seemed like such a waste at that point lol.
Woke up and looked at the new models and things looked insane. Just a massive pocket of maxed out EHI and extreme instability. I didn't know much about forecasting at the time, but I knew maxed out parameters were good lol. Only thing that didn't make it feel like a chase day was waking up in fog. Grabbed lunch at Taco Bell (woke up in our target so we weren't in a huge rush to get anywhere) and started to meander west towards Medicine Lodge, KS. Finally got out of the fog and were instantly greeted on the Oklahoma border by the view of a backshearing anvil on a storm to the south.
Headed south and stopped in Alva, OK to look at data. The anvil of the storm to the south continued to expand and was now feathering overhead.
From here on I kinda suck at knowing where exactly we were, since Chris was driving and Tyler was doing the navigating. Got under the base of our storm and were greeted with some really nice textures.
Here's a panoramic image of the scene.
Pretty cool scene as we followed our storm as it rolled over a wheat field. Still had some nice textured structure to the base, something I'd end up missing later in the day lol.
Chris taking a look at the storm as my point-and-shoot shot a quick timelapse on the left.
Tyler and Chris watching our storm base. Just wouldn't be Oklahoma without a red dirt road lol.
Storm still elevated, but starting to pull in some rising scud.
Had some decent rising motion here, but it was just scud. Of course I bothered to zoom in and take a shot, because I thought anything below the base was for sure going to turn into a tornado lol. At least starting to become a little more surface-based.
Kept up with our storm without too much trouble for a while (other than the chaser convergence), until the roads started winding and options became a bit more difficult. Actually saw a pretty sweet plume of red dirt swirl up beneath a funnel as we went over a river, but we almost instantly lost our view as we went down into a valley. Here's our next view of the storm, with a ton of little funnels trying to dip down from the base.
Slightly wider shot.
By the time we got out of the road mess and caught up with the storm next, it had already produced a nice multi-vortex tornado. Saw some damage to a farm, as well as a couple chaser vehicles that had all of their windows blown out. Saw a couple power lines sparking as well, with a branch (likely thrown by the tornado) caught in this one.
Brief tornado as we tried to catch up to our storm again. Motions were pretty crazy, but I suppose that should be expected with such ridiculous amounts of shear.
Cored a storm (had maybe nickel-sized hail) and stopped to shoot the storm with a pretty sweet foreground. There was a stovepipe waaay back in the rain, but my shots of it really aren't worth posting. Ridiculous RFD winds screwed up Chris' door when he got out of the car. Witnessed some of the craziest motions in the sky I've ever seen. This shot doesn't really do it justice.
Bad bad shot (learned to never trust autofocus) but here's the best tube of the day near Pawhuska, OK.
This pretty much sums up the day. Really no structure to speak of, with brief tornadoes dropping down as you were driving. Hectic but pretty sweet for a first chase.
Stopped when we caught up with Mike Hollingshead (www.extremeinstability.com) and watched the grungy base.
Terrain got worse as we neared Bartlesville, OK. Drove up into some hilly park that ended up being the biggest dead end to watch towers from.
Knew at this point our day was about done, but it was nice to see some actual convection instead of being underneath a foggy moist base.