Chase 2001 Main Page

Storm Chase 05/20/2001

Note: Images at Bottom

This is the timed GPS track of the critical part of our chase. Click it for high resolution (but small download time) map.

This is the timed GPS track of the part of our chase near Stigler.
Click it for high resolution (but small download time) map.

The day started with great promise (does this sound familiar?), but... we played catchup in HP supercell precip in the jungles of eastern Oklahoma.

We started out with a target of Ardmore, which was a compromise between the best looking data around Mcalester and the SPC and almost everyone else's consensus of chasing along the Red River. Sigh... trust the data, Luke!

By the time we got to Ardmore, it was clear from the mesonet and radar that the action would take place farther north and east. We decided to head for Mcalester, but then storms went up from Ada to McAlester so we shot north to Ada. We shortly found ourselves SW of an HP beast (see not very good photos). It had a nice overshoot, crisp backshear and knuckles, and in general was every chaser's dream, except for all the precip.

We tried to get in front of it by going south and around towards Yeager, but were unable to do so. Then we reached Dustin. We decided to go north, to go around the top of the storm, because of reports of damage and roadblocks ahead. This was from the previous storm. All this time, there were consistent reports of TOR's to our N or NE less than ten miles, but precip and terrain prevented us from seeing anything.

We crossed I-40 north and found ourselves still in heavy precip, so decided to punch through to the east - still trying to get in front of the beast. We paralleled I-40 to avoid whatever traffic messes (roadblocks, overpass convergences, etc) that might be there.

When we got to Warner, we were actually ahead of the beast, so we dashed south in hopes of intercepting the meso. As we drove through curtains of rain (but not horrible visibility), we went through a dramatic wind shift around Porun, from Westerly to Easterly to Westerly in a fraction of a mile. That was apparently the remnants of an old meso.

Then, as we got just south of Brightown, we saw a rotating lowering approaching from the east, with a pick up in easterly winds. We retreated a hundred yards to watch. This lowering crossed the road just south of us, throwing many minor tree limbs around and onto the road, and progressed east. There is one photo below of the lowering, obscured by out-of-focus raindrops on the windshield, so not too impressive. We believe this is the feature that shortly thereafter did the damage in Stigler, which was only a couple of miles ESE of the meso crossing.

We then proceeded south to try to get out of the beast again and get another shot at the meso - hoping to get east of it. We zipped along state 31 as one TOR after another was announced just north of us. Finally, at Sunset Corner (intersection of 271 & 59), we were able to get a nice hilltop vantage from the SE of the core. It was somewhat rain-wrapped and no tornado was visible. It chased us into Spiro, with the meso passing just north of us (again, no visible tornado).

By this time it was getting dark and we just wanted to go to Ft. Smith for the nite. But... we didn't want to get caught in an after dark tornado or big hail (all ominously and continuously predicted by NOAA radio), so we headed south out of Ft. Smith. Once again, we got to watch our meso go by with its circulation, but no tornado. Sigh. Enough is enough.

At that point, we decided to ignore the warnings and just go get a hotel room for the nite, with faint hopes of chasing LA tomorrow.

NOTE: as this is being written, we are headed (creeping) towards Shreveport in a probably hopeless attempt to get ahead and east of the cold front. Wish us luck!

Most of our chase except for the start in Wichita Falls, TX.

This is a poor picture of top of the storm that was our nemesis. At this point, it had just formed and was very impressive. Unfortunately, good views and time for pictures did not coincide. The purpose was first to chase, and then if lucky, to take pictures.

This shows the rotating wall cloud about 200 yards away to our SE. Unfortunately the picture is mostly obscured by those darned UFO's that kept getting in the way. Notice the closest UFO has two eyes and is looking right at us!