April 14, 2001

Today I had to be at work at 8am so I didn't get a chance to look at any data this morning. But the data I saw after I got home from work at 2pm looked more promising than any other day so far this year. While skies were still overcast in much of central and southern Oklahoma, skies had cleared across the southeastern Texas panhandle and far southwestern Oklahoma - allowing temperatures in these regions to rise into the mid to upper 80s. With the dryline approaching from the eastern Texas panhandle and strong instability in place in southwestern Oklahoma - I decided to head for the area between Lawton and Altus.

Right as I left Norman at 3:20pm I learned that a tornado watch was issued for all of western Oklahoma. As I was approaching Lawton, I learned that a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for Kiowa County. I had already planned to head in this general direction anyway, so I decided to take US 62 to Hwy 54 to intercept this cell. This cell was totally obscured in low overcast and fog, so I had very few clues as to what was going on with the storm. I then realized that Hwy 54 did not have many good road options east, and not wanting to take any risks around a storm I couldn't see I decided to try intercepting the storm on the other side of the Wichita Hills.

As I got back into Lawton, a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for northeastern Comanche County. By now the visibility was improving and the overcast was beginning to break up. I took a short trip up the Bailey Turnpike to US 281 and headed north to US 277. From the intersection of US 281 and US 277 I could see the sky was very dark to the east. I had considered taking US 277 and Hwy 17 as an east route to keep up with the storm, but still had few visual clues to convince me that the storm would stay north of the highway. Therefore I decided to drop back south to Hwy 7. By the time I got there the storm had accelerated eastward and just DIED. At this point I decided to head home.

There were two highlights of this trip worth noting. One was a HUGE horizontal roll cloud I encountered near Erin Springs on the way back. To the south of this roll cloud, skies were overcast. But as soon as I got north of the roll cloud, skies were mostly clear except for the ring of outflow encircling the entire horizon. It was quite apparent that I was driving into the area where the storm had collapsed and cleared out the air. Another highlight was seeing the KSWO TV-7 chase vehicle racing up the Bailey Turnpike with emergency lights flashing to catch up with the severe storm in northeastern Comanche County.

Overall I give today a 10.....out of 25. It would have been much better if there was better visibility and the storm was moving just a little slower.

Total Chase Mileage: 282 miles
Total Chase Time: 5 hours, 24 minutes

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