May 27, 2001

Today I targeted southwest Kansas near the dryline/coldfront intersection. I left Norman at 2pm and headed northwest up US 270 through Watonga, Seiling, and Woodward. From Woodward I headed up US 183 to Buffalo. Around this time the sky started to fill in with stratocumulus and there was just a big mass of darkness to my north, so I figured whatever was up in Kansas was turning into a big outflow dominant mess. From Buffalo, I headed west on US 64 for a while hoping to get an isolated cell out ahead of the mess but the storms that tried to go up out ahead of it were high based and short lived. Once I got to Forgan, I decided to turn around and hopefully arrive home in time to watch the storms come through Norman.

As I was heading back east on US 270/412 between Elmwood and Slapout the forward flank of this storm began to charge over the horizon, and what an imposing sight it was! This storm had an awesome multi-tiered shelf cloud that looked like it was perfectly sculpted out of cement. It resembled a flying saucer and a stack of plates. There was a bright greenish tinge to the northeast of this shelf and three beaver tails feeding into the storm. Although it was still light, continuous in-cloud lightning was quite apparent within the storm, with bright pinkish-purple anvil crawlers shooting across the anvil. Occasionally a large CG would shoot down from the anvil. As much of a sight this storm was to behold, it became clear I had to get away from it as it was charging due south right at me. Fearing this storm would quickly overtake me if I continued east on US 270/412, I decided to start blasting south on US 283.

As I drove into Shattuck, my gas gauge was reading about 3/8 full. While I had enough gas to go at least another 100 miles, I feared this would be my last chance to get gas so I refueled here. Although I was only at the gas station for about 5-10 minutes, the storm gained quite a bit of ground on me. Fortunately, I was at the south part of town so I was able to get back on the road quickly. I then drove through the towns of Arnett and Roll, where locals were in awe watching the spaceship race in from the north. Once I got to the intersection of Hwy 33, I started heading east again, knowing I'd have some south options in case the storm got too close. For a while it looked like Hwy 33 was getting me east of the mess, and the storm would cross the highway well to my west. Therefore, I decided to continue on 33 all the way to US 183. But once I got east of Butler, I saw this was a bad move, as the shelf from another storm in the complex was racing towards me. An east-west road that has power lines to its north is not where you want to be with a storm barrelling at you from the north!!! I drove nearly 100 mph hoping to beat the storm to US 183, but about 3 miles from the intersection the storm began blasting me with blinding clouds of red dust. Immediately I backed off on the accelerator and slowly proceeded to the intersection.

Eventually I did make it to 183 (thankfully the power poles did not topple). By this time rain had begun to fall in buckets. I continued south on 183 to Clinton, where I saw a huge power flash and the power go out to a neighborhood just as I arrived on the northern outskirts of town. Trying to get out of Clinton was an adventure with the extreme wind pushing my car around and the rain reducing the visibility to a few feet. Miraculously, I made it to I-40, where I had to battle ferocious crosswinds and blinding rain for over 50 miles. I saw two 18-wheelers that had been tipped over due to the wind. Lightning was so intense there were times I could drive with my headlights off and still see OK. It wasn't until I got to around El Reno that I stopped getting gusts over 40 mph and the rain dropped off in intensity. I didn't have to deal with any exceptional rainfall or wind the rest of the way back to Norman.

Once I got back into Norman around 11:30pm, parts of town were without power and tree branches were littering the streets. When I drove to Oklahoma City the next day I could see power poles tipped over, tree branches snapped, and highway signs blown down throughout Norman, Moore, and Oklahoma City.

I give this chase a 10 out of 13. In terms of pure adrenaline this chase will be hard to beat, but it would have been nice to have a slower moving storm over some flatter terrain. The fast movement of the storm and the rolling terrain of western OK made it hard to pull over to get pictures, so I managed to only get some very brief video while I was flying away from the storm. Here at the captures.

Total Chase Mileage: 540 miles
Total Chase Time: 9 hours, 40 minutes

Back to Chase Summaries

Back to Jeff's Virtual Cyclone Cellar