March 8, 2002

When I got up this morning, I decided that I was not going to chase today, as most of Oklahoma was under thick cloud cover and moisture had been slow to return north. Come afternoon things were not looking much better, but skies were clearing in western Oklahoma and 60 degree dewpoints were trying to creep northward into Oklahoma. Since I hadn't been on a chase in five months I was itching to get out on the road, so at around 3pm I got in my car and headed towards the dryline in northwestern Oklahoma.

I drove north to Oklahoma City and headed up the Northwest Expressway to US 81, where I got out of the low overcast. Now that the low clouds were gone, I could see a high cloud shield covering 80% of the sky with clearing to the west. I continued north on US 81, periodically looking west for any signs of Cu development in the clear area to the west. I did see some faint outlines of some Cu trying to pop up through all the windblown dust and smoke, but by the time I got to Enid the Cu were gone. At this point I decided to turn around and go home, enjoying a nice sunset near Okarche as the setting sun illuminated some mammatus-like features on the retreating high cloud shield.

A few hours after I got home, we had an incredible frontal passage as intense as any I have seen in the 3 years I have lived here. After hovering between 63 and 64 degrees for much of the evening, the temperature suddenly rose to 65.8 degrees at 11:17pm. I headed outside to see what was going on, and soon as I walked out the door I was hit by a tremendous blast of wind from the north that suddenly turned the warm, balmy air quite cold. I then went back inside to see the digital readout on my thermometer indicate that the temperature indeed was falling through the 11:19, the temperature had already fallen to 45.0 degrees, and by 11:50 it was down to 35.1 degrees. A quick line of thunderstorms raced overhead about 30 minutes after the frontal passage, with continuous purplish lightning and a brief shot of 1/2 inch diameter hail that piled up in shallow drifts on north sides of buildings. An amazing pressure rise followed the front, going from 1003 mb to 1012 mb in less than an hour!!!! With this huge pressure gradient, it is not surprising some intense winds followed this front. I would estimate the wind topped 50 mph, as shingles were ripped from the rooftops of every apartment building on the complex and a rain gutter was torn from another building on the complex. In addition, a small tree was uprooted about 1/4 mile north of my apartment.

Today's chase gets a 10 out of 40. It was good to be out on the road after 5 months. It was also amazing to see the sheer magnitude of damage done by the January ice storm (or more appropriately, the Great Oklahoma Arborcide of 2002). Virtually every tree between northwest OKC and Enid suffered some damage, with the most severe damage appearing to be around Dover and Hennessey. Many power poles in these areas had to be cut down and replaced, with many of the old power poles still lying on the ground next to where the new ones had been put up.

Total Mileage: 229 miles
Total Driving Time: 4 hours, 41 minutes

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