April 7, 2002

Although there were indications several days in advance that today could have some severe weather in the Southern Plains, there were a couple of wildcards that made me apprehensive about going out up until the day of the event. Computer models had advertised a strong surface low moving out into the OK/TX panhandle region with a dryline setting up in western TX. Shear profiles were forecast to be favorable for rotating storms. However, moisture was slow to return north after yet another Arctic blast earlier in the week. Computer models indicated that an MCS might develop over Texas and linger around into the day, which could down on the surface heating in the target area. But those fears were quelled by early this afternoon, as 60+ degree dewpoints had moved northward through north-central TX. There also appeared to be a warm front in northern TX, with clearing skies and SE winds south of the boundary and overcast skies and E winds north of the boundary. With this in mind, I left Norman at 1:45pm and headed for the area between Wichita Falls and Abilene, hoping to catch a cell travelling along the front.

I got to Wichita Falls at 4pm, where I learned that Baylor County was under a severe thunderstorm warning. At the time I thought this was a cell that went severe on the boundary and was moving northeast into cooler stable air, so I punched through this cell and kept heading southwest in search of the boundary. After getting some blinding rains around Mabelle, I got into some clearing skies once I got into Seymour. But as soon as I headed southwest out of Seymour, I got into a sea of low stratus and fog again. Once I got to Haskell, it was clear something was seriously wrong, as I was still in the stratus and was also experiencing northerly winds. I also heard that Abilene was experiencing a thunderstorm with southwest winds and San Angelo had a 50F dewpoint with west winds. At this point, I suspected that the storm I encountered in Baylor County was part of a line, and this line was now well east of me. I have learned from past experience that once you're behind the storm you probably won't catch up, so I decided to turn around and head home. On the way home I headed through Throckmorton County, totally unaware of what happened a couple of hours earlier. The departing line of storms provided for a nice lightning display on my way back home, but I got home having never seen the sun or the warm sector all day.

Today's chase gets a 10 out of 50. As alluded to in the previous paragraph, a large tornado hit Throckmorton County this afternoon. I would have had to have left before 11am or driven 100 mph to the target area to see this tornado, and the latter option would have been unwise considering all the cars I had seen that had slid off the wet roads in Oklahoma and Texas. The most amusing part of the chase came on the Bailey Turnpike northeast of Lawton, where I saw numerous 42 mph speed limit signs posted in a construction zone.

Total Mileage: 492 miles
Total Driving Time: 8 hours, 22 minutes

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