June 15, 2002

Today featured a set-up that had similarities to the set-up on the 12th. Northwest flow in the mid and upper levels of the troposphere would be present over southwestern Kansas and northwestern Oklahoma once again. Instability would not be as strong today as it was the 12th, but still favorable for severe storms. Although some forecasters were optimistic that the set-up would be favorable for supercells and tornadoes, I was expecting this activity to quickly go MCS, as the upper-level winds would spread the anvils towards the direction of the surface inflow. This would effectively cool the area ahead of the storm and cause them to go outflow dominant. My goal was to get to the point the storms initiated before this process took place. So I left Norman at 1:45pm and headed towards southwestern Kansas.

I was able to make good time getting to northwestern Oklahoma, despite what could have been a significant obstacle. As I was coming over a hill on US 270 about 6 miles northwest of Woodward, I saw a cop coming from the other direction. Realizing that I was going quite a bit above the speed limit, I immediately hit the brakes and slowed down. However, it was too late, as the cop had already turned his lights on and made a U-turn to pull me over. The cop then asked me to get out of my car and have a seat in his car. So I got in his car, where he proceeded to give me a warning for doing 78 in a 65. He could tell from the stickers and license plate on my car that I was a storm chaser, so he asked me a few questions about the day's severe weather threat as well as some questions about my chasing hobby in general. In all, it was a very quick and painless traffic stop, for which I was very grateful. Within 5 minutes, I was back on the road, paying a little closer attention to my speed as I continued northwest.

When I got to the US 412/US 183 split, I opted to head north up US 183 towards Buffalo. Right away, I could see this was a bad move as I could see outflow from the storms up in Kansas headed towards my direction. I could still see new storms going up further to my northwest, so I took Hwy 149 west through Laverne to get into position. But once again, it was becoming apparent that I had again missed the initial supercell mode of the storms and was again going to get slammed by the massive outflow dominant stage of the storms, as a massive shelf cloud engulfed the northern horizon by the time I got to Clear Lake. This shelf cloud was the most impressive I had seen since May 27, 2001. Of course, the 2001 shelf cloud was in a league all its own. But today's shelf cloud still featured some impressive striations, and I wanted nothing to do with it, so I took Road N1510 south to give some breathing room between myself and the storm. I initially wanted to take this road to US 412 and begin heading east, but US 412 was unmarked, so I ended up missing this road and continuing south into the Texas panhandle. It was probably just as well, as I would have gotten nailed while heading back east on US 412. Instead, I ended up just east of Darrouzett, and took Hwy 15 east to a rest stop at the intersection of Hwy 15 and Hwy 305. I stopped at this rest area to take a look at this shelf cloud. This storm's leading edge was surging southwestward at about 40 mph. Bow echo, I thought. Even though I was successfully able to put some distance between me and the shelf since Clear Lake, it was clearly gaining on me at a pretty good clip. I could even see some clouds of red dust being kicked up all the way to cloud base level, but I could not determine any rotation in these dust plumes. After a few minutes, I decided to begin heading south again, this time down Hwy 305 through Lipscomb. Again, I was able to put some distance between myself and the storm as it was moving at just 40 mph. But sooner or later, I was going to have to let this thing overtake me as I would have to head back east towards Norman. And this came under some less than ideal circumstances.

As I continued south on Hwy 305, I could see new storms that had developed off to my southwest, and fearing that I may have a cell merger on my hands if I continued south, I took Hwy 213 east towards Higgins, which would take me to US 60 back into Oklahoma. I went about 8 miles or so east on 213 before I got stopped again - this time by a construction crew. The lady held up a stop sign, then without giving any further explanation, put the stop sign in the back of the truck and started to get in. Like an idiot, I thought this was a signal to go ahead. As soon as the lady screamed "NO!!!", I realized that this probably wasn't the case. Then the lady came up to my car and calmly explained that the road was closed due to "blowing asphalt". Apparently they were in the process of repaving the road there, and the southerly inflow winds ahead of the storm were blowing too much of the pre-paved asphalt around. By now the shelf cloud was minutes away from overtaking me, and I wanted to explain to this lady that if she thought the blowing asphalt was bad now, just wait how bad it will get in a few minutes!!! But she said the road would be closed for 20-40 minutes. With what was just about to go overhead, I feared it would be closed for longer than that, so I decided to turn around and get slammed by the outflow on the way back to Hwy 305.

The shelf cloud indeed went overhead on my way back to Hwy 305. It turned the landscape very dark as it went overhead, and it even featured some intense areas of rotation in the cloud base. I pulled over and faced my car into the wind fearing the worst, but as it turned out the winds were only about 25 mph. Relieved that the winds weren't too strong, I kept heading west back to 305. At this point the sky was a very dark greenish color and the landscape was so dark I needed to use my high beams. The precip core overtook me once I began heading south on 305 again, surprisingly featuring no hail but tons and tons of rain. I had to contend with an incredible downpour on my way to Glazier, and was treated to quite a show once in Glazier as torrential rains and 35-40 mph winds were violently shaking the street signs. The rain let up quite a bit when I finally got to Higgins by way of US 60, and I was treated to a vivid rainbow near the TX/OK border. I had contend with gusty east winds and mostly moderate rain the rest of the drive back to Norman, but saw very little in the way of lightning. In fact, I saw hardly any lightning at all today - strange since squall lines and MCS's tend to be prolific lightning producers.

Today's chase gets a 10 out of 15. It was disappointing (but not unexpected) that I once again got clobbered by fast moving outflow dominant storms, but it nonetheless provided for some interesting experiences. Following are some video captures from today's storms.

Total Mileage: 511 miles
Total Driving Time: 9 hours, 36 minutes

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