March 17, 2003

For the entire weekend I was debating whether or not to set aside St Patrick's Day for chasing storms or going over to O'Connell's to knock back some green beers. A strong surface low had been deepening all weekend over eastern Colorado, a strong upper level low was moving out from the Rockies, and a powerful jet stream was set to arrive on Monday afternoon. Southern Oklahoma and northern Texas would be under the favorable left front quadrant of this jet. By Sunday, it was becoming apparent that there could be some serious moisture return problems, with a low over the northern Gulf driving drier air into Oklahoma and eastern Texas all the way to the northwestern Gulf. Things were looking a little more promising by Monday morning, as a narrow axis of 60+ degree dewpoints had managed to trickle up through central Texas all the way to the Red River. Elevated convection was also dropping rain throughout the morning over western and central Oklahoma, which raised my hopes that perhaps could we could see some boundary interactions that could increase tornado potential. My hopes were confirmed after I came home from work at 3pm to check data, as a prominent west-east oriented outflow boundary lay across southwestern Oklahoma. Temp/dewpoint spreads north of the boundary were less than 10 degrees, and winds north of the boundary had a significant easterly component. In addition, a dryline was bulging northeastward through far southwestern Oklahoma. It is well known that the area northeast of a dryline bulge is a favorable location for tornado development, and recent research suggests the low temp/dewpoint spreads and easterly winds north of a west-east boundary are quite favorable for tornadogenesis. After looking at this map, I was not at all surprised that tornadoes were being reported north of the boundary, and northeast of the dryline bulge. All of my chase gear was already in my car, so I raced out to my car to head in the general direction of southwestern Oklahoma.

I took Hwy 9 west to US 62, then went west on US 62 through Blanchard and Chickasha - lamenting the fact US 62 no longer goes through that bustling metropolis of Middleberg. West of Chickasha, a tornado warning came over the NOAA Wx Radio for Caddo County, which was to my west. As I continued west towards Verden, I began to get glimpses of the warned storm along the northwest horizon. The storm was still about 25 miles to the northwest, but I could see some inflow bands feeding the storm from the southeast - and a rear flank downdraft trying to punch through and wrap around a wall cloud. The terrain limited my view of the storm much of the way to Anadarko, and continued to block my view at times after I started heading north up US 281. The times I could get a decent view of the storm, I could see the RFD was prominent enough to allow the sun to shine through and illuminate the wall cloud. But the storm continued to race off the north-northeast as I continued north towards Binger, and I never was able to get close enough to see any rotation at the surface. So I let this storm go and took a brief look at a small cell which produced a wall cloud very close to the ground northwest of Hinton. After that I headed back east on Hwy 37, with lots of runoff flowing along side of the road. I got into a soft, fuzzy cell west of Minco which dropped some blinding rain and a few marbles on me. Between Minco and Tuttle, I pulled over and got out of my car to take some video of a low precipitation supercell which developed to my northwest. The supercell was short lived however as the upper level winds practically pushed the storm over on its side. Darkness was nearing, but there was a storm off to my east towards Norman catching my interest - and with winds roaring out of the east, I was still hopeful that the opportunity to catch a tornado was still there. But the storm started to get fuzzy and soft as the sun set, and it was racing off the north as well, so I decided to call it a day and head back to my apartment in Norman....where I got a nice light show from a cell which passed to my south and east.

This chase gets a 10 out of 16. After a seemingly endless string of 300+ mile chases the past couple of years, it was nice to have a backyard chase for a change. The storm of the day occurred between Hobart and Gotebo in Kiowa County around 3pm, where the most spectacular tornado Oklahoma has seen since the Oct 9, 2001 outbreak occurred. Some amazing mothership LP structure occurred with another supercell near Marlow. Even Norman was hit with a fairly impressive storm while I was gone, as quarter sized hail was reported only 1/2 mile from my apartment.

Video captures

Total Mileage: 167 miles
Total Driving Time: 3 hours, 41 minutes

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