April 23, 2004

With the front slowly sagging south through Oklahoma and the main upper level system still to our west, Oklahoma was still under gun for more severe weather outbreaks this week. I blew off the day before as I had things I needed to catch up on around home. Today I had every intention of blowing of as well, with the front continuing to surge southward and many storms going up early in the afternoon. However, I noticed one cell in southwestern Oklahoma that was sporting a nice hook and staying ahead of the front. It was moving into an area where winds were backed and there was decent moisture, and since it was fairly close I decided why not. So I hopped in the Copunch Machine just before 4pm with hopes of intercepting this thing.

Intecepting this storm would be tough as Norman was socked in with cold sector fog. This fog became quite dense once I hit the Bailey Extension southwest of town, so needless to say I was pretty much chasing blind. I made it to Chickasha and went south on US 81, where I began hearing of a warning for the Duncan area. I was still totally blind to this cell as fog was still quite dense, and not wanting to emerge from the fog into a nasty precip core I cut east over to Lindsay to give myself some breathing room. My priority was to get back into the warm sector before I intercepted the storm, I at least wanted some visibility before I tried intercepting this thing. I got back into the warm sector just before reaching the intersection of Hwy 76 and Hwy 29 - and although my visibility was better it was still less than ideal with an extensive mid level overcast. I was starting to get some anvil rain and was seeing a little bit of lightning, however. After cutting east on Hwy 29/76, I went back down Hwy 76 where it split, passing my numerous spotters/chasers/media along the way. I wondered if these people were still following the storm or if they were going home since they thought the threat was over. But by the time I got to Ratliff City, another warning came over the radio. By now the warned storm was coming into view. I could see lots of scud bombs forming on the forward flank ahead of a bluish green precipitation core. Outflow from the storm extended well ahead of this and overtook me just south of Ratliff City, so I went up to Ratliff City and went east on Hwy 7 to stay ahead of it, then went back up Hwy 74 to Elmore City. During this time I noticed winds had switched to the north, which was a sign to me this was being undercut by the front. Sure enough, the storm fell apart quite a bit. So I reached I-35 just south of Pauls Valley, deciding whether or not I wanted to go home or go after something new while I was filling up my car with gas. During this time, I heard of a new warning for Marshall County. This was well ahead of the front, and I had noticed the winds were backed and dewpoints were in the upper 60s in this area just before I left, so I briefly decided to go after these. The storm motion for these cells was announced on NOAA Wx Radio as north-northeast, which made me wonder if this was a left mover that split off something further south in northern Texas. But by the time I got to around Ardmore, I was still at least two hours away from the storms, and with only an hour of daylight left I just decided to turn around and go back.

Today marked the fourth day in a row Oklahoma was hit by numerous hail producing thunderstorms that produced little if any of the way of tornadoes. It turns out there were storms in northern Texas out ahead of the main front that ended up being briefly tornado warned, although I have not heard if anything was confirmed. Marginal setups like these are really frustrating to chase. Part of you wants to sit it out due to the chances against seeing a tornado. But with these setups repeatedly happening in your backyard, they're just too tempting to sit out! Still you never know what you will or won't see unless you go out and see things for yourself, and for me that's usually what tips the scales in favor of going out.

Total Mileage: 287 miles
Total Driving Time: 5 hours, 2 minutes

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