May 26, 2004

With the strong southwest flow aloft over the southern Plains, I was prepared to chase at a moment's notice all week....which meant sleeping with the TV tuned to the weather channel. Today I slept intermittently well into the afternoon, occasionally waking up to see the local forecast. An extensive mid and high level cloud deck streamed over the area for much of the day, even dropping a few light sprinkles over the area. Thinking this might suppress storms over the area today, I kept going back to sleep. But I woke up for good at 4:45pm when I saw the red crawl for the tornado watch and radar showing a cell beginning to go up around Elk City. I checked data to see a dryline punching into western Oklahoma, and although there was still a lot of mid and high level cloud cover over the region it thinned enough in spots to allow an isolated cell to form over western Oklahoma. So I took a quick shower, got dressed, got my camera, and got in my car and headed west.

I took the Bailey Extension west to Hwy 4, then took Hwy 4 up to Mustang. My view of the storm was obstructed by mid level clouds at first, but as I approached Mustang I began to see a disorganized wall cloud along the horizon. I also noticed that KATT-FM was simulcasting KWTV 9's live coverage, so I turned off the NOAA Wx Radio. I took Hwy 152 west from Mustang, watching a lot of low hanging scud beneath the rain free base. Several CG hit just to my north as I approached from the east, and a long, impressive beavers tail was taking shape just north of the road. About halfway between Mustang and Union City, I went south on a dirt road and pulled over to take a look at the storm. Although the low hanging scud was disappearing, the storm was still displaying some awesome structure - complete with a corkscrewed, bell shaped updraft and a long beaver tail extending well to its east. I stayed there from about 6:45pm to 7pm watching this storm as scud occasionally formed below the base. Rising motion and rotation was never very strong, though. Even though a fairly pronounced RFD punched down at around 6:53pm, the storm was in a weakening phase and the beaver's tail was detatching from the updraft. By 7pm the storm was almost on top of me so I decided to head back east. After passing by a number of cops and chasers parked at the intersection of the dirt road and Hwy 152, I had to wait at the stop sign for a while as a long caravan of chasers which included both DOWs and the Storm Chasing Adventure Tours Vans went by. The drive back through Mustang was quite interesting as I felt as if I was in the middle of a caravan that included pretty much every other chaser in Oklahoma. I then went south on Hwy 4, passing by numerous chasers parked along the road getting pictures. After crossing into Grady County, I pulled over to get some more video. By this time the supercell had taken an entirely different form - just a spectacular LP with a laminar base and a bubbling, corkscrewing updraft tower leaning over to the east. I got three minutes of video before deciding to head down the road further to get a better view, but before I could the updraft rapidly fell apart, and was totally gone by 8pm. The only cells I could see by then were well off to my north and northeast, but these were well out of range so I decided to head back home.

The cells in northern Oklahoma ended up being tornadic, but with the storm structure I saw today I can't complain about missing those. This was probably my top LP intercept so far, definitely surpassing the May 23, 2002 and April 30, 2003 intercepts - and in terms of structure it edges out the May 18, 2001 intercept. Another nice thing about this chase was that I didn't even drive 100 miles on the whole chase - which is good considering how high gas prices are. I saw one place in Mustang that had regular unleaded for $2.06/gallon - first time I've ever seen that for over $2/gallon in Oklahoma.

Video captures
Quicktime movie of LP supercell (9 seconds, 600 KB)

Total Mileage: 94 miles
Total Driving Time: 2 hours, 37 minutes

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