July 5, 2004

For the second time in less than a week, I was going to get in another "out of season" chase in Oklahoma. I left work at 5pm and saw massive cumulonimbus developing to my distant northwest and north. I rushed home to check data, and saw that mid level winds were out of the WSW and unseasonably strong. This convinced me these storms were going to be worth a look, so I gathered my camera and maps, filled up my gas tank, and was on the road by 6:15pm.

As I headed north up I-35, the storm to my north was a sight to behold, with an absolutely tremendous overshooting top sitting atop the anvil like a colossal scoop of ice cream. Even in full daylight and being 50 miles away, I could even make out large cloud to ground lightning strikes shooting down from the anvil. But once I got close to this storm near Orlando, it was apparent this storm was raining itself out. From there I went west on Hwy 51 to go after new development to the northwest. This new storm was rapidly developing, with the updraft tower displaying obvious rotation. As I approached Marshall, I began noticing scud forming underneath the base - which quickly formed into a nice wall cloud with a very low inflow tail. I even noticed a long column of smoke being drawn towards the storm from the south, which I later figured to be a small grass fire ignited by lightning. In the meantime, I took Hwy 74 north then Hwy 74E west through Marshall, then took a dirt west from Marshall and pulled over and parked about a mile west of town.

I pulled over around 7:45 and started getting video of the supercell as it slowly churned off to my northwest and north, which occasionally shot out large cloud to ground lightning strikes from the anvil. I stayed here for about 30 minutes just taking in the sight, with absolutely NOBODY else around the entire time. Had it not been for that news helicopter flying in front of the storm, I would have never guessed I was in Oklahoma! Around 8:05 the updraft began taking on more of a horseshoe shape as a prominent RFD blasted down. This RFD appeared to be filled with rain and hail though, which wrapped around the wall cloud. After this happened the storm began to fall apart, so at around 8:15 I got back in my car and decided to go back north closer to the storm's path to see if I could find any large hail.

When I got about 2 miles south of Covington, I began to see scattered hailstones the size of dimes or larger on the road. I pulled over at an intersection to measure some of these hailstones - the largest one I found was 1.5 inches in diameter. After that I continued north into the town of Covington, where I noticed front yards were covered by hailstones that appeared to be dime sized or larger. I went over to a school yard to do some more measurements and get some video of the hailstones - again, the largest one I found here was 1.5 inches in diameter. While I was here, a local resident pulled up and stopped to chat. He had informed me that he had seen hailstones almost the size of baseballs, and also went on to tell me about his experiences during the tornado outbreak of October 4, 1998. After he left I stayed here for a few minutes to shoot video of new storms developing to the northwest, then as darkness really began to set in I decided to head on back home.

The behavior of the storms today was very interesting - they seemed to keep stair stepping towards the northwest....after one would dissipate, a new storm would form to its northwest. This kept going on well into the night until the front caught up with it as it dove southeastward early the next morning. Following are some images, as well as a video clip, from this chase.....

Video captures
Quicktime time lapse movie of supercell (12 seconds, 750 KB)

Total Mileage: 210 miles
Total Driving Time: 4 hours, 32 minutes

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