May 19 - Guthrie, Oklahoma
- Tornado Warning -
The Storm Prediction Center had issued a rare "high risk"
forecast for Oklahoma and by early afternoon, a a PDS (Particularly
Dangerous Situation) tornado watch had been issued.
- A supercell storm formed north of interstate
40 and it was within reach so we went for it. This storm would
end up being a very long-lived cyclic supercell that would go
on for hours and produce numerous tornadoes but there were numerous
problems chasing it:
- - The road network was not very good.
We struggled to get into position to see the area of the storm
with the best tornado potential but a river valley, sparse roads
and the lack of a close east option made it tough. Often we'd
have to just stop on the crest of a hill and watch as it approached.
Many times we could see strong rotation with small funnels and
downward hanging tendrils which could have been on the ground,
but hard to verify.
- - The traffic. I've never seen so many
storm chasers converge on a single storm like this. There were
hundreds of cars including the Vortex 2 research armada, film
crews, tour groups, independent chasers... You name it. It became
a real zoo out there with what looked like a parade of vehicles
all taking the same few roads options there were.
- - The storm spent a great deal of its
life cycle as an HP storm (high precipitation) which meant that
its rotation was mostly wrapped up in rain. This makes viewing
any tornado inside very difficult and dangerous.
- In the town of Guthrie, we had a very
pronounced funnel cloud come down at least half way to the ground
just our south. We all thought for sure that this was going to
end up being a firmly planted tornado but it never seemed to
make it all the way down.
- As we continued east, trying to stay
ahead of the heavy rain and hail, John was in the lead and pulled
off onto the grassy shoulder to get out and take a better look
when all of a sudden, as soon as all 4 tires were on the grass,
he started to slide and wound up slowly gliding into the ditch.
The soft, muddy ground in Oklahoma is not very forgiving.
- He was stuck
- Like an Indy car pit crew, we sprang
into action and pulled out our tow straps (thanks to Bill Hark
for the additional strap) and pulled him out with one of the
vans. The whole process was amazingly fast and we were back on
the road within about 5 minutes, but our troubles were fart from
- Over the radio, we could hear some
of our other friends who were right behind us. The "Auto
Club" as we like to call them which at this time consisted
of a large group of chasers including Mark Robinson, Dave Lewison,
Scott McPartland, Chris Kridler and a few more. We were all heading
south on highway 18 when something strange happened.
- We were in the rain and started to
get very strong winds. We looked at the radar and saw that there
was a broad circulation nearby, but it wasn't wrapped up that
tight, or so we thought. Without notice, Charles and I spotted
a funnel cloud passing from right to left ahead of us, then the
winds picked up and shifted dramatically, suddenly and violently.
At the same time, the Auto Club, about a mile behind us experienced
some incredible winds that started to pull shingles off a house
and toss around various debris. We speculate that a weak tornado
may have passed just south of them and either just north of us,
or basically on top of us. It was a scary few minutes but it
didn't last long.
- That night we stayed in the town of
Shawnee and as the storm moved off, I was able to capture some
great lightning photos. A nice end to an exciting, sometimes
frustrating, but certainly wild day.