Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chase log - 5-24-2011

As early as the 20th, it was obvious that the 24th had the potential to be a huge day. Models were consistent in showing a strong dryline, high CAPE values, ample deep layer shear, beautiful SE surface backing winds, and high SRH (Storm relative helicity) values.

I chased with Mike Brady - we made our typical last-minute decision to play the setup, and left IL at about 5:30. Drove through a good chunk of the night to get to Emporia, Kansas. Holed up in a hotel there, checked the morning data/model runs, and decided to head south to around Enid, OK.

Stopped in Enid for lunch/oil change, and then decided to head a bit SW. Got to around Okeene, as we noticed initiation beginning. As we started to get in position for an intercept on the northern-most, dominant cell...we lost data. Completely.

Over the next half hour, I made a couple calls to fellow chaser Dr. Tom Williams for nowcast updates, as we got in closer to our storm. As we dropped to the SE side of the storm, a beautiful rain-free base became evident, with a fairly decent wall cloud.

As we tracked the storm NE, the first wall cloud dissipated, and a second one formed rather quickly. As we got closer to Canton, OK, rotation started to really ramp up and tighten.

We wanted to stay just on the east side of Canton Lake, and were heading down to highway 58A when we discovered that it was closed. We headed back up the hill to go through Canton, but decided to pull in at the Feather Wind Casino and see if it would drop a tornado right there. The wall cloud was fairly bland, but the scud wisps were rotating violently.

Within 30 seconds or so, 200 yards in front of us, a needle funnel started coming down, and a few surface vortices became apparent.

Through the next couple minutes, it was touch and go as to whether the tornado would stick around...the funnel kept retreating into the burgeoning wall cloud, as the surface vortices danced under the meso...

Then, as the wall cloud almost became a collar, the tornado started to grow - rapidly. It would reach widths upwards of 3/4 of a mile as it roared NNE through a mobile home park on the south side of Canton Lake, and then across the lake. This was the last still of the tornado that I got before the camera died...a true Oklahoma monster.

We sat into the parking lot of the casino until the tornado started to occlude into the wrapping rain curtains, then we left and headed east. We spent the rest of the day try to reposition to get another tornado, but didn't have any luck...still, the video/pictures that we captured made it a chase for the ages. Best tornado of my career, and just an absolutely amazing monster.

And, the chase wasn't over...

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