The first chase of my 2010 storm chase season ended up starting out gloomy. This chase revolved around the chance for a cold-core setup in Northwest Oklahoma. Temperatures and dewpoints were comparably cool because the upper levels of the atmosphere were also quite cold. Even though surface temperatures were in the 60s there was a decent amount of instablity in place. I won’t go into detail here about cold-core setups here but you can learn more about them here. The whole day was extremely conditional and I had bet on it busting. A line of strong to marginally severe storms was in progress across the Big Country into Northwest Texas and Southwest Oklahoma. Considering we needed to go through the line to get to the target area we elected to intercept the strongest storm. It was around 11 in the morning and radar was indicating some weak rotation. Wind shear and the overall dynamics were very strong but instablity values were marginal in the region. The storm tried hard to produce a tornado and it looked like it might for a minute before it rapidly moved east/northeast. We attempted to keep up with it for about 30 minutes before letting it go.
Remember when I mentioned that I was betting on the day’s chase busting? The cold-core tornado setup has many factors needed. Ninety percent of the time that won’t happen. You’ll get a photogenic storm or two for a few hours before sunset. When a cold-core tornado event does occur they tend to occur in the early afternoon compared to later on in the day for most other chasable events. Taking the time to chase the late-morning convection put us badly out of position and on time for the afternoon event. Conditions did come together around Hammon, Oklahoma that afternoon. A low-topped supercell developed which was able to tap into the impressive windshear. A long-track, strong tornado occurred for 40 minutes between 5:20 PM and 6 PM striking several homes. At the same time we were booking it north on Highway 183 in western Oklahoma. Eventually we made it north of Clinton, Oklahoma and got the occasional peak of the tornado in the distance. Around Putnam, Oklahoma we pulled off the side of Highway 183 with a tornado in progress in the distance to our west. It only lasted seconds before it dissipated. A second brief tornado occurred a few minutes later. Finally as the sun was setting the storm weakened and was no longer tornadic. We had missed one of the few recorded significant/long-track tornadoes produced by a cold-core event by 45 minutes because we were playing with garbage storms a few hours earlier. Still at least we witnessed two brief tornadoes before the storm weakened.