While a busy chase as a whole it actually ended up being one of the shortest distance-wise in a long time. Paige and I left Norman, Oklahoma just before noon and met several other storm chasers at a Loves travel stop in Medicine Park, Oklahoma. The Wichita Mountain Wildlife Preserve sits a few miles west of town and is a great stop for those who are traveling in the region. After siting in Medicine Park for around 45 minutes we decided that a shift west was in the best interest of seeing storms. We took 44 a few miles south to Lawton and took 62 west to Snyder, Oklahoma. The town was devoid of chasers when we arrived but over the course of the next hour at least a dozen chasers showed up at various times. A storm popped up on radar south Vernon, TX which started to lure the chasers south in groves. Having dealt with a similar chase the previous year we elected to remain in Snyder to ensure no storms formed north of the river or just to our east along a boundary. The storm near Vernon continued to organize and no activity near our position was making me antsy. Eventually we decided to head south towards Manitou, Oklahoma to get in a better position to intercept the Vernon storm as it moved northeast towards Tipton. We slowly progressed south still not sure this was going to be the storm of the day. An organizing low-level circulation on radar made the decision for us while we were en-route to Manitou. Once in Manitou we headed west on a highway to Tipton, OK – the same one I used to intercept a tornado at close range on November 7, 2011. We filled the car up in Tipton and headed south out of town on Highway 6 a few miles to west of Fredrick. At that point we finally got in a viewing position of the supercell approaching Elmer, OK to our west/southwest. The storm was high-based but exhibited decent supercell structure. It was working on developing occasional wall clouds. Right as the storm started getting close enough to make us reposition it began to develop a more organized wall cloud just to the southwest of Tipton. Roads between Tipton, Manitou, Fredrick, and the Red River are few and far between. We had to go back south to near the Red River to take a paved road east towards Fredrick. Back to our northwest the wall cloud was looking like it was about to produce a tornado. In order to get decent viewing of said wall cloud we took a gravel road north a few miles. It was at this point we were closest to seeing a tornado with what I would consider a funnel cloud half way to the ground. The rear flank downdraft swept around and cut off the circulation which signaled us to start moving east. We took a horrible gravel road that had been destroyed by flash flooding a few weeks prior. There were huge drop-offs in the road which made driving slow and tedious. Eventually we got back to the main north/south highway north of Fredrick, OK. By this point the storm continued to produce transient wall clouds – partially wrapped in rain. We moved north to and east of Snyder with the storm on our tail to the west/southwest. Just east of Snyder the storm produced a second strongly rotating wall cloud which we stopped to film for a few minutes. After that the storm became outflow dominant but contained a huge hail core. It was by this point reports out of Tipton to Snyder indicated some hailstones were almost the size of grapefruits – definitely not the kind of hail I want pounding my new car. We made it through the Wichita Mountains Wildfire Preserve which is a road-less abbess with mountains. The storm remained outflow dominant as we tracked it to Anadarko. We continued east to Chickasha, OK and headed home to Norman. A few elevated supercells had fired up on I-35 and provided a sweet view as we pulled into Norman. If the supercells were surface-based there would have been real concern that my apartment might not be in the same place I left it. Luckily that tornado threat didn’t materialize – at least for a few more days.
- Storm Chasing