30, 2000 Chase
The forecast called for a moderate risk in NW Texas. My chase partner, Gene Childers, and I headed for Lawton, OK about 2:15. When we got to Lawton, we went west to Altus. On the way to Altus, we crossed through a heavy band of rain along the cold front. Altus had a cool north wind. From there, we headed south to Vernon, TX once again crossing the cold front and another heavier band of rain, this time with quarter size hail.
As we approached Vernon, TX the sky was very dark to the southwest and there was very heavy rain in Vernon. We headed east towards Wichita Falls. About two miles out of Vernon we came out of the rain. To our south was another very heavy rain cell. Here's where it became a little more interesting. To our south we noticed dust being stirred up which we first thought was just smoke from a factory. But as we watched the smoke or dust began to rise into the sky. We realized there was a very strong updraft into this particular cell. The whole cloud was rotating. (see picture).
We pulled over to watch and noticed a very pronounced circulation about a mile to our south. The circulation began to get tighter and tighter as rain began to fall around it. I figured it was about to drop a funnel, but it was going to be rain wrapped. The heavier rain core was getting pretty close and I did not want to be greeted by large hail, so we took off to the east. We had gone no more than a quarter of a mile, before the rain began to hit us. It was coming at us as if we were driving through curtains of rain. It was very unusual.
I sped up to get out of it because we could see just ahead of us it was clear. Just as we were about to get out of it, we were hit with probably a 70 mph gust of wind that almost turned us over. It was quite a jolt. We drove a couple more miles before we stopped again to see what was happening behind us. The storm had become outflow dominated and cut off the circulation. It didn't look nearly as impressive as it had. We headed back home with no tornado pictures, but still had our rush for the day.