May 27, 2001
The SPC had moderate risk out for most of Oklahoma, parts of SW Kansas and the Texas Panhandle. My chase partner Doug Marzean and his wife (her first time chasing) headed northwest to Woodward. At Woodward, there were only a few cumulus clouds, but it was about 88 degrees and very muggy. We were beginning to wonder if anything was going to happen. Storms had fired up in west central Kansas moving SE, but they were still hours away from us. We decided to head up US 183 to Buffalo. From there we could go east toward Alva since there had been some storms east of us earlier. We had just about decided to turn around and head home because we thought the storms in Kansas were still too far away and it was about a 3 hour drive home, when lightning kicked me off the connection between my cell phone and laptop. We thought since we've come this far, maybe we could at least get some lightning shots. We headed north on US 183 to the Kansas state line. We stopped at a rest stop and as we got out I noticed mammatus clouds above our heads. I figured maybe the storms are closer than we think.
I confirmed with our nowcasting partner, Philip Flory, and he said the storm north of us in Carter County, Kansas was intensifying.
We then saw what looked like a funnel from a wall cloud to our NW. It was hazy and still a good distance away and hard to tell. Whatever it was it came down several times. This peaked our interest, so we sat and watched. As we sat there, another lowering began to appear to our north. It would organize, lower, then lift, then organize and lower again. It was a derecho with some circulation on the front edge. It still maintained that wall cloud look with small appendages that looked like funnels/shelfnados appearing every now and then as it moved closer. Here are the pictures.
We headed south back to the town of Buffalo trying to stay ahead of it. We stopped at a convenience store there and met Tim Marshall and Carson Eads, gassing up their vehicle. We continued SE through Ft. Supply and Woodward. Five minutes after leaving Ft. Supply, a circulation was reported there by spotters. The storm gained on us as we passed through Woodward. The gust front hit with lots of dust and rain. We hit Hwy 34 and headed south trying to stay ahead of it. We had the original supercell to our NE, which spotters said had a strong circulation in it at Mooreland.
As we passed through Vici, we heard a report of a severe storm capable of producing a tornado approaching Vici. (This is the second time I have passed through Vici this year, both times a tornado warning was issued at the same time I passed through the town.) The supercell to our NW was catching up to us. I thought these storms were only moving 35 to 40mph and we were doing 70, but they were still catching us. The lightning was incredible. We saw numerous CG's out in front of us and all around us. There was so much static electricity in the air, even after unhooking the radios from the antennas, the antenna line was just sparking like a spark plug in a car. Needless to say, we didn't leave the antennas on the roof very long.
We finally arrived at Elk City, hoping to take I-40 back to OKC. We made a quick stop at Love's and left. As we were leaving and after making a wrong turn, we finally headed east to OKC. About that time the rain and wind hit. The power went out in Elk City and I guess everywhere else also because we didn't see any lights, except emergency lights in any towns along I-40 until we got back to Yukon, some 90 miles later.
We decided to pull over and wait it out under an overpass. It didn't seem to bad and people still were going by us, so we continued on. We didn't get but about a mile down the road before we started getting hit with dime size hail. We pulled over again to wait it out. We continued on still with strong northerly then easterly winds and rain. Between Elk City and Clinton, we saw 3 semi-trucks flipped over by the wind. We saw another semi-truck flipped over just east of Weatherford. From there we had the best lightning show you ever saw. If it hadn't been so late we would have stopped to take pictures. Doug tried to take pictures of the lightning.
We didn't see any tornadoes, but we saw just about everything else, wind, hail, rain, lightning, gust fronts, shelf clouds, wall clouds, mammatus clouds. We had a quite a ride.