Chase Date: May 6, 2015
Jon Stone, Adam Reagan, Alec Scholten, Jeremy Jones, Stephen Jones
Miles Logged: 221
States Chased: OK
Tornadoes Witnessed: 6
Largest Hail Encountered: 1.5"
Highest Wind Encountered: 90MPH
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks
What a day, and one of the best chase days of 2015. I had planned to chase, but was not expecting the setup to be so close to home. The original hope was to leave around 4pm from Norman and head southwest. Luckily, the forecast was a bit easier. The first tornado warning came out while I was still at work around 3pm.
Heading out to chase
So off I went down the turnpike to Chickasha. Exiting the highway and heading west, I got on the first storm of the day west of town. Multiple wall clouds and occlusions were observed, but nothing seemed like it would produce. The storm never seemed to fully wrap up, and a tornado never seemed imminent.
As I navigated through the mostly gridded roads, I followed the storm for approximately an hour. The storm seemingly became more organized, and I watched multiple cycles of a very healthy wall cloud. I was convinced multiple times that we’d have a large tornado shortly. It took until the storm was near I-44 in Amber to finally produce.
Amber, Oklahoma Tornado
I was on an overpass over I-44 looking to the west at a decent wall cloud. Motion was picking up, so I decided to get a little closer. A closer look I got, as I found myself under the wall cloud looking at a tornado in the field. What did I do? I drove closer. The overall motion overhead made me think twice about being so close.
Bridge Creek, Oklahoma Tornado
I positioned myself on the opposite side of I-44 after a short jog east. I was closer to Blanchard and had a good east escape route. A much bigger tornado started to form near I-44. Unfortunately, I misjudged the storm motion, and thought it was moving more easterly. I re-positioned for a better view, however I was just driving away from the tornado. I ended up on the overpass of the Norman spur turnpike just east of the tollbooths. I was worried I was on the path, so I continued north towards Newcastle.
I got a glimpse of a large wedge tornado with a large front ‘moustache’ inflow cloud in front of it almost like a cow catcher. Motion was almost due north at this point, so I took US-277 north towards Newcastle Casino. I decided that the best way across the Canadian river would be to cross on I-44 then go to 149th. This means I would not be stuck in the path should I go east and cross on I-35.
So I took I-44 to 149th and circled back around to the west side of Norman. The storm was coming over the river and into west Norman. A cone tornado was reported, but I never saw anything that would make me think there was a tornado.
Norman, Oklahoma Tornado
I went down Robinson to 36th and then to Rock Creek and stopped on the bridge over I-35 for a vantage point and seemed to see a tornado to my SW, but I was also becoming concerned about rotation just to my west and even northwest. I headed to 24th and made a left to go north. I saw a funnel cloud to the west just on the other side of I-35 near 36th ave.
Up to Tecumseh road I headed back west to I-35 where the tornado definitely touched down right in front of me and brought the power lines down with it. I thought it was moving more east again instead of north and turned around and bailed so I didn’t get hit.
Over to Flood I stopped in the right lane and watched inflow into the tornado pick up multiple times as it strengthened. I assume pressure was rising and falling rapidly as it’d calm down a lot and then pick right back up with estimated 70-80 mph winds.
I continued down Tecumseh to Porter and then north to 34th SE in Moore. I went around Lake Stanley Draper before losing all visuals and heading back west on I-240 to catch the next storm that had fired where that one originally had down in Grady County. A large cone tornado was reported as I crossed the south side of Oklahoma City and headed down I-44 again. I got off at OK-37 which turned out to be a good idea since I-44 was screwed up from the first tornado with debris everywhere.
I took OK-37 over to Tuttle and then south on 92 and did it all over again, following the storm from near Amber back to Bridge Creek. I witnessed at least one more tornado before nightfall and had some scary situations with rapidly flooding roads and hydroplaning and then bailing into the core again later near Tuttle on SH-4 and having things wrap up over me with very strong inflow.
I eventually headed back to Norman, giving up on the storms. One more significant tornado happened up along I-35 between I-40 and I-240 in Oklahoma City, but it was well after dark, and given the amount of flooding, I didn’t feel comfortable staying out.