Chase Date: May 9, 2016
JR Hehnly, Kenneth McCallister, Dick McGowan, Darin Brunin, Tim Marshall, Shanda Hinnant, Alec Scholten
Miles Logged: 336
States Chased: OK
Tornadoes Witnessed: 4
Highest Wind Encountered: 70MPH
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks
These are the kind of chases I live for. Loaded gun sounding, good moisture, great jet over head and dryline storms. The Wynnewood tornado will be one of my favorite and best tornadoes of all time.
Before the Chase
I was apprehensive at first. I expected this day to have a lot of flaws, including storm location (eastern Oklahoma). Early NAM runs were showing a departing 500mb jet, cape in extreme eastern Oklahoma and Western Arkansas. More concerning were the veered 850 winds. By Sunday night and Monday morning it seemed more likely that the dryline may setup west of I-35 and keep storms out of the worst of the terrain. The wind field seemed a bit more cooperative as well.
Analysis from Day Of
As we woke up on the morning of the 9th, it seemed a lot more reasonable that a chase would be in order that afternoon. The trough axis was still lagging out west per 12Z NAM, and no departing jet like had been forecast. By 21Z there should still be 50-60 knots at 500mb over Eastern Oklahoma atop 2000+ J/KG of MLCAPE and respectable SRH numbers in the 100-300 range. Mesoanalysis was showing 350 effective SRH before I left, as well as the special 18Z OUN sounding showing a very “loaded gun” environment.
18Z OUN special sounding today looks loaded-gun ish. fantastic
— Ben Holcomb (@oklahomachaser) May 9, 2016
Hitting the Road
I left work at 1:30 and headed home to pick up Jari. We grabbed a quick lunch at Chipotle before heading down I-35 for a target between Pauls Valley to Ada to Coalgate. I was mostly expecting we’d have to wait for storms to fire off the dryline. I’d expect they’d move a bit east towards Ada before they matured. After chasing 2011-05-21 I know that area is tough to chase but not impossible.
So we headed down I-35, stopping in Pauls Valley to fill up the tank, then headed down to highway 7 which was just due east of where blips had shown up on radar. We ran into Tim Marshall and Alec Scholten at the Chickasaw truck stop right there at the exit. We really didn’t wait long before heading a little west to get a better look at the explosive storm development going on. This would be another day in my chase career I would watch a storm from almost a towering cu to a tornado to upscale growth.
After we headed west on OK-7, we stopped about 4-5 miles west of I-35 and I setup a camera for a time lapse of the building storm to my south. We saw a long-lived funnel out of the mid levels of the storm for almost 5 minutes and a beefy wall cloud to the west of it.
We decided eventually to re-position a bit further north towards the storm, and headed up Meridian Road. The vantage points for the wall cloud were very few, and we ended all the way up on 29 east of Elmore City. We drove up a hill to the water tower 2 miles west where we ran into JR Hehnly and Dan Brown in one car and Dick McGowan and Darin Brunin in another car atop a hill next to the water tower. I had time to pull in and watch the storm split. JR and Dan were still looking to the right wall cloud, I pointed to the left and they looked.
Pretty quickly a tornado came down and JR called it in on the radio (as can be heard in the dashcam footage). Jari and I headed south on N3210 Road to another vantage point a couple miles south. We watched the tornado have snake-y vorticies dancing around for a couple minutes before I decided we should get closer.
We headed south again on N3210 towards E1680, capturing some incredible footage as the tornado came east towards the road and crossing N3210 south of us. We pulled south and just north of where it had crossed and got some great footage before heading back north and east on E1680. We proceeded back down a couple miles to the Meridian Road intersection where the tornado hit structures – what I understand later was a house.
It crossed the road then crossed back south of E1680. We continued closer until we were cut off by debris and had to backtrack to Meridian Rd and north to 17A to get across I-35. The tornado dissipated without me getting another view of it, but Jari was able to see it.
We headed east to US77 in the core with up to golf ball hail falling. I realized quickly the roads east of US77 were garbage, so we had to drop south on 77 and then go left again on OK-7 and make it thru Davis and east to the Sulphur By-pass north to US177.
We did that, and was able to make it north of the wedge that had formed to the south of the last tornado on the same storm. We believe we saw either the beginning of the wedge while dropping south on US 77 or another tornado – either way, we were faced with a wedge north of Sulphur, OK on US177 next to the DOW crew. Howie Bluestein’s RAXPOL truck drove south as well, passing us. They had to avoid the hail and were unable to continue gathering data.
Eventually the rain bands came across the last tree line before us, and I didn’t feel safe. The CSWR DOW truck was still sitting there, scanning, but I decided to bail north to safety and east to setup for another view. We wouldn’t end up getting another view as I took E1650 this time to the town of Roff and sat by the entrance to the Turnpike. The circulation was southwest of me, but I was stuck in rain and it had pulled into the rain, so we continued east through Roff and continued down the paved E1650 route to 377. A tornado emergency had been issued for Roff and I didn’t want to be there if that was in the target.
We got to 377 and had to yet again bail way south due to crappy roads. More tornadoes were reported on new storms to the east, and one down near Wapanucka seemed to be the best storm to go after. So we dropped way south again to OK-7 – an area I had just been in March to go camping on the Blue River. We drove east on 7 and finally caught up with the business end of the storm and got a view near Atoka. Luckily the roads were a little more cooperative and I was able to head NE on US 75 and get another view. We witnessed a nice little cone tornado between Atoka and Stringtown.
Things seemed to go downhill both in terrain and storm intensity just shortly after this, so I decided to call it a day instead of trying to hurry south and see more. All in all a great chase day, one of those “career” chases as people call them. All less than 2 hours from home.