Chase Date: May 20, 2019
Miles Logged: 467
States Chased: OK
Tornadoes Witnessed: 1
First chase in '16 Camry; First tornado for '16 Camry
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks
May 20th, 2019 was a SPC high risk day. They included Oklahoma in the 45% hatched tornado risk, and PDS tornado watches. I intercepted a very photogenic tornado near Mangum, Oklahoma that evening.
Monday the 20th was a day that stuck out to me multiple days in advance as a really great day in Oklahoma. Classic Oklahoma outbreak type day, with large CAPE, extremely high shear values and SRH that was in the 400-500 range 0-1km. Even at 200+ hours out, the GFS nailed this setup.
This high end setup had something wrong – I believe it might have been low level lapse rates. Nevertheless, my strategy was to stay east and not get far from the OKC Metro/I-44 turnpike. I knew the dryline would probably produce, but didn’t feel I needed to meander far from home. I knew if something went up in theta-e rich air east towards I-44 it would be a crazy storm. In fact, one storm did go up and went through El Reno, Piedmont, and Guthrie and produced tornadoes. I also knew that everyone would be chasing the dryline with the 45% hatched area. I decided to stick around the Carnegie/Fort Cobb/Anadarko area waiting on anything.
By late afternoon, it became very obvious to me that the eastern target was going to bust. So, I decided to meander west on SH-9 to get to the storm that everyone, their brother and their dog was on, coming out of Texas. There were two main updrafts showing in radar as it crossed the Red River. We were closing on the storm near Gotebo. I could also tell the updrafts seemed to be congealing on radar, and it would place us in the Mangum area around the time the storm should be there.
We continued to Lone Wolf as the storm matured into a single updraft. It even started to get that “look” on radar. Many chasers were left without data and couldn’t see through the haze. Approaching from the East/Northeast allowed me to have data and even get a view of the storm as we came across the mountains next to Lake Altus.
Approaching Mangum Storm
I got a great view of the base as we approached Mangum, and I could tell it was in the process of wrapping up. The RFD was cutting in, so we dropped south of Mangum on OK-34. We took the first west paved option south of the Salt Fork of the Red River. I pulled up pretty close to the base and pulled off with no real traffic around me. There was only time to take a quick leak before the storm started to really wrap up. The funnel appeared and it lowered down in a hurry. I could feel the frustration of 2 years without a tornado leaving me as it touched down!
The tornado was pretty close and I knew we needed to get out of there, so I bailed east on that paved road option back to 34. I took a left and hurried north on 34 into Mangum. The plan was to get on the north side of Mangum and watch the tornado on 283. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I made a navigation mistake in town and found myself couple blocks east of 283. I headed west, to 283 and made a right. At the blinker for County Road 1470, I made a left and went west to make a close pass as the tornado came into town. This turned out to be a good call as the tornado was coming more easterly than I anticipated. We were able to drive up really close and watch buildings explode from the pressure and wind!
Back to 283 and north for another close encounter as it crossed the road and hit a house as it was roping out. Things got chaotic as the tornado dissipated, but I ended up on County Road 1460. I took that east until it ended, then bailed south on a dirt road that was in pretty bad shape. We ended up on Highway 6 which was littered with chasers, so I went south to 283, then up highway 44 just like I had come in. Judging by the screenshots I saw of peoples radarscopes with all the dots, everyone else took 6. I was able to get up 44 pretty fast and in front of most. I bailed through Hobart and passed the rest, ending up on 183 almost by myself again.
Cold front undercut our storms
It became obvious the cold front had caught up, and was undercutting the storms. We pulled the plug about 10 miles north of Hobart and decided to head back to Norman victorious, eating steak at Outback.