Mangum, OK Tornado

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Storm Chase Details

Chase Date: May 20, 2019
Chase Partners:
Lorraine Matti, Mike Holcomb, Jack Dimpsey

Chasers Encountered:
Zach Wienhoff, Colby Ward, OU RAXPOL

Miles Logged: 467
States Chased: OK
Tornadoes Witnessed: 1
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks

Chase Recap:

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.

As most of you know, 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 produce, but most people were targeting out there, and the greatest probabilities of tornadoes (30 then 45% hatched) were in western Oklahoma. 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 was too far behind that and stuck around the Carnegie/Fort Cobb/Anadarko area waiting on anything.

At some point in the afternoon it became very obvious to me that the eastern target was going to bust, and so I meandered west on SH-9 to get the storm that everyone, their brother and their dog was on coming out of Texas near Childress. There was two main updrafts as it crossed the Red River as we kind of closed in near Mountain View/Gotebo/Hobart. I could also tell the updrafts seemed to be congealing per radar, and it would place us in the Mangum area around the time the storm should ramp up, if it did.

We continued to Lone Wolf as the storm continued to mature with a single updraft, and started to even get that look on radar. From what I understand, many chasers were left without data (probably clogged cell towers) 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/Quartz Mountain.

I got a great view of the base as we approached Mangum, and I could tell it was in the process of wrapping up, with RFD cutting in, so we dropped south on OK-34 and then west on the 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, got out of the car and took a leak. About the time I was finishing my business, the funnel appeared and it came down. 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 and then hurried north and east on 34 into Mangum. The plan was to get on the north side of Mangum and watch the tornado which I assumed would be still to the west of 283, but I made a navigation mistake in town and then headed west on County Road 1470 to make a close pass as it came into town. This turned out to be OK because the tornado was coming more easterly than I anticipated, and we were able to get really close and then 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.

It was obvious at this point the cold front had caught up, and the storms were being undercut. We pulled the plug about 10 miles north of Hobart and decided to head back to Norman victorious, eating steak at Outback.