Nathan Bain
Storm Chase #9 - June 12, 2002


Distance Traveled: 264 miles
Duration: About 5 hours
Areas Covered: Cleveland, Oklahoma, Canadian, Blaine, Kingfisher Counties, OK (see route for details)
Partner: Sarah Laflin


Synopsis:

I got back from a group meeting for my summer class this afternoon and felt like storm chasing (weather was going to be ripe!) By the time I got back, some storms had already fired in Oklahoma, so I became discouraged because I was afraid there wouldn’t be much to see by the time I got up there. I found a friend, Sarah Laflin, and we went anyway. We initially headed towards Watonga because there looked to be a clear slot there on the satellite imagery. The rest of the state was rapidly becoming filled with blow-off from storms. We got there, and there really was a clear slot, but we couldn’t figure out where to go. On a whim, we picked west, but then after seeing 10-15 storm chaser vehicles racing the opposite direction, I felt kinda funny so we turned around.

I never will know what they were going towards, but we never saw them again. Oh well, we were heading east now, so it would be a shorter drive to get back to OU. Sarah couldn’t get a signal on her weather radio, and the country radio stations in this area of OK were totally unbearable, so we did the rest of the storm chase with NO weather information except for what we could see in the sky. We drove all the way to Kingfisher, and then decided to head north because (a) it looked stormy up there and (b) there is a town called Hennessey (similar to Tennessee). We got up there and saw a really nice looking shelf cloud in the sunset, so we headed out to some farming roads to take pictures. Note: this farming road seemed more like a major highway because we saw more vehicles pass by us than in a typical suburban neighborhood. Soon, some ominous looking cloud structures started dropping out of the storm to our north, and since the storm was heading south, we kept a very close eye on them. I have some photographic evidence that the storm was rotating (I later found out that there was, in fact, some very strong rotation at that point... the only strong rotation in the entire state that day! I have yet to find any other chasers who happened to see it). The sky started turning green, so I feared hail. We took a few lightning pictures, but since we were out in a field with no cover, and one of the highest points around, we didn’t stay long for fear of being hit.

Eventually, winds picked up from a different direction and it suddenly got very cool. We were outflowed!! We decided now was as good a time as any to leave, so we did. We headed back to the main road, and then south to get ahead of the storm again. Once we were about 15 miles in front of it, we dropped back west into another field. We also stayed near a town so that if any tornado sirens started going off, we would hear them.

We passed back outside of the outflow boundary, so it was warm again. The storm looked noticeably less organized, and the green tint to the sky was gone, but lightning was picking up so I snapped a few good pictures. Eventually, Sarah and I found ourselves with an electrical storm approaching us on a farm road in the middle of nowhere with it being pitch black (except for the lightning strikes). This freaked both of us out a bit (and we had been outflowed again), so we left.

Southward again! This time to El Reno, near the interstate, so we got cell phone service again. We ate at the only place we could find that was open, Taco Mayo. We tried using Business I-40 to get to I-40, but the signs were missing. We only found some of the turns with a little luck. The drive back to Norman was terrible. While we were eating, the storms passed well in front of us (so we were outflowed a 3rd time!) and we were stuck in torrential rain all the way through the metro back to Norman. I believe my top speed on the interstate was 50 mph.

Later that night, lightning picked up in Norman, so I got a few good shots out my dorm room window. Norman was spared the torrential rains, so when the wind picked up, dust became airborne and lighting took on a yellowish hue.