April 15, 2000

Dramatic Sights and a Tail End Charlie

Chase Account by: Scott Blair


Chase Team: Scott Blair, Jason Politte, Eric Nguyen, Dan Horenstein.
Later met up with: Geoffrey Calhoun, Chris Sokol.

Well, we had a long and productive chase day on Saturday, April 15. Jason Politte and myself left Little Rock, AR at 5am Saturday. After forecasting for many hours the night before and early this morning, our original target area was near the Altus, OK vicinity. The main concern for supercells was the lack of deep moisture and the cap strength. Linear convection was also a concern. Skies were cloudy and temperatures were cool for the majority of the drive to OKC. Listening to weather data across rest of Oklahoma continued the trend of cloudy and cool. We were quite concerned about the lack of surface heating as this would not help the situation. We met up with Eric Nguyen and Dan Horenstein at 10:50am in Norman. We took I-44 heading towards Lawton, OK. Skies were slowly clearing across the area, boosting temps into the 70's. The dewpoint sustained at 59. We stopped briefly to gather weather data in Lawton. Looking at the RUC and a few satelitte pics, we decided to set up in Frederick, OK.

After meeting some nice police folks in Frederick, we headed south of town and pulled off to watch the sky. Before 4pm, we noticed rapidly developing towers just to the west of Harmon County. After deciding to target this storm, we took a maze of turns along Hwy5 and Hwy283 north to Altus. This storm was clearly isolated from any other strong convection. SPC issued a severe t-storm watch for areas of SW OK and NW TX. We pulled off near Duke, OK and watched the storm present supercell characteristics. By 4:30pm, the storm produced a backsheared anvil with a small overshooting top. A rain free base led to a well defined rain/hail shaft while mammatus covered the underside of the anvil. Geoffrey Calhoun and Chris Sokol pulled off and watched the strong storm with us. Chris decided to head west while Geoffrey stayed with us rest of the chase. The storm's low level features became striated with the increasingly vivid mammatus clouds overhead. Some rapidly developing scud appeared under the rain free base. This exhibited rapid upward motion with slight rotation. We decided to push slightly closer to get a better look. After watching this storm for some time, it unfortunately became incorporated into the developing squall line. The squall brought a beautiful layered shelf cloud but ended any significant tornado potential with the storm. Knowing this storm was now linear, we decided to head south across the Red River into Texas.

We dropped south on a terrible dirt road to Hwy6 to Quanah, TX. The Tail End Charlie was now our target storm for rest of the day. We took Hwy287 heading towards Vernon, TX. We stopped along the way for some great photo shots of the shelf cloud. After taking a few pictures and video, we dropped south on Hwy183/283. Vivid mammatus still covered a large area of the anvil with a nice shelf cloud to the NW. Tail End's rain free base and updraft was visible a few miles south of Vernon. It was clear this was the storm of the day. The end of the shelf cloud from the previous storm merged with Charlie and wrapped around into the Tail End Charlie storm. Leap frog was the desired method of staying with this storm as the gust front was moving south at a decent pace. For many miles, we were forced to bump south to stay ahead of the outflow and shelf, but the sights were dramatic to say the least. One of the biggest highlights came as a three layered shelf wrapped around Charlie with a golden sky. The storm appeared to have trouble organizing a strong updraft. Precip appeared to intrude frequently into the center of the updraft.

Shortly before sunset, the rain/hail shaft turned into golden curtains as the ominous shelf cloud finally neared our location. Outflow winds gusted briefly near 50mph. Plenty of interesting and dramatic photo opportunities were available during this period. We took Hwy82 eastbound to grab dinner in Wichita Falls. This meant we had to approach some rough looking weather. Reports at this time were coming in with 3 inch hail. Luckily, we ended up with a few pea size hail pellets and brief heavy rain. We ended the chase day in Wichita Falls at the local Pizza Hut. This was certainly one of the best chase days so far this season in 2000! Total miles: 1,350.