Friday, April 28, 2006 (Southwest OK-Southeast TX Panhandle, 410 mi.)

Synopsis

An undercutting cold front ruins a potentially good chase day.

Meteorological Background

SPC Convective Outlooks

SPC Watches

SPC Mesoscale Discussions

RUC Analysis at 00 UTC

Storm Reports

Full Account

Easily the most frustrating chase of my freshman year. Coming off the high of the surreal El Reno event earlier this week, I left Norman with Kristina and Brett Wallace around 1:30pm aiming bluntly for far southwest Oklahoma into western North Texas. This was quite an interesting day in terms of coordination between different chasing vehicles, as Bryan Putnam and Trey had left about an hour ahead of us, then a few other freshmen in a separate car about a half-hour after that, leaving us playing catchup. To make things even more interesting, the upperclassmen and grad students who'd been our gracious guides for El Reno had left much earlier than any of us, and they were already out in the southeast Texas Panhandle with poor cell service, meaning no expert advice for us. So it was basically charlatans running amok on the Plains!

As one can imagine with a chase of this distance, a lot transpired throughout the day, but sadly, not much of it had to do with severe weather. We spent nearly two hours on the initial leg of the trip from Norman to Altus, stopped there for data and cell contact with the other freshmen chasers, then continued westward into Childress County, ultimately stopping around 6:00pm in the city of Childress for more data with dark clouds looming to the west. This was the area we'd been targeting after a brief phone conversation with a grad student and the SPC discussions we'd read while stopped in Altus - but as soon as we stopped and I rolled down my window and felt the cool, moist air, my heart sank - the cold front had undercut the storms that were approaching the area. It didn't take long to decide that we may as well do a 180 and begin the long haul back empty-handed, lest we wanted to make it an even later night than it would already be for no good reason.

A little over an hour later, we pulled back into Altus to meet up with the two other freshman cars, who'd had some unexpected issues that kept them from pressing westward during the late afternoon. The storms had largely gone linear at this point, and we watched the squall line roll in from a motel parking lot, experiencing little more than heavy rain and frequent lightning. Nothing too photo-worthy was seen at any point on this chase, thus the lack of pictures.

The drive from Altus to Norman easily became the most memorable part of this day. We brilliantly stopped for dinner at Braum's before departing from Altus, which allowed the squall line to overtake us - meaning we were basically following right under the torrential rain the entire way back! Driving the stretch of US-62 from Altus to Lawton was most harrowing in the pitch black with rain heavy enough to induce significant flash flooding on the roads (hydroplaning anyone?). Things improved somewhat once we got onto I-44 in Lawton, but the rain never did let up too much. To add insult to the injury of a wasted day, when we finally arrived back at the dorms, there were very few parking spaces, so I had to run about 300 yards from my car to the front door of Walker. I think I could probably stand in the shower fully clothed for 20 minutes and still not be as soaked as I was by the time I made it inside.