2024-03-24 REPORTS: TX/OK/KS/NE

Randy Jennings

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Between having a prior commitment that kept me in Plano TX until 2 PM and model after model that showed dry dewpoints, very little CAPE, and zero analogs, we almost didn't chase this event. But we were itching to chase and the models did show some amazing hodos, sheer, and SRH so we did - and boy am I glad we did.

I'm having keyboard problems, so for now I will just say we ended up south of Electra TX near the intersection of TX 25 and FM 367 about 5 PM. After watching a cell for about 30 minutes in produced a tornado to our west. Here is the video. I will try to do a longer writeup another day.

 
I left KC for the Alva Oklahoma area at 9:30 am but as I drove I realized I was going to have to go quite a bit further SW. I ended up just west of Elk City on the storm everyone was on. It ramped up nicely and had a persistent funnel on it for 15 minutes or so I would guess.
 

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NWS Norman posted they were looking for any info on a possible tornado that happened in NE Clay County TX or SW Jefferson Co OK. That reminded me that I need to go back and check my video from the Terrel OK to Ryan OK area because we did think we saw something there. I can't 100% say this was a tornado, but I have to say it sure looks like it. Taken at 7:42 PM on 3-24-2024 looking northwest from Hwy 81 and E2135 Rd north of Terral OK. Right after the RFD wrapped around the inflow went from impressive to almost nothing.

 
I hadn’t planned to chase this day at all seeing as I was travelling back home to Altus, OK from a work trip. I started the day with a cancelled flight from Montgomery, AL to DFW. I ended up rebooked on a flight to Charlotte, and while sitting there eating an overpriced slice of airport pizza, waiting on my flight from Charlotte to OKC, I decided to take a look at the models again, and figured what the heck! I had no camera or anything with me, but my car was waiting for me in OKC, and I had to drive back to Altus anyway, so why not squeeze a chase in there too?

After travelling all day, I had no desire to go away from home, so I passed on the N OK/ S KS target and started off down I-44 towards Lawton, hoping for something to materialize from the relatively longshot option to the SW. Once in Lawton, I checked radar and saw some storms firing from the eastern TX panhandle down through Childress and points southward, where one storm appeared to be doing a bit better than the rest. There were some warnings along the TX/OK border near I-40 at this point, but again my ultimate goal was still Altus, so I kept heading west along US-62. At the US-62/US-183 junction near Snyder, OK, I stopped again to check radar. Established storm to the SW? Or raggedy line towards home? I made a gut decision and started heading south on US-183 towards Frederick, OK.

My target was continuing to persist and was showing occasional signs of strengthening as I made my way south. I hit US-287 in Oklaunion, TX, and could see the storm off to my SW. At this stage I was debating whether I wanted to head east on US-287 to near Electra and south on TX-25, or west towards Vernon to take US-183/283 south from there. My concerns with the first option were with how inconsistent the other cells that day had been. Looking decent one minute, then ragged and falling apart the next. The storm was looking decent now, and trending better, and I didn’t want to risk missing anything by heading farther away. On the other hand, my second option would require me to take a chance on not getting south of the storm’s path before it got to the highway, thus putting me at potentially increased risk should I lose situational awareness. As @Randy Jennings showed with his above report, option one along TX-25 would have likely netted me a tornado as well, but I chose option two.

I headed to Vernon and pushed south. Luckily, I was able to get into position on the storm with little drama aside from some rain and small hail. I pulled over pretty much right at the Wilbarger/Baylor County line, just a few miles north of Lake Kemp along US-183/283. I got there right before 5:30pm, just in time to FINALLY see my FIRST supercellular tornado! I snapped a couple photos and a short video, and then put my phone down and just took it all in. That is until the RFD wrapped around, schwacking me with a burst of rain and hail. I retreated to the car, and as the circulation crossed the road to my north, the tornado appeared to have lifted, but there was still a persistent funnel, and then I lost it against the murky backdrop to my east. I hung around for a few more minutes and then headed home.

For those who have read my chase reports from years past, you are likely familiar with the, at times, baffling lack of tornadoes under my belt. For reference, my first chase was in Dixie Alley as a teenager in 2008, and I’ve been chasing off and on when I could ever since. To be clear, my lack of success has been mostly self inflicted, but even a blind squirrel should find a nut more often than this, right? Just last year alone some of the near misses and shoulda beens were: the 19 April Cole, OK EF3 when I was in perfect position on the storm when it was near Chickasha and then made a wrong turn; the 11 May central Oklahoma event where I saw several funnels, but none of the tornadoes that were to my north; 12 June near Brady, TX with a beautiful tornado warned supercell that just refused to take the last step; and 21 June when I got out of position and wound up only a few minutes behind the Matador, TX EF3, but never saw it. You can find the details of each of those failures in their respective REPORTS threads. They weren’t all doom and gloom, and I feel I made a solid effort to learn from each of them and find the silver linings when I could.

I realize I’m likely being a bit dramatic over what will likely go down as nothing more than an insignificant EFU, but after all these years, after all the miles driven and after all the disappointments, I finally got one. On the drive back, once the adrenaline of the moment had worn off and realization sunk in, I pulled over to look at the few photos and the one video I had, and I cried. I have an incredibly busy spring with work and medical stuff, so chase opportunities may be rare for me this year, but wow what a way to start off my 2024 chase season!

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