2024-05-23 REPORTS: OK

Jun 4, 2018
Altus, OK
I left Altus, OK at around 430pm and decided to head west on US-62 towards Hollis, OK. At the time there were two established cells, one just south of Erick and the one I was heading towards near Hollis. There was also a 3rd, newer cell near Childress that was just getting going. The storm close to Hollis appeared to be the healthiest as I was heading west, so I decided to stay on it.

As the storm slowly pushed east, it made a few valiant attempts at tightening up, though nothing ever fully materialized. As this was happening, the cell from Childress had strengthened and begun moving northeast, pinching me between the storms in the process. I backed off east to the town of Duke and reevaluated. The cells were merging, with what appeared to be a new meso getting itself together to my southwest. I took OK-34 south to the junction with OK-6, and then down to Eldorado for a clearer view. Around this time I noticed the inflow into the storm was really starting to ramp up, which unfortunately began kicking up what seemed to me to be every piece of dust within several miles, thus obscuring any view I might have had under the approaching meso.


I decided to push back up OK-6 to OK-34 again. After going about a half mile north on OK-34, I was finally able to get a look. There was an obvious, though low contrast, lowering to my northwest. As it moved closer I realized it wasn’t just a lowering, but a tornado! As it moved closer still, I was somewhat surprised to see that it was not even just a tornado, but a large, multi-vortex tornado! I photographed it for several minutes, until it began getting a little too close for comfort.




Judging by the lack of significant left or right movement, I figured it was likely that the tornado was moving directly at me, so I moved south back to the intersection with OK-6, where I recorded the below video as the tornado approached and crossed OK-34. Unfortunately the wind was blowing directly into the microphone, so you can’t hear the roar of the tornado, but I definitely could in person.




This is what it looked like on radar around the time of the above three photos.

After giving it a few minutes to clear the road, I tentatively pushed back north and was treated to a high contrast view of the now stovepipe tornado as it moved off to my northeast.


I eventually lost it as it became rain wrapped. I moved a little further north and came across the damage path, which was marked mostly by snapped power poles. This ended up marking the end of the chase for me, primarily due to the road network in the area. OK-6 normally runs all the way north past OK-34 until it meets up with US-62 just outside of Altus, however the highway is closed between OK-34 and Olustee, OK. The detour route is to follow US-62 to OK-34 and then around to OK-6. With the storm becoming rain wrapped, and the only reasonable way home blocked by hailcores, I hung around waiting for things to clear up. In the meantime, the storm took a turn towards Altus, where luckily there doesn’t appear to be any significant damage. On my way I did come across more damage where it appears the tornado crossed US-62 between Duke and Altus. The west side of town didn’t have power when I got back, and there was some pretty significant street flooding along US-62 just outside of town. When I got back to my house, the surprises weren’t done yet. My rain gauge was showing 3.7” of rain had fallen at my house AND there was still a pile of hail in the corner of my patio, even though it had been close to an hour since the storm went through!

This chase season really has been my year, with today bringing my total for the year to 5 tornadoes. It has also been full of firsts. The firsts for this day include my first multi-vortex tornado, as well as the first time I had ever been close enough to hear the roar. I know many of you have heard that sound several times before, so I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say that other people’s videos don’t do it justice. You really do have to be there to fully experience what it is like. I know I keep going on and on, but it was just such a cool moment for me! I went into this chase not expecting much of anything except maybe some structure, but I ended up snagging the top tornado of my (admittedly) rather uneventful career! See y'all on the next one!

EDIT: I wrote all of the above between midnight and 2am, so I changed the final image to the photo I had originally intended to post, cleaned up some typos, etc.

I also wanted to take a minute to talk about the chaser convergence. It was pretty bad based on the sheer number of chasers alone. Limited space along the sides of the road, road closures in the area complicating things, plus the road grid in that area being mostly dirt rather than better maintained gravel I'm sure didn't help. Having said all of that, the only signficant issue I personally ran into was when I decided to move back south to give the tornado some more room. Several other folks made the decision to move at about the same time and I had to wait about 10-15 seconds for an opening to pull back on the road. Nobody was being erratic where I was, it was just congested. In this case it wasn't a big deal, and to my knowledge no chasers were impacted (at least none that weren't trying to be impacted). Had the storm been moving faster though, or perhaps shifted MAYBE a half mile south and pinched everyone against the road closure, it would have been a disaster for that many people to all try and escape simultaneously. In hindsight, it really wasn't a great place to be, even though it all worked out this time. I think my familiarity with the local roads may have made me overly confident. In the future, I should really keep in mind that road network familiarity doesn't mean a thing if traffic is at a stand still on the only paved escape route.
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That makes tornado #7 for me. I came into Altus just too late to feel safe trying to get to OK-34, so I took OK-6 south to Olustee and figured it out from there. As a fairly risk-averse chaser, I tried to stay fully south of the hail core's path. When the tornado was at its most visible for me, it was 13 miles away and could've been easily missed if I wasn't paying attention. I got a few nice shots of the cone, as well as one shot focusing on the structure. I don't know what this specific sort of mesocyclone appearance is called, certainly not stacked plates, but I associate this look with 3CAPE bombs.


I usually wouldn't set my contrast so high, but it's what I needed to do to bring out the tornado enough to be visible. Might try to make a few adjustments to tone down the grass's brightness before I try to make any prints of it.
Blue-sky bust in Dodge City for me. I wanted to be able to get back to St. Louis for Friday's setup. I feared that the cap would squash the Oklahoma storm before it could get going per CAM guidance. Those two factors conspired to keep me on the SW Kansas target despite tons of evidence that it was going to bust (Iowa State special sounding, diminishing cumulus, model consensus on increasing cap temps). Had it not been for my home target bias and fear of missing a big event there, I would have headed down to Oklahoma and taken a down day in OKC on Friday to get my needed transmission fluid change. Instead, I'm doing that in Columbia, Missouri this morning on four hours' sleep and will be in St. Louis this afternoon for the almost certainly-to-be-garbage storms.

My home target bias is irrational and has cost me many good Plains events. It's the sunk cost fallacy that makes me keep doing it, that fear that the one time I don't, I'm going to miss something incredible. The Midwest is like that: failing to produce on the days it looks like it will, and defying the marginal days to rip your heart out on a day you weren't looking or turned your back on it. I need to get over that so I don't miss more events like yesterday. I'm going to miss that epic storm in St. Louis no matter what i do, so I need to just not let it make me miss stuff in the Plains any more,

This is the only photo I took of the last gasps of the cumulus field at Cimarron, KS, at the exact time the Eldorado, OK tornado was ongoing.

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Basically on the storm from birth just west of Hollis and stayed with it as it made its way toward Altus. Almost missed out when I ran out of pavement and the only road options were glorified ruts. Backtracked to Highway 5 and made my way down and caught it. Murphy's Law took effect when the only Highway that would have took you up to its doorstep northeast of Eldorado was closed due to construction. Good ol' Oklahoma.

Looking at the tornado from the notch raised our level of attention, especially with further east movement, while the tornado might translate back into the parent storm on a typical left curve (which it clearly did, see photos how the main cone came back up to east of our road). Hail params like VIL looked OK to just stay put and let the thin hook from the west pass over us at the paved road 5 miles north of Hwy 5 and about 2 miles west of Hwy 34, where the photos and video were taken. May 31 '13 was in my mind, the process looked a bit similar.


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Made it to the Hollis-Eldorado storm just in time for the show. Watched tornadogenesis from just to the SE of the incipient multi-vortex circulation around 7:05p. The hordes were out in force, and seeing many of them to my north in a bad spot spooked me out of this spot earlier than I wanted, as I knew they'd all bail S at the last possible second and I'd get cut off if I weren't already moving before then. Oh, late May in Oklahoma in the 2020s.



Lacking AWD/4WD, I had no faith in navigating the dirt grid beyond this point after the RFD would turn them to mud. So for the next 5 minutes, I had to white-knuckle it S and E in bumper-to-bumper traffic on dirt as inflow created near-zero visibility, and was barely able to catch a glance or two during that period. By the time I made it back to OK-6 just E of Eldorado, it was hard to make out a lot of definition behind the very rapidly rotating rain curtains on the S side of what was clearly a large tornado. Quality viewing during this time required being E or NE in the path, which I would've only considered on a good paved road.

The road closure of OK-6 to the E of its intersection with OK-34 was and still is immensely irritating. As if the hordes weren't bad enough in general, we all got bottlenecked there, and it quickly became a lost cause trying to catch up unless you were up for muddin'. I imagine OK-34 just NE beyond that closure would've provided a spectacular, near-optimal view during the peak stovepipe phase, with enough room for many dozens of vehicles to spread out and capture footage even a tier beyond the great stuff many of us got in reality. As it was, I headed N on OK-34 and stopped right at the S end of the damage path there, and was still able to capture the most photogenic period from perhaps 2-3 mi. SW.


Sat in Woodward Oklahoma until about 4PM, once it became clear Kansas wasn’t going to initiate we began heading south to a storm already in progress, arriving at 615pm. We sat south of East Duke Oklahoma and took a side road about a mile west. At 7pm the tornado began and we had an excellent view for its entire cycle!


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May 23 was an absolutely amazing and intense storm chase day. My expectations were not very high. Maybe some pretty storms and gorilla hail to avoid. The Storm Prediction Center had issued a slight risk from central Texas to North Dakota and an area of enhanced risk in Kansas/Nebraska for damaging wind. The tornado risk (5%) extended from central Texas to the South Dakota border. A trough was approaching with strong winds at the mid-levels along with relatively high dewpoints at the surface. Storms were expected to form along the dryline in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. I was starting in Vernon, Texas. I had gotten separated from my friends who were staying about an hour and half west in Childress, Texas. Choosing a target was difficult as the forecast models were being very inconsistent. I actually liked the parameters on the northern part of Oklahoma into Kansas better than further south, but no convection was being shown. Storms were expected to develop to the north in western Oklahoma and further south in Texas. I finally decided to drift north a bit, but stop and wait. I liked the Granite area just north of Altus in western Oklahoma. I had options to go north if necessary. I also liked the spot because it was pretty with fields of golden wheat and mountains. I found a dirt road away from town and waited. By 3:30 PM on a satellite image, there appeared to be development near Shattuck, Oklahoma and Canadian, Texas far to the north. I was tempted, but waited. Cumulus clouds were bubbling all along the dryline. Meanwhile, a couple of small storms were forming west of the little town of Hollis by the Texas border in southwest Oklahoma. That was a forty five minute drive to my west. One cell seemed more dominant. I blasted west through the remnants of towns including Reed and Vinson. More storms were developing in a north-south line. One little one to the north of the 9 and 30 state road intersection was rotating nicely and even had a small shear funnel. It was high-based and the storm would likely be ingested. The storm just west of Hollis, Oklahoma was intensifying. I blasted south as the storm approached from the west. I didn’t want to get cutoff by rain and hail. As I neared Hollis from the north, I could see the whole base of the storm. Nothing too impressive. I parked and waited as the storm slowly intensified and moved eastward to my position. At 4:40, the storm, still high-based. It developed a rotating wallcloud that became a very ragged funnel.The storm was already tornado-warned at this point. Sirens blasted in the town.The circulation briefly tightened. and then fell apart. The storm was about to overtake my position. I turned east in Hollis and followed state road 62. The storm was forming nice inflow features and occasional wall clouds. In the town of Gould, I could see an inflow band wrapping into the storm with a funnel. The rain picked up along with increasing hail. The main area of circulation shifted south of the west-east-road. I had to go east and it was difficult monitoring for tornado development behind me. I would stop every so often to look, but no tornado. Rotation was increasing on radar.I was getting overtaken with rain and hail. I wanted to get in front of the storm to observe the area of rotation. I reached the town of Duke and turned south. Unfortunately, I wasn’t completely free of the hail and rain. The mesocyclone portion of the storm was to the west of the road that extended south from Duke, Oklahoma (state road 34), but my view was obscured by the rain and murky clouds. Gradually, I could make out a wall cloud and storm structure.By 6:40, I had an amazing view of the supercell towering into the sky. The whole storm was visibly rotating. I parked and just sat there in awe. Taking photos was difficult as I was still getting pelted with hail. I took quick shots out the open window. One larger stone flew in and smacked me on the leg leaving a welt. Ouch! I had safety goggles on just in case one broke the windshield. By 7:00 PM, the storm had moved closer and wasn’t as interesting visually. I shifted south a bit. At that point, I was happy. I had great shot sof a beautiful supercell. There was certainly significant motion in a very widewall cloud by 7:05 PM. Due to a low hill and building, part of my view was obscured.I decided to go up the hill to get a better view and discovered the building was hiding a tornado. I had a perfect view of the storm looking west on this dirt road. There were only a few storm chasers around. The tornado was wide, with multiple vortices appearing and disappearing. I shot some great video before having to shoo off a couple of storm chasers that decided to stand right in front of my car blocking the dashcam view. No long after they moved, the Texas Tech folks parked their radar truck right in front of my car. Annoying. The tornado continued to my southwest. Plotting the path, I could get the tornado crossing the road with a northern viewpoint. The Texas Tech folks were starting to pack up, and if I got caught behind them, I would be screwed. I made a dash to the car, and blasted east down the hill and turned south on 34. The tornado was to my southwest. It was amazing with multiple vortices at 7:21 PM. I just watched in total awe as the tornado widened. It was not going to cross the road in front of me. Actually, it had turned and was heading toward me! I backed up and turned north. Once I was safe, I got out and filmed the tornado crossing the road. The tornado was to my southeast. It was becoming a white cone and was stirring up brown dirt. I was getting caught in the RFD with high winds, and I dropped south to get a better view. The tornado was white with a collar cloud and dark background. The entire mesocyclone was visible. It was beautiful. The tornado was to my northeast and moving away. By 7:32, it was fading from view in the rain. I dropped south and meant to follow it to the northeast on state road 6 toward the town of Olustee. The road was closed. There were some dirt roads that I could take, but they appeared to be very sketchy. The chase was over.I later found out that a route was possible, but a large number of stormchasers got stuck and had to be pulled out with a tractor. I drove way out of my way to near Vernon, Texas and then east while the storm was to the north. I couldn’t catch up with it. At that point, I was just enjoying the back side of the storm illuminated by the setting sun. There were some interesting abandoned houses to photograph. I couldn’t get a hotel room in Lawton where my friends had gone for the night. They were east of the storm and the route east was blocked anyway by the storm. I would be staying in Vernon, Texas for another night. I had a wonderful steak dinner and went to bed very tired05232024closeupwhitetornado193125ad.jpg