Storm Chase May 16, 2016: Felt, Oklahoma Tornado




chase images,log, video links by William T. Hark, M.D. Video (HD) and pictures available for licensing. Click on images to enlarge


Time-Lapse Video of Felt, Oklahoma tornado


This would be my first Plains chase day of the season and isolated severe weather was expected across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles. There was an approaching trough with decent upper level winds and a strengthening surface low in northern New Mexico. Surface moisture was expected to stream northward and around the low in a narrow band. Eventually, any storms would be undercut by a cold front later that evening. The HRRR and 4km NAM forecast models were showing storm initiation in southeastern Colorado and the storms would tract southeast. My biggest concerns were how far south the convection would occur due to a strong cap and if sufficient moisture would reach my target area.

I left Amarillo and drove northward on 87/287 toward Dumas. I had initially targeted Boise City but then was worried that I might get behind storms forming to my south and west. I shifted my target slightly south to Dalhart, Texas. I could get lunch and proceed northward to Boise City depending on how things evolved. I was also worried that something more isolated would form just north of Amarillo in a better environment assuming the cap did break. By taking my time, I would not be out of position in case something developed to the south. The HRRR did hint at isolated weak development just north of Amarillo and south of my target. I reached Dalhart and it was a muddy mess due to flooding and construction. I waited at a gas station just north of town. Road options to the north and south were limited and many choices would take me back through nasty traffic. I continued waiting. Storms developed in southeastern Colorado and in New Mexico. Which one would become dominant and would any form further south? I used the time to scout back road navigation options around Dalhart. I eventually got a burrito at gas station for a late lunch just as one of the storms in the far northeastern corner of New Mexico. This storm had the highest potential. I blasted northwest on 87 but it would take me too far west. Road options were limited. I did see a small road that goes directly north through the Rita Blanca National Grassland. Would it be paved? It was, and I tuned north on 1879 and then onto 2586. This put me on a perfect intercept spot for the storm. I encountered no cars on almost 30 miles of nice road through barren countryside. I made very good progress and reached 412 in Oklahoma at 4PM. The storm was just to my northwest. I was in perfect viewing position. There was a ragged wall cloud but the storm structure was unimpressive. There was inflow but it was fairly cool. I parked just across 412/56 on a dirt road and watched the storm. It was slowly moving eastward. By 4:16 PM, there was a low contrast inflow band leading toward the wall cloud. At 4:22, there was a more pronounced lowering and notch. By 4:32, there was a possible cone tornado that was extremely difficult to visualize in the murk. Eventually, I shifted a bit east and stopped at the intersection of 56 and NS 9 or N0090 (four miles southwest of Felt, Oklahoma). There was definitely an elephant trunk tornado imbedded in the rain to the northwest at 4:37 PM. At the same time, my XM satellite radar crashed along with losing internet access on my phone. I watched the tornado become more visible as it elongated and “roped-out.” The tornado vanished by 4:43 PM. I continued northeast on 56 trying to stay ahead of the storm that was approaching the road and trying to figure out why my WxWorx kept crashing. I still had no internet or phone data. At the town of Felt, I turned south, then east on E0310 to keep ahead of the storm. I could see a poor contrast cone tornado at 4:59 PM to my east and a new meso developing to northwest. It was rotating rapidly but no tornado. I continued east and then south on 285 skirting the core. My radar, GPS and internet were out. The storm was moving eastward and getting ahead of me. I followed it eastward for a while and then gave up as it was an HP mess. I drove west and could see a distant funnel on another storm at 5:41 PM but I was too far to see the ground circulation. This storm was near Dalhart. The tornado dissipated before I could stop and get video. I decided to head to Amarillo for dinner driving past a small supercell on 87/287 just north of the city. The light from the setting sun was beautiful, but I was having difficulty finding photographic subjects. I also didn't want to get pelted with the hail that was getting larger and larger. There were a few baseballs in the mix. I ended the day with a celebratory dinner at the Big Texan with Chris Kridler and Kathy Velasquez who also intercepted the Felt, Oklahoma tornado.

After much troubleshooting, I eventually determined that my issues with XM were due to wonky power output from the new Impala's cigarette lighter. Adding a surge protector/backup battery was not helpful. I eventually had to get a new rental car.

Driving to target

Love the open road!

Storm visible, 3:50PM

XM Radar, 3:58 PM

Supercell, 4:05PM

4:27 PM

Low-contrast tornado, 4:32 PM

4:38 PM

Tornado, 4:39 PM

Tornado, 4:39 PM

4:40 PM

4:42 PM

4:42 PM

4:42 PM

New tornado, 4:59 PM

Supercell, 5:18 PM

Valero refinery

North of Amarillo

Hail core north of Amarillo

All images Copyright 2015 William T. Hark