I arrived in Oklahoma City late Friday night on May 18th and drove to Wichita Falls, Texas to spend the night. I prefer a longer drive at night to be closer to the target area for the next day. On May 19th, the forecast was difficult. There was an old frontal boundary across Texas and extensive cloud cover which would decrease heating and instability. I initially targeted Childress but changed my forecast and headed toward Turkey, Texas. Visibility was poor due to the clouds. This would be a marginal chase day. In Turkey, I went to the library to check weather data but they were closed. While checking my maps in the parking lot, Dave Hoadley dropped by, also looking for library data. Dave is one of the first storm chasers and a fellow Virginian. He was very nice and invited me to tag along. We headed south on Route 70 toward Matador, stopping occasionally to observe the clouds. Dave chased storms before the internet, cell phones and easy access to weather data and he still relies mainly on visual cues. This was the first year he had a cell phone. While waiting for storms to develop, Dave (1V) discussed storm chase tactics and pointed out many features in the sky that I never would have noticed. (Thanks Dave!). By 2:20PM, we encountered some light rain 16 miles north of Matador. There were some scattered cumulus which was likely an outflow boundary from a storm far to the north. Visibility was still very poor and any cloud structure faded into the white background of an overcast sky. We headed back to Childress and then south on Route 62/83 to position ourselves to watch a growing linear storm (2V). Dave and I watched the storm (3V) develop and move toward our location at approximately 5PM. Dave decided to head south while I spent more time watching and photographing the storm (4V). Since there was a strong possibility of tornadic storms in eastern Oklahoma on May 20th, I decided to head back to Norman, Oklahoma. Along the way, I encountered a mushy storm with small hail south-west of Altus, Oklahoma. The storm structure was not impressive, but it produced several awesome CG's (cloud to ground lightning pic #1 (5V) and pic #2 (6V)) strikes near my position. The CG's came out of the white hail core. Although the chase was marginal, I did have the opportunity to meet and spend time with one of the founding fathers of storm chasing. A great learning experience. This was a nice start to a chase week on the Great Plains.
Next Page: May 20, 2001
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