Storm Chase May 22 - May 23, 2011: Hail and Tornado


chase images and log by William T. Hark, M.D. Video (HD) and pictures available for licensing


May 22, 2011: Big Hail in Oklahoma

I started the day in Ardmore, Oklahoma. The main target was in the general area of Ardmore. There was another target area toward extreme NW Oklahoma into Kansas and Missouri where the state lines intersect. This was a better target area for tornadic storms but was a long distance and in an area of poor road network and difficult terrain. Although the NWS had a 10% risk for tornadoes, conditions were marginal. The surface winds were southerly or from the southwest rather than southeasterly winds that are favored for tornado development. The upper level winds were fairly weak. Despite these conditions, instability was forecast to be extremely high. I was again chasing with Dave Lewison, Scott McPartland and Canadians: Mark Robinson, Brad Rousseau, Meghan Yeo, Dayna Vettese and Heather Reynolds. Chris Kridler was coming down from Norman. We took our time eating lunch and getting supplies from Wal-Mart. I also used the time to reconfigure my laptop com ports. I finally was able to have tracking and higher resolution GPS mapping using DeLorme instead of relying only on ThreatNet. Our group then waited by the interstate at a gas station for most of the afternoon. It was very hot and muggy. Finally, some storms formed in Texas and were moving into Oklahoma. We headed south and stopped in Marietta to wait for the storms. The Red River goes along the Texas Oklahoma border with limited crossings and we didn't want to get on the wrong side. There was one storm just to our southwest that was showing rotation but then it started to fade. More storms were forming to our west and we decided to head closer in case one would become tornadic. This storm along with others kept splitting into multiple smaller storms.We headed west on 32 and the storm died as we approached. We crossed the path of the storm and found 3 and 1/2 inch hail scattered across the ground near Lone Grove, Oklahoma. Some trees were shredded and we saw many cars with broken windows. That 3 1/2 inch hail had been laying on the ground in the sun for over 30 minutes before we arrived. It was probably originally softball or baseball sized. Back at the interstate, everyone wanted to sample the hail in a larger storm to the south. Since tornadic potential was low, I decided to go to Norman and wait for the rest of the group. I wanted to go to bed early and be rested for a possible two day tornado outbreak. The rest of the crew arrived later that evening and we had a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant. By then, we were hearing reports of the devastating tornado in Joplin. Jason Persoff and Robert Balogh chose the Kansas target since they were already in the area, and they chased along with Charles Edwards and Cloud 9 Tours. Jason and Robert were just behind the Joplin tornado and helped take victims to safety and as physicians, they helped in a mobile triage center since the hospital was destroyed. Charles Edwards and Cloud 9 Tours stopped their chase and helped with storm victims.

Breakfast in Ardmore, OK

Scott and Mark answering weather
questions while waiting for initiation
in Ardmore, OK

Hair clip fight to pass the time
while waiting for storm development

5PM radar image showing
splitting storms

Love big hail! Lone Grove, OK

Lone Grove, OK

Local resident's car after big hail

View of storms from Norman, OK


May 23, 2011: Tornado Near Okeene, Okahoma

Although May 24th was an expected tornado outbreak day, May 23rd also had potential for severe storms including tornadoes. There was a shortwave trough across West Texas and significant heating in central Oklahoma and into Kansas. The predicted CAPE values were over 4000 and surface winds would be backed. The area near an old outflow boundary would be the best area for storm development. I was concerned about weak mid-level winds but hopeful for a good chase day. The SPC had issued a moderate risk for parts of Central Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas.

I was chasing with Chris Kridler, Scott McPartland, Dave Lewison and Mark Robinson and his group of other Canadians (Dayna Vettese, Brad Rousseau, Heather Reynolds, and Meghan Yeo). We left the Guest Inn in Norman, Oklahoma in a big caravan toward Seiling. By 2:40 PM, we could see developing towers. We turned east on 60. There was already one cell exploding to the north. In Fairview, we stopped at a gas station and watched nearby storms form including one with a more rounded base by 3:30PM. We went east on 8/58, stopping at the intersection with 8. A nice shear funnel formed overhead at 3:44 PM. We were watching two more significant storms. We turned south on 8, briefly stopping again to observe the storms. The main storm was to our west and was showing signs of increasing rotation on radar by 4:08 PM CDT. An inflow band was present by 4:13 PM and per ThreatNet , 103 MPH shear at 4:15PM. We adjusted our position southward. Viewing was difficult due to rain and lack of areas to pull off the road. By 4:21, a small funnel was visible and it elongated. We shifted a bit farther south. At 4:22 PM, a disorganized ground debris cloud was briefly visible south of the funnel. Finally, we found a place to pull off the road. The debris cloud vanished. The funnel cloud narrowed by 4:25 PM and a beautiful translucent debris whirl was on the ground. It was in contrast with a faint orange background. It did not extend to the funnel and the visible ground circulation ended by 4:26 PM. At this point, we were a couple of miles north of Okeene, Oklahoma. After the tornado ended, we continued south into Okeene and the sirens were still on at 4:32 PM. We turned east on 51.

We could see another larger storm developing to the south. For a while, we debated whether to go after the southerly storm or continue after the storms to our north. We parked and shot time-lapse video and photos while deciding on the chase plan. The southerly storm was more isolated and visually impressive. To our north, the sky was dark and contrasted nicely with wheat fields. We made our decision by 5:30 PM and blasted south on N2700 Road that intersects 51. We turned west on Loyal Road toward Hitchcock, then south to Watonga. The storm was rapidly intensifying. Our plan was to get west of it and circle around from the south. We turned east on 270 at 6:23 PM. The storm was to our northeast . It was rapidly twisting upward but had a high base. There was a faint wall cloud and we heard reports of a funnel. At 6:33, we turned north from Calumet toward the storm, then back east on 9 Mile Road. The storm was now dying. We headed north toward Kingfisher. Although it was getting late, we couldn't resist investigating another storm to the west of Kingfisher. We drove west on SR 3/SR 33, then turned north at 7:33 toward Loyal. The storm to the north had a big nasty hail core but was outflow dominated. Pretty, but no chance of tornadoes. We headed back toward Kingfisher passing through flooded roads. North of Kingfisher, we briefly watched a nice lightning display before heading to the hotel in Enid, Oklahoma.

Breakfast in Norman, OK

Towers at 2:15 PM CDT

Developing storms at 3:00 PM

Mark Robinson doing his own update
for The Weather Network (Canadian),
in Fairview, Oklahoma 3:24 PM

Nice developing storm, view from
gas station in Fairview, OK 3:27 PM

Radar image 3:28 PM CDT

Shear funnel 3:44 PM

Radar image 3:50 PM

Developing tornadic storm at 4:17 PM
north of Okeene, OK

Funnel forming at 4:21 PM

Funnel at 4:23 PM

Funnel at 4:23 PM

Radar image during tornado, 4:24 PM

Tornado at 4:25 PM, view to west
from a few miles north of Okeene, OK
on State Road 8

Tornado, 4:25 PM CDT

View to north at 5:08 PM of storms
while also watching storm to south

Blasting south on N2700 after
new storm at 5:33 PM

Beautiful sheared high-based storm
at 6:25 PM from 270

Another view of storm at 6:34 PM
while driving north from Calumet, OK

Investigating another storm, view to north
on road to Loyal, OK at 7:34 PM

Outflow beast of a storm

Go to May 24, 2011 Oklahoma Tornado Outbreak

All images Copyright 2011 William T. Hark