03.21.05 Pharoah, OK Tornado
Storm reports encountered on the chase:
2216 6 N PHAROAH OKFUSKEE OK3551 9612 BRIEF TORNADO REPORTED BY MEDIA STORM CHASER (TSA)
2113 100 CROMWELL SEMINOLE OK3534 9645 HAIL COVERING GROUND. (OUN)
2132 100 5 SW OKMULGEE OKMULGEE OK3557 9602 QUARTER SIZE HAIL REPORTED 5 MILES SOUTHWEST OF OKMULGEE (TSA)
2136 100 2 SW OKEMAH OKFUSKEE OK3541 9633 REPORTED BY MEDIA STORM CHASER (TSA)
2230 100 5 SW OKMULGEE OKMULGEE OK3557 9602 (TSA)
Other noteworthy supplements to the chase:
March 21, 2005 will be remembered as the first tornado day of the year in Oklahoma and more importantly...myself and Eric Holthaus' first encounter with a tornado after numerous failed chases. A moderate risk issued from the SPC set the stage for an eventful afternoon. We began the day atop the roof of Sarkeys Energy Center on the OU Campus around 12:55 pm to see the first storms fire up along the dryline. After taking part in the daily OU weather briefing, Eric Holthaus and I set out from Norman around 2pm with the intention of following the initial cell to the northeast of Norman and then to head north to catch the possible cold-core funnels near the stacked low in the northwest part of the state. Lo and behold we ditched our original plan and followed numerous cells further east until we met up unexpectedly with the Seminole/Okfuskee County supercell that dropped the Pharoah, OK tornado at 2216 z just north of I-40 and Highway 75 to the northwest of Henryetta, OK.
The beginning two hours of the chase were frustrating as numerous wall clouds cycled and occluded without dropping any funnels. Low-level clouds socked in from the precipitation in the early morning hours left little surface heating ahead of the dryline. The word of the day was shear -- as storms initiated along the boundary and cycled through ragged wall clouds that continually were sheared out. We stopped to take photos and video at 2128 Z near Cromwell in far eastern Seminole County where we saw a photogenic wall cloud.
(Above) More photos of the rotating wall cloud near Cromwell, OK in Seminole County
After giving up on this cell's ability to drop a tornado we jumped back onto I-40 east to track another storm that was up to our northeast. We were in a no-man's land for the weather radio and were having difficulty contacting our nowcasters by cell phone so we decided to get off of I-40 at exit 221 and followed an Emergency Management Vehicle with its lights on heading north. Approximately 3 miles north of the interstate we drove over a large hill and were amazed as we saw a stovepipe funnel suspended above the horizon. After seeing so many wall clouds that did not produce any funnels we were quite shocked to see a rain-wrapped funnel with little mesocyclone development. Once over a hill we met back up with another chaser and the Emergency Management Vehicle and stopped to take these photos at 2218 z, making this a very short lived F0.
Before we knew it the rain-wrapped tornado lifted and we celebrated our good fortune considering we had little help to realize a tornado warning was in effect for the storm, let alone there was an actual touchdown. A few minutes later we found some beautiful rainbows with the weakening supercell in the background. It was the perfect place to celebrate our first tornado.
Happy belated St. Patrick's Day (where's the pot of gold?) Eric shows everyone how many tornadoes we've seen
A few minutes later off of Highway 56 near Ofuskee we surveyed some of the effects of the storm
The cattle of eastern Oklahoma took some swimming lessons The hail was nickel sized until it melted in Eric's hand
Overall we'd have to classify this chase as very successful considering it was only the second day of Spring! I came to Oklahoma because it is the promised land of severe weather and research and today's chase certainly didn't disappoint in that regard. The high shear/non-existant CAPE environment tested our patience but it was well worth it and we even made it back to Norman around 9:30 pm after some dinner in Henryetta, OK. Now back to the harsh reality of classes and research after spending the previous week back home visiting the family in Naperville, IL for spring break.
©2005 Nic Wilson