May 30, 2013


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Stillwater, OK
3 miles N of Bucklin, KS 11:01 AM 5/30/2013
1 miles WSW of Ardmore, OK 10:54 PM 5/30/2013
Cushing, OK Davis, OK Thackerville, OK
0 mph
Updraft Tower, Wall Cloud


Dryline/Warmfront play in Oklahoma. Targeted the Stillwater, OK area for early afternoon tornadic supercells. Intercepted a tornado warned cell between Stillwater and Tulsa, OK noting low base, HP features, and broad rotation. Terrain obscured our view of likely tornado. Left dissipating cell for new activity to the south, and stair stepped southwest between various cells exhibiting HP or dissipating features, until arriving at Tail-End-Charlie: a tornado warned LP that dissolved into an orphan anvil and then nothing. Dinner with chasers in Ardmore.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm, Sony HDR-xr500v..




Another active chase day on the southern plains, the 30th was my fourth day out on this trip. Brindley and I had spent the night in Dodge City, and were looking at targeting north central Oklahoma as a sagging cold front was pushing the better storm ingredients further than the previous days’ setups. There was a sharp dryline, moderate instability, and robust shear profiles, so the day looked favorable for tornadic supercells. The cap was weaker today, so storms were expected to initiate earlier in the afternoon, but we got off to a late start leaving Dodge City. Fellow chaser Nick Nolte joined us for the start of the chase in his own vehicle, and we headed east to Wichita before dropping south on 35 into Oklahoma.

Coming around Wichita, storms started to go up in north central Oklahoma. We more than an hour and a half out from intercepting, and I feared we might miss the show. We hurried south as fast as we could, while cells in the line started to go tornado warned. A rather solid east to west line of supercells was forming. Coming in from the north, the intercept would be difficult as we’d have to punch through the line of storms. We hopped onto the turnpike north of Stillwater paralleling the storms to the north, and looking for a gap between them so we could drop south for the intercept. It was now a game of picking the right storm, and one of the middle cells in the line looked to become dominant. I started looking for exits on the Turnpike, but to my dismay, I realized that my radar scan was not current, even though the software indicated that it was and I was navigating us based on old data. We had missed our exit. Nolte, seeing the blunder in our navigation before we did, took the exit we had missed and we were on our own. I turned us around, and we exited, only to realize that we were still heading in the wrong direction, north of the storm, and out of position. I was fuming at this point, and Brindley was not a happy camper. We made a brief pit stop at a gas station to top off and assess the situation, with the sun shining overhead and a tornado warned supercell to our southeast. We weren’t too far off, however, and were able to hop on an east highway and get ahead of the storm before dropping south in front of it near Cushing, OK.

Tornado Warned Supercell
2 miles WNW of Cushing, OK
3:24 PM
The terrain east of 35 in Oklahoma becomes hilly and is filled with trees. It’s not a good combination for storm chasing. We traveled for miles south, looking for a view of our storm, before we finally found a tall hill with a clear view to the west. We pulled into the driveway of a ranch, which had an amazing elevated view of the southwest half of the storm. The other half to the northwest was obscured by trees. We watched the storm for as long as our view lasted of the northeast moving storm, the owner of the property coming out to see what was going on, before our view was blocked by trees.

Rapid Motion
2 miles WNW of Cushing, OK
3:30 PM
Through gaps in the trees we could see a low storm base with rapid motion and fragments of clouds rising upwards.

Something Hiding Underneath
2 miles WNW of Cushing, OK
3:31 PM
We could briefly make out a dark lowering beneath the storm, but our view was too obstructed to tell what it was. Other chasers in the area, including Nick Nolte, reported a wall cloud with cone funnel aloft and debris cloud at the ground making it a tornado. This might have been a part of that structure, but we were unable to confirm it.

RFD Shelf Pano
3 miles ENE of Cushing, OK
3:42 PM
We took gravel roads east to keep up with the storm, which was in a high precipitation state. Any tornadoes at this point would be heavily rain wrapped. A panoramic shot of the rear flanking gust front, fanning out from the base of the storm as a shelf cloud:

The Inflow Notch
4 miles ENE of Cushing, OK
3:44 PM
To the north we could still make out a prominent inflow notch, the area where the tornado would be, obstructed by the blue green rear flanking precipitation core. The structure was dramatic, but we’d have no view of a tornado unless we could get into that inflow notch, and with few roads and bad terrain, we decided against attempting it.

New Storms
9 miles S of Davis, OK
6:45 PM
The first storm we encountered looked like it had a high base and little discernable structure. We left it for more activity firing on the dryline west of 35 in southern Oklahoma. A line of supercells was approaching the highway near Davis. The terrain here became almost mountainous, but there were scenic overlook pull offs on the highway, that looked to be ideal for storm spotting. Everyone else on the highway had the same idea, however. We took the one lane road to the parking lot at the top of the overlook and it was like a circus was in progress, the area packed with cars and people. The storms were still miles off to the east, and visibility was poor as the storms looked to be in a high precipitation state with large fanning RFD gust fronts. I was also worried about getting out of there when we needed to. There were so many people packed into the tiny area, that if we needed to escape, the area would turn into one big traffic jam on the one lane exit and we’d be trapped. We left early, heading south down the highway and pulling off at the next overlook, which was larger and less crowded. Storms continued to look visually unimpressive, and discrete supercells were still going up to the south, picking up tornado warnings, so we decided to make for Tail End Charlie way down on the Red River.

Tornado Warned LP
2 miles W of Thackerville, OK
7:41 PM
Tail End Charlie turned out to be a skinny low precipitation supercell with an anemic updraft. Riding on the Red River, we had no roads to approach it, so watched from afar well to the east, as the updraft tower appeared to have some stacked plates like structure and a disproportionately large wall cloud underneath for the tiny updraft above it. Despite the tornado warning, the storm looked so anemic that I doubted it would ever produce a tornado. The capping this far south looked to be too strong, warm temperatures aloft suppressing the updraft.

Anemic Sunset Updraft
2 miles W of Thackerville, OK
7:51 PM
I set my cameras up for a time lapse of the approaching supercell, and after a few minutes it became apparent that the storm was starting to die. The wall cloud fizzled and the base of the storm was starting to shrivel up. With the sun starting to set, the isolated storm, however, became the prettiest thing we had seen the entire day. Nick Nolte caught back up with us and we were soon joined by Ben Holcomb and a couple other chasers on our gravel on the Red River just west of Thackerville.

A Storm Dissolves
2 miles W of Thackerville, OK
8:14 PM
The death of the storm was beautiful, and we stayed and watched it until the last fragment of cloud dissolved. The time lapse of the event can be viewed at the end of the video posted above. With no other prospects in the area, we decided to call it a chase and head north for a room and some dinner. Ben lead us to a restaurant in Ardmore, OK called Two Frogs where we joined by several more chases. Along the way, we could see a large supercell well to our north. The last bit of sunset lit up in fiery shades of red and orange, and it was a beautiful end to otherwise lackluster chase.


Although we intercepted a variety of tornado warned supercells including high precipitation and low precipitation storms, we failed to document much in the way of dramatic structure or any tornadoes. Watching a tornado warned supercell with a wall cloud dissolve into nothing was the highlight of the day, however, and one of the most photogenic moments of the season for me. Any tornado show in Oklahoma was brief and small so we hadn’t missed much. Dinner with friends was also a great way to the end chase on what would become the day before the most infamous chase event ever.

Lessons Learned

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