April 14, 2012 Storm Chase Summary (High Risk)

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I happened to be visiting my uncle in Norman on this day, so I took him along storm chasing. We met up with Charles around 1 pm in OKC and headed west on I-40 towards our target destination of Woodward, OK.

The first storm we were on was just north of Woodward, OK and we stayed with it for close to an hour. It produced several rapidly rotating wall clouds and a funnel cloud or two, but no tornadoes.

As we saw another storm popping up to the south, we ditched the storm we were on in favor of the southern storm. Again, this storm produced several rapidly rotating wall clouds and a few funnel clouds, but no tornadoes. I don’t think I have ever seen so much rotation in a wall cloud before that did not produce a tornado. We were beginning to get a little discouraged, but we knew there was still plenty of time, so we carried on.

As we saw another storm forming to the south of this one, we once again abandoned the current storm in favor of the southern one. Nearly everyone else was still on the first or second storm, so we found ourselves in perfect position on Highway 281, nearly all alone, to intercept this next storm. This turned out to be the best possible move.

The very first tornado produced by this storm.

Seemingly out of nowhere, this storm produced a small, brief tornado. We were still several miles away from the tornado, but had a clear view of everything. The storm was moving northeast and was going to eventually cross Highway 281 so we drove a little ways north and just waited for the storm to come to us.

Before the storm crossed the highway it produced one more brief, weak tornado only a few hundred yards off to our west. A few minutes later the extremely low and rapidly rotating wall cloud crossed to road about 200 yards in front of us. At this point we were still about the only people on the road as everyone else was booking it south to try to get on this storm.

This was the 3rd tornado produced by this storm. If you look closely you can see debris at the surface being kicked up by this tornado.

As the wall cloud crossed the road, it finally produced another tornado about 250-300 yards to the east of Highway 281. The tornado was fairly large (150-300 yards wide) and continued to grow as it moved to the northeast. We took a dirt road east off of Highway 281 and positioned ourselves perfectly to watch this tornado continue to the northeast. The ground circulation was very impressive at times as it moved through fields and trees.

The tornado continued off to the northeast over open country less than half a mile away.

The tornado began to shrink in size as it hit an oil refinery and smoke started getting “sucked” into the storm (as seen in the footage below). At this same time, another tornado began to form just southwest of the current one. In a matter of seconds, we had twin tornadoes!

The original tornado began to shrink in size, though it remained strong as is visible by the amount of debris around the tornado.

These tornadoes lasted a couple of minutes before dissipating. As they dissipated we had to head back to Highway 281 and continue north to try to get back ahead of the storm. We could not continue east on the road we were on thanks to a river.

The storm produced twin tornadoes!

As we headed north, we were able to keep the storm in sight, though it was a few miles away. We watched this same storm produce 5 additional tornadoes, including two after dark as we tried to get back ahead of it. Unfortunately the road network was very poor in this area and we had to head about 20 miles east on a highway before we could cut back north to catch up to this storm.

By this time the storm was too far away and we decided to call it a day and head home. We stopped in Blackwell, OK for dinner, then continued southward on I-35 towards Norman. As we were heading south I noticed the same storm we were on most of the day was heading for southeastern Wichita, right where I live.

There were reports of a confirmed tornado and the area of rotation looked to have passed directly over my apartment. Looking at the path of the tornado released by the ICT NWS office, the tornado did indeed pass over my apartment! Luckily, only a few tree branches were down around my complex.

Path of the Wichita, KS tornado Saturday night. Embedded in the photo is a place marker with the location of my apartment.

The more significant tornado damage occurred just down the road at a friends apartment complex. Here, at least one apartment building lost a portion of its roof, and a tree branch was shot like a projectile through a car! The tornado was rated an EF-1 at her complex and an EF-3 to the southwest of this area.

A tree branch was “shot” through this car in southeast Wichita, KS. This photo was taken by my friend Becky Elliott at her apartment.

Over the weekend I ended up driving 1,275 miles and saw 2 tornadoes Friday night and 9 on Saturday, totaling 11 tornadoes. This brings my tornado count to 33!

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