[Note: This is a post from a year ago reviewing our storm chase in Oklahoma]
We were very close to the Norman, OK tornado on Friday but made a wise storm chase decision which likely prevented us from a too close and possibly dangerous encounter.
The radar image shown was tweeted on Friday as we were heading south on I-35 toward the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. The huge supercell, not yet tornadic, is plain.
I don’t like storm chasing in metropolitan areas. Too much traffic, too few quick escape routes. As we were intercepting this storm I had two thoughts in mind 1) we will just get ahead of this by continuing south on I-35 or 2) we need to get out ahead of it by heading east on I-40. Traffic was stop and go and close to rush hour on a Friday so we took the I-40 option. By my calculation, this decision prevented us from crossing paths with the tornado as it crossed I-35 near Norman! I enclosed some videos of that tornado in action below.
By heading out on I-40, we were able to get ahead of the storm. After the Norman tornado, the storm disorganised somewhat. But from our new vantage point in Tecumseh, OK, we could see good structure lots of cloud-to-ground lightning and a clear base.
A new tornado warning has eventually put out for this storm as it traveled just to our north. We changed position to west of Tecumseh to try and improve our view. There are a surprising number of hills and trees in the area just east of Oklahoma City which made spotting tornadoes, especially those wrapped in rain like this storm, very difficult. Local media was reporting a tornado around Shawnee on I-40 but we had no view from where we were.
We then travelled west on highway 9 to chase storm two. This took us out on the south edge of Norman, passing right by the tornado damage from earlier including where the tornado crossed I-35. This second storm was dominated by cool air at the surface and wasn’t pursued further because of new storms in southwestern Oklahoma.
We had enough daylight to chase these storms but only the lead one. Driving southwest on I-44, we cut over to Apache and then watched another tornado-warned storm take shape northwest of Boone, OK. The backlighting was very poor because of the large area of clouds and storm to the west. If there was a tornado in there, we couldn’t see it!
We ended up back in northern Oklahoma City for the night, ready for the big day today!
Here’s the Norman, OK, National Weather Service review of the day.
And the video!