The Majestic Supercell
Updraft: Historic OKC Hailstorm
We thought it was too marginal of a chase day to mess with. We were mistaken. Several of us veteran chasers sat around the table at a lunch buffet, swapping stories of storms of yore and packing away piles of vittles, when a storm blew up fast on an old boundary NW of Oklahoma City. Tapping the boundary's vorticity reservoir and turning sharply rightward, it overcame many seeming weaknesses of the broader-scale environment and embarked on a 6-hour journey of mayhem and destruction through the OKC area and into southeast Oklahoma. We all dispersed like roaches with the lights turned on, except to retrieve our gear and observe this storm. After Elke and I zipped home to pick up our cameras, we caught the front end of the massive, messy supercell in eastern OKC as its core enveloped the city to our NW, instrument-measured winds to 60 mph, and hail up to 4-1/4 inches in diameter injuring 21 people and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage across a wide swath. A local TV weatherman, known for hyperbole, came over the radio: “We’re under attack at the studios! Skylights are breaking, baseball hail falling right here! We are under attack! This storm is taking no prisoners.” Fortunately we stayed ahead of the giant hail, finally finding a good vantage without buildings and nearby trees several miles farther E. By then, the supercell formed a pronounced, rotating updraft area on its front flank, unusually illuminated from the east. These features soon got undercut by outflow, and the storm continued its rampage southeastward into the deep woods.
2 SSW Dale OK (16 May 10), Looking NW