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Chase May 17 2001

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Route:Amarillo (TX) - Weatherford (OK) - Elk City (OK) - McLean (TX) - Amarillo (TX)
Chasepartner(s):Herman Harperink, Harald Edens and Floris Bijlsma


CHASE LOG:
Today we decided to head east, to Oklahoma. The atmosphere is hot and humid, typically a thunderstorm-environment. Back in Amarillo, we saw Altocumulus castellanus, another sign of upcoming instability. Near Elk City, we spotted some convection and stopped over to do some timelapse-video of this. After 20 minutes its base dissipated and the storm died, leaving behind an orphan anvil. To our east, another storm had popped up. And then, bingo! From a dark cloud base in the distance, a lowering made its way to ground - a wallcloud.
It didn't look that spectacular at first, but it definitely became well-formed - and a good chance for us to see a tornado - Yessss! The wallcloud got bigger and lowered itself even more, with obvious signs that something was about to happen. The wallcloud clearly rotated, and cloud rags shot upwards into the wallcloud, exhibiting a lot of turbulence. Behind us, a few people, living in a house over there, were watching also. It got crowdy, not only by stormchasers but also common people, attracted by our presence over there. The wallcloud disappeared, but the lightning was good. We drove out of there, to find a good spot to photograph lightning. When we found it, another party started - lightning photography for us, and us for the mosquitos. Those did a frenzy on us, biting through T-shirts and shorts. However, we didn't care too much, since the lightning show was quite spectacular, and we were safe and dry over there - we could even see the stars over our heads. We did a lot of photography, seeing between 100 and 150 flashes per minute, and now wearing pants.
Lightning got less after a while and we decided to go home. It was getting late, we were way distant from home, and although lightning continued those lightnings were almost exclusively intracloud. A long way of driving followed, and at some point our lightning detector started yelling. A glance at the screen learned us that we were heading straight for a very active storm. The NOAA radio gave a warning for a severe thunderstorm, and the lightning detector recorded over 100 flashes per minute by now. It got more... 150... 200... 250... 300... 350... talk about severe! The activity increased even more... 350 .. 375 ... 400 .. errr .. 450 ... 500! Whoa! The detector alarm threshold got triggered, which we reset to 600 strikes per minute to keep it silent - we already knew something was going on.
We got out just past the town of McLean, we put the car in a ditch and jumped out with our equipment. The sky was lit up all the time, by extensive intracloud lightning occuring almost everywhere around us. The detector registered over 550 flashes per minute. The electrical activity was just incredible. We got at the motel close to 2am in the morning, exhausted. And still the thunder wasn't over!


PICTURES:


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© 2001 Bernard Hulshof