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Chase May 27 2001

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Route:Amarillo (TX) - Shamrock (TX) - Canadian (TX) - Laverne (OK) - Englewood (KS) - Woodward (OK)
Chasepartner(s):Herman Harperink, Harald Edens and Floris Bijlsma


CHASE LOG:
The weather outlook for today looked good. Supercells and a squall line were to be expected, according to several weather prediction centers. In the afternoon we headed north-east towards north-western Oklahoma. Not much later, our mobile lightning detector came alive, showing lightning strikes north of us. When we reached Kansas, a few CGs were visible. In the meantime the sky became greener and greener... hail!? Near the horizon we observed a wallcloud-like structure, and we drove further north. By the time we got close enough to take a good look, the wallcloud seemed to be an enormous shelfcloud with gust front, generated by the squall line.
The expected supercells that should develop in front of the squall line didn't show up. More energy was now available for the line. We saw fractocumulus clouds being sucked up into the shelfcloud. At some spots the sky became really omninously green. We stopped for our first photo session. Power lines blocked part of our view on the shelfcloud, so we decided to drive a little further towards it. The shelfcloud was now getting really close, since we were heading straight for it, and the cloud was heading straight towards us from the opposite direction. Fractus clouds were rapidly ascending above our heads, showing rotation, turbulence and all sorts of other movements. Suddenly, the wind direction changed from south to north... the temperature dropped rapidly... we dumped our gear in the car and got our soules away from there.
The chaotic clouds of the shelfcloud came closer very rapidly. 1000 feet... 700 feet... huge dust clouds were getting airborne and racing towards us... then, the front hit us and the car, with wind speeds increasing to about 70 mph. Everything changed to a mixture of wind, sand, dust and water. Getting hammered by dust, sand and rain, we tried some photography and get into the car again, to drive to the south and get ahead of the front again. We needed gas badly, so we went to the village Laverne south of us. On the road, the weather was very bad, with hard rain and strong gusty winds. Parts of trees where flying over the road, one missing our windshield with only a few feet of clearance.
We managed to get ahead of the squall line. In Laverne, we found our gas station for a refill that our car needed so badly. The squall line was getting closer very quickly. Only a few seconds before the torrential rain and wind came, we moved our car, which was parked under the gas pump's roofing, to a saver place. When done, the storm came in, with lots of rain, hard wind and hailstones of 2/5". It didn't take much more to bring the entire gas pump roofing down. It became nearly night as the storm set in. After some videotaping outside, taking shelter by the walls of the station's building, things got too cold and painful for us, and we went inside the gas station for a cup of coffee.
We'd wait for the storm to pass over... then gas up the van, and photograph the back side of the squall line. BUT - at the time the storm was nearly over for Laverne, power went out! Houston... we have a problem... We decided to drive out of town for a few miles to do the photography, and we did a good job on that. Meanwhile, the sun had set and still no lights went on anywhere in the area.
Driving on our last drops of gas, and last hopes, we suddenly spotted a big town on the horizon in front of us, with citylights! Yes!!!! Woodward! We drive on, reach town, and FLICK - half of all lights went off! That scared us pretty much... but at last, we did locate a gas station which was open... phew...


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© 2001 Bernard Hulshof