Cyclone Road


Friday, November 11, 2011

This is a link to the preliminary report from Norman's National Weather Service office on the tornadoes last week. I have used their early tornado track map to impose my own path during the chase, recreated from my GPS log. Click the map to enlarge.

The red circles indicate major stopping points, of which there are too many. I couldn't quit shooting the Frederick-Tipton tornado (Tornado #1 on the map) because it was doing so many cool things: changing shapes, orientations, and posing behind some very cool foregrounds. Over and over I told myself I'd crop the shots, since I was pretty far away at the beginning.

It's always a struggle to choose whether to keep shooting, since the tornado could dissipate any moment, or put the camera down for five minutes and blast west (blast being a relative term on the muddy Oklahoma backroads) another three miles to get closer. As it is, if I'd gone farther west in the beginning, I wouldn't have found myself directly between both the dying Tipton cone and the rapidly forming soon-to-be Manitou tornado. (Tornado #2 on the map). I eventually caught up fully to the Manitou-nado, meeting it at its dissipation point over Highway 183.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Early in the day, about 2048z, southwest of Frederick

Both shots above taken 21z west of Frederick

2122z, new tornado forms east of ongoing Tipton tornado

Tipton, Oklahoma tornado 2113z

2124z near Manitou

2130z near Manitou

22z tornado nearing Wichita Mountains

Monday, November 07, 2011

7 November 2011: Frederick to Wichita Mountains, OK tornadoes

I'll add more narrative and photos later, but the quick & dirty version is that I observed four or five tornadoes between 2035z and 22z between west of Frederick to near Mountain Park. The first tornado began WNW of FDR, the same one which damaged Tipton I assume, and remained fully condensed (as far as from my vantage point) until around 2120z. This was mainly a symmetrical, barrel-shaped tornado which passed before so many great foregrounds that I stopped again and again to shoot and fell a little behind the storm as a result. But the pics are worth it. At one point a satellite tornado roped into an s-curve while the barrel churned away less than a mile west. Needless to say I stopped and shot this rare twin sighting.

Around 2110z, a new tornado formed to my ENE when I was 6 miles west of Manitou. The first tornado was by then a tall white cylinder, and the new one was a fully condensed cone, one to my NNW and the other due east. The second tornado was impressive for how the condensation near the base articulated the rapid rotation, as a sort of curtain formed around the primary funnel and turned somewhat more slowly than the tornado, highlighting the rotation by contrast. As this tornado crossed Highway 183 a few miles south of Snyder, it was a full barrel, mostly sunlit and with a dark gray cape of condensation, and then the thing simply vanished. I wasn't all that far away, and the storm was still relatively dry and clean as it had been the entire time, but I cannot recall a tornado of that size and duration dissipating so quickly. I guess there was still a circulation on the ground; it seems like there would have to be, but the visible portion was gone. And I had just found another great foreground.

A very brief tornado formed to the east of my position about ten minutes later, probably around 2130z. I'll check the camera times. I have a photo of this though I didn't file a report for it.

After that I poked along on dirt roads, picked up the next cone tornado at 22z when I was east of Snyder by about 6 miles. The tornado was north of me by 5m, likely near the intersection of Highways 49 & 54, just west of the western entrance of the Wichita Mts Wildlife Refuge on 49.

Why was I on the Frederick storm to begin with? I thought I was late for the real show farther west, or that the whole event was hosed anyway from the widespread precip, uncapped environment. I followed the storm from Texas toward Frederick because I imagined it was the best way to waste the least amount of gas on a rainy November bust, and then suddenly it was a fine supercell; and just as suddenly it was one of my better storms in years. You never know. 

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