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Tornado Tim Chase Log: Red River Valley tornado on Oklahoma/Texas border
Date:April 30th 2004........ Damage: Only trees  Type: Wedge Tornado
Location: Red River Vally Taped from the Oklahoma side looking West.

I was leading our team down from Fredrick Oklahoma where upon reaching 287 I decided to head east along the Red River Valley on 287. Reporter Craig Terlino was part of our team today and was following behind us on this chase, while Krystallin was road director for the team finding roads as needed. She was responsible for getting timely road directions to me rapidly as we tried to stay with this storm. Kindra was on call back at home base VIA phone support when needed. Although on this chase we did not use any home base help.   Most all my tornadoes have been spotted without home base support. So again today after 11 am I ran the chase completely by eye using my instinct and skill to determine our path. Experience is worth its weight in gold when chasing.

I was reading the clouds and the atmosphere while mulling over the data I had read early that morning while driving towards what I thought might be ground zero. I had pretty much made up my mind to be exactly where we were before we left the hotel. Every chase I attempt to predict where to be before the first warnings are issued. Tornado chasing is really tornado predicting, and it was clear I had predicted correctly today. As we approached Wichita Falls Texas it was apparent the storms were already starting up. Two cells were visible. The first just to the northeast of us while the second one was right above our heads and just beginning to form. Watching it explode over the top of us was incredible and I felt awestruck at how rapidly it shot upward. Such power is amazing.

Getting directly underneath one of these cells and looking up at them never gets old. It seemed to build in giant leaps like bombs were going off underneath it sending plumes of cloud skyward in seconds. The northeastern storm was larger, but this one showed signs of rotation and shear. Not just horizontal spin, but vertical spin in multiple places. I made the choice to stay with this fast building storm and let the northeastern storm go. Choosing a storm at this point can be the whole ball game. If you choose the wrong cell you get nothing, as many chasers did this day. With no other chasers visible we followed this storm to the northeastern edge of the city before deciding to get ahead of it.   We were attempting to position for a possible tornado touchdown. Time to find the right spot.

After negotiating the roads we decided to stop. At this point we were located a few miles east of Road 1197 which positioned us directly in the path of the storm. This also put us directly in the path of the tornado when it touched down. I would like to be closer, but with a reporter along I had to take his life into account and position us in a safer position. As you all know by now and especially from last years chase in O'Neil Nebraska, I usually don't play it safe and get much closer than this. Also remember when I drove underneath the Riverside Reservoir Tornado to get photos looking up at the funnel and capture close up video of the tornado as it roped out. Debris hit my car I got so close.

We parked well off the road so as not to hinder traffic (Chaser Rule) and filmed the wedge shapped tornado along with several guests of the Violent Skies Tour group. Some of them were from England, Israel, Holland and Ohio in the group.

chaserst.jpg (10032 bytes)

Chasers discuss the tornado after it pulled up and try to determine whether it will do it again. Often chasers meet at major storm events and talk over the action as seen here in this photo. The tornado warning continues as dopplar radar continues to see rotation within the thunderstorm.

A tornado warning was issued for Clay and Jefferson Counties by Norman NWS office while we filmed the event. Just before the tornado set down several chasers sped by heading into the rain. Why we dont' know. One thing is for sure, you can't see anything when you are shielded by the rain. We had the clearest view from this location, but still had some rain blur our view also.
The wedged shapped tornado occurred somewhere by Petrolia Texas near road 1197. The only Damage found appears to be to some Mesquite trees. It may have crossed over the river into Oklahoma, but rain may have hide some of the touch downs from us so we could not tell if it was just in Texas, or if it had also touched down briefly in Oklahoma as well. At this point I call it the Texas/Oklahoma tornado as it appeared to cross over.

More damage could easily be hidden back in the thick brush of the wilderness area on the Oklahoma side. The natural beauty of this open land is a joy to drive through.

Wedge tornado in Red River Valley

Wedge tornado in Red River ValleyAs we traveled along with the storm we ran into a team of chasers from Germany who were all setup to film the severe storm. Sitting well off the road they had everything positioned for great video of the now very large thunderstorm. One area we drove by, there were over 35 other chase vehicles in about the span of one mile.  It turned into a large caravan of chasers as the day went on including media from Oklahoma city with a helicopter circling the event. Everyone was kind and seemed to be watching out for each other while tracking the storm.

 

After the tornado pulled back up it was a race to stay ahead of the rain, hail, and high winds the storm now produced.  The chase went from us chasing to us being chased. The photos on the right are of the shelf clouds created from the strong winds from the storm. When you see clouds like these hold on because it is about to get very windy.

Wedge tornado in Red River Valley

Wedge tornado in Red River Valley

Wedge tornado in Red River Valley

Wedge tornado in Red River Valley Wedge tornado in Red River Valley Wedge tornado in Red River Valley

Wedge tornado in Red River Valley Wedge tornado in Red River Valley redrvrit.jpg (6661 bytes)

Wedge tornado in Red River Valley Wedge tornado in Red River Valley Wedge tornado in Red River Valley

Wedge tornado in Red River Valley Wedge tornado in Red River Valley Wedge tornado in Red River Valley

Wedge tornado in Red River Valley 

Shelf clouds form from the cold downdraft air as it pushes ahead of the storm, and in this case is followed by powerful winds

Shelf clouds form from the cold downdraft air as it pushes ahead of the storm, and in this case is followed by powerful winds

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