Well March, 25th was an eventful chase in Oklahoma. We chased a supercell that produced a nice stovepipe tornado in Sand Springs, OK.

3-25-15 GPS Log

We started the day by heading down to Vinita, OK where we grabbed lunch and went over the data. We noticed the warm front was still slowly moving north. The low was very close to OKC so we decided to go west to Bartlesville, OK to get northeast of the low. We sat in Bartlesville for a few min and realized the front wasn’t that far north. 201503250113cdt copy

KINX radar image at 1:13pm

Storms began firing near Stillwater, OK so we proceeded south to the Tulsa area.  We then got on a storm near Glenpool which quickly crapped out! As it died we saw the storms to the northwest were intensifying and were located in the sweet spot northeast of the surface low. We cut west to highway 97 and went north to get into position for the storm north of Sand Springs. We stopped a few miles north of Sand Springs to have a look at the base of the storm. Our view of the base had very poor contrast. Even though we had a great view of the base we couldn’t see the large stove pipe tornado that was on the ground at that time. Looking at radar it was apparent that the tornado (the warning said tornado on the ground) could turn northeast towards our location. The escape option that I had planed was a few miles south then back east through Sand Springs. As we were driving south our GoPro dash cam caught the tornado at two points (video is very poor). Even though we couldn’t see the tornado at the time it was moving almost straight east towards our location. As we made our turn back to the east in Sand Springs Jordan and I saw the tornado it looked like it was right on top of us in reality it was a few miles west of our location.

National Weather Service Tulsa Event Summary

As we saw the tornado we knew we had three options. 1. Drive north into the core, 2. Go south on highway 97, or 3. Go east towards Tulsa. We decided to go east towards Tulsa for a few reasons, the roads where getting busy (people leaving work early to beat the storms) and rubber neckers where thick. We never even thought of going east on highway 412 because it could turn into a parking lot at anytime. We ended up going east on a city street that paralleled 412 towards downtown Tulsa. Once we got to downtown we knew we could no longer stay ahead of the storm in city traffic so we decided to go into a large parking garage and wait it out. The circulation passed well to our south it was mainly the core that passed over our location. However there was what looked to be either an area of enhanced wind or a small tornado that passed just to our north (on the north side of the BOK Center) as we saw power flashes and got a gust of wind from the northeast. Later we heard that cars damaged in the parking lot northeast of the BOK Center by this area.

 2015-03-25 18.26.27 copyJordan in the parking garage.

The chase may sound crazy like we lost control but we really didn’t the circulation was 5 miles from us at all times. I think the reason the tornado looked so close was a combination of base height and terrain. We were on a hill when we saw the tornado and it was over Keystone Lake from what I can tell. Also the streets where jammed so it seemed like getting east was taking for ever but I really went quite smoothly (thanks to Jordan and his cat like reflexes).

14Animated GIF radar loop 21mb file

Event Links

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Thanks for reading, will see you on the road. Tyler