April 27, 2024, Oklahoma Storm Chase
Tornadic Storm, chased from Binger to Perry, OK

by John Farley

I started out from Dodge City, originally hoping to catch something along the dryline in western KS. But with that looking increasingly unlikely, I turned my attention to the already-large cluster of storms in western OK in the morning. There was already a tornado watch in effect for the area where these storms were occurring, until 1 p.m. For a while radar showed more of a northward than eastward component to their motion, and some CAMs showed them getting as far north as Greensburg, so I had some hope of catching something on the western edge of the cluster in southern KS. But it soon became evident that was not happening either, so I headed into OK. Before I got there, still in Kansas, I believe along route 1 somewhere not far from Coldwater, I noticed some nice mammatus associated with the storms still well to my southeast in Kansas, and stopped and got this picture:

That ended up being the only picture I took of this large cluster of storms in western and northern OK. Crossed through this messy line of storms near Seiling to get ahead of the line, which proved to be more difficult than expected as new storms kept going up ahead of the line. Additionally, I thought I could get through a gap in the storms near Seiling but once I got into town, with a new SVR warning just issued for that area, and radar showing an intensifying hail core just S/SW of town, and a darkening sky, I decided I need to back off to the west and let the storm pass rather than punching through and risking hail damage. Probably a good choice, as golfball hail was reported just SW of Seiling.

Once I was ahead of this cluster of storms, after considrably longer than I expected, I saw on radar that there was a much more isolated storm somewhere near the Hobart/Alfalfa area, and decided I could catch it somewhere near Binger. Also by then I had seen that SPC was looking at the possibility of replacing the tornado watch due to expire at 1 p.m. with a PDS tornado watch, which they eventually did. Before I could get to the Hobart/Alfalfa storm, a new storm went up just ESE of it, and I figured that would be the better option. But since it could cut off my route to Binger, I circled around and approached it from the east. Difficult navigation in this area due to a closure of US 281 north of I-40 and limited places to cross the Canadian River. As it turns out, I probably could have beaten the storm taking the more direct route down 281 from I-40 to Binger, and so doing might have beaten much of the chaser jam that eventually ensued, but that was far from certain at the time.

Once I made it to Binger I joined the chaser mob and followed the storm up to I-40. There was a dark, rain-wrapped area ahead of me that, per radar, was the main meso, and several lowered areas with better contrast down the base of the flanking line to its SW and my W. Here is a picture looking west from near Lookeba at one of the lowered areas under the flanking line, which was exhitibing some visible rotation as well:

This area looked pretty impressive at times and did display some cloud-base rotation, but looking at storm relative velocity on radar, it was evident that the main area of storm-scale rotation was in the rain-wrapped area to its northeast. At my next stop between Hinton and Lookeba, I see some of the main meso through the rain, though nothing I could confirm as a tornado from my viewing point:

The contrast is enhanced in this picture, to better show the cloud features. But even with that, nothing clearly identifiable as a tornado. As I worked my way north toward Hinton, slowly now in major chaser traffic, a tight couplet continued to be evident on radar, and the meso was soon directly in front of me, about over Hinton, as shown in this picture, looking north toward Hinton on route 281:

The picture captures both the appearance of how the storm's meso looked like around the time it moved over Hinton, and the major backup of chaser traffic. This picture, as well as the two previous ones, is a video capture. By now, the storm had its second tornado warning, of the five it would eventually get. There was some decent rotation visible in spots around Binger and Hinton, some in the main meso but also some in the aforementioned lowerings in the base of the flanking line just southwest of the main meso. NWS OUN did confirm a brief, weak tornado 3 miles SW of Hinton based on chaser reports. I was in a position where if there was a view unimpeded by rain I should have been able to see it, but at the time and reviewing my video I see nothing I could come close to confirming as a tornado. Some things that could be, but nothing confirmable. From my viewing angle, the meso was quite rain-wrapped the whole time I was on US 281.

I usually avoid chasing within 50 miles of OKC because there is always potential for massive chaser jams like this, but today if I wanted to see a storm with tornado potential from where I was, this seemed like where I had to go. A major factor in the traffic was a 4-way stop at the center of Hinton. This was very similar to what I experienced in Red Bud, IL after the total eclipse, but it is a lot more frustrating when you are trying to keep up with a storm.

Once I finally made it through Hinton, I blasted east on I-40 to get to route 81 where I could go north after the storm again from El Reno, around 18 miles to the east. Of course, I had lost a lot of ground on the storm due to the traffic jam, so it was now well NE of me somewhere in the area between Geary and Calumet. As I blasted east, I got a couple glimpses of what I think was the tornado that occurred in that area. I saw a front-lit lowering a couple times, with a shape and tilt that would be consistent with a tornado, and pertty much in the right place. However, due to hills and trees blocking my view, I could only see the upper part of the lowering, not anything that was going on anywhere near the ground. At the time I thought it could be a funnel or tornado, but due to my view of the lower part of it being blocked by the hills and trees, I could not really tell. By the time I got to where I had a clear view, it was gone, either dissipated or totally wrapped in rain. Since I did not hear any tornado reports at the time, I kind of discounted it and forgot about it at the time. The next morning, however, I found out that there was tornado damage in a couple places between Geary and Calument and NNW of Calumet. These corespond in time and place to the lowering I saw and to the rotation signature at the time on radar, so I think I probably did get a couple brief glimpses of the torando through the trees, but given my inabiltiy to see what was going on at the ground due to the hills and trees, I do not know for sure. And I was unable to get any pictures due to my only getting brief, limited glimpses of the lowering and being in basically an 80-mph chaser parade on I-40. An NWS damage survey confirmed an EF-1 tornado with a path length of 7 miles from 5 ESE of Geary to 5 N of Calumet, on the ground for 10 minutes. This corresponds well with the location of the lowering I saw briefly a couple times through openings in the trees. But since a hill blocked any ground view below the lowering, I cannot be completely sure.

I got to El Reno and headed north on route 81, and raced north to Kingfisher. As I got there, the storm got yet another TOR warning, and I stopped in a small parking area with a number of other chasers and photographed some lowerings under the storm's updraft to my NE:

I eventually pursued the storm north and east as far as Perry, but was behind most of the time as I never fully recovered from the traffic jam. And the majority of the time from the beginning to the end of when I was on ths storm, the meso was rain-wrapped to some degree. I never saw anything more after the brief views along I-40 that looked like a tornado despite the storm getting a total of five tornado warnings, and as I said, most of the time the meso was at least somewhat wrapped up in rain. Got this one last picture near Perry before I called it a chase:

After that, I gave up the chase and returned to El Reno to get a room for the night before heading back west. Around the time I got back there, the storm I had been chasing may have gotten a sixth tornado warning up near Ponca City. But I don't know if it was the same storm or another one that went up near it, because by then my focus was on fueling my car, finding a room for the night, and getting something to eat as darkness set in.

After dark the storms really got going south and east of OKC, including southeastern parts of the metro. Sorry to hear of the damage, injuries, and fatalities in some of those areas. Among the 25 tornadoes confirmed so far, with damage surveys ongoing, was one EF-4 and two EF-3s.

Chase mileage for this day: 529

Chase trip mileage at end of day: 1358 mi.

Positioning mileage previous day (did not chase that day) 160.

Total chase trip mileage: 2026 miles.

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