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storm gallery: May 20, 2001

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Dave Lewison, George Kourounis and I started May 20, 2001, in northern Texas, not far from the Oklahoma border. The day was shaping up to be a stormy one, with the Storm Prediction Center issuing a "particularly dangerous situation" tornado watch. We soon decided we needed to be in eastern Oklahoma, and after checking data in Atoka, headed toward storms going up to the north. The Doppler on Wheels trucks were ahead of us. Image from video. Two storms in the area we shot for had tornado warnings. The storm to the east, near Dustin, produced photogenic tornadoes for a while, unknown to us, but we'd chosen the storm to the west, which had this wall cloud. Image from video.




We decided to pursue the storm to the east (the Dustin storm), since the "on the ground" warnings sounded more promising. We had to go through heavy rain and small hail to do so, and passed a parked DOW on Route 9 as we headed east. Image from video. As soon as we escaped the rain, a TV radar image showed the storm to the east was weakening. We decided to return to our original storm by dropping south on Route 52 and slightly west. From an overpass over Route 75, this huge mesocyclone was visible (as were a ton of parked cars, with people standing outside, watching the storm). Image from video.




We realized the fast-moving storm would prevent us from taking a good road, and we ended up on this windy, partially dirt road east of Hanna. We knew we had to beat the core if we wanted to avoid being on the dirt road when the rain hit it and turned it to "pudding," as George said. We got on pavement just in time to get into some marble- to quarter-size hail. Image from video. We turned right on Route 9 and heard a tornado warning as we headed east past Enterprise. On the western edge of Stigler, the winds switched suddenly; the strong southwest, then south winds indicated the tornadic circulation was just to our north. Through the rain, it looked as if a tornado was just to our left! What do you think? Click to see the big image enhanced for contrast, or see the unenhanced frame grab. Image from video.




We tried to get through Stigler as fast as we could as the tornado sirens blared, strong south winds buffeted us and rain wrapped around the meso. We could see the rain curtains moving from right to left. A few minutes later, a Cloud 9 Tours van saw minor damage in Stigler, including torn-off roofs and twisted and broken trees. Image from video. At last, we escaped the bear's cage and were able to get a view of the meso, the heavy precipitation core and a shelf-like cloud feature formed by rain-cooled air. Image from video.




This bolt was CLOSE. The bolt itself was not dramatic, but the report of thunder was so quick and so loud, I nearly dropped my camera. Scary, kids. Image from video. The fast-moving storm was too high-precipitation to remain chaseable for long. At twilight, this was the view as we headed south to try to intercept another storm that showed a strong hook on radar, near Red Oak. Image from video.




We had to wait out the storm in Wister as the tornadic circulation, which inspired a warning and was shown on TV radar, passed by us to the north. If we didn't have the TV image to look at, we never would have dared to be this close to the area of rotation at night. In this image, lightning illuminates cloud features. Image from video. When we finally abandoned the chase, we got some hot bolts as we passed through multiple severe storms on our way to McAlester. Image from video.




Whammo! Here's another bolt from the exhausting and demanding drive through the storms. Image from video. Finally, we landed at our destination, a hotel in McAlester, where several other chasers were staying, and got to see a lightning crawler show. Image from video.




Links to 2001 chase reports:

  • February 14-March 31: Fog, a few storms and blue-sky distractions in drought-stricken Florida
  • May 6-8: Roiling severe storms in Oklahoma and a mothership in Kansas
  • May 9-11: Pretty storms in Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri
  • May 16-19: Lightning and downpours during a Kansas chase and an outflow boundary from heck in Texas
  • May 20: A too-close encounter with a tornadic supercell in Oklahoma
  • May 23-27: Dust devils, Texas storms and a dust-bowl-style gust front in Kansas
  • May 28: Beautiful storms in Colorado and a tornado at dusk
  • May 29: A monster, rotating, layer-cake supercell in the Texas panhandle
  • May 30: A gorgeous storm from New Mexico that produced hail from hell
  • May 31-June 1: A look at Texas tornado damage and pretty rotating storms in Kansas
  • June 3-24: Severe storms and fantastic lightning in Florida
  • July 3-August 4: Shelf clouds sweep over the water in east-central Florida
  • August 10-11: The Florida Keys offer a skinny waterspout and shimmering sunsets
  • August 17-23: Florida again proves itself king of the shelf clouds, lightning and sunsets
  • August 31-September 24: A layered gust front, lightning and the remnants of Tropical Storm Gabrielle


go to the main gallery page | go to storm chasers
go to reports from 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997