Mission Summary 4/17


VORTEX intercepted a tornadic supercell in south-central Oklahoma today. This storm was difficult to intercept because of it's rather unpredictable motion, and the lack of road options across the Red River. The storm appeared to take on supercell characteristics near the river, and after it turned hard to the right the VORTEX teams were able to collect data during several stages of the storm development. Overall, low-level rotation was never strong or well organized. Nevertheless, the storm did produce several tornadoes. Following are the highlights.
In an effort to catch up to a mesocyclone which seemed to "leapfrog" the caravan to the northeast, the armada was forced to drive north ahead of a developing mesocyclone. Had we taken a more southern route, we would have been unable to collect further data because of the rapid storm motion. As we moved northward from Temple, OK (SE of Lawton) a tornado developed very quickly within 1 mile to the west of the armada. Part of the armada accelerated northward, and the trailing vehicles stopped short of the tornado path, allowing us to collect mobile mesonet data from nine platforms within 1 km of the tornado as it crossed the highway.
The NOAA P-3 collected Doppler data during this entire tornadogenesis process (and several hours of total storm life cycle, I believe), and the NCAR Electra was also collecting data during a practice flight near the storm.
This first tornado persisted for perhaps 10-15 miles, and several mobile mesonet platforms collected data near the tornado again as it crossed the east-west road west of Corum OK near Waurika Lake. The tornado did considerable damage in that vicinity, although I feel that it was generally F0-F1 damage from a very quick look as we passed by.
A short time later, it seems a cyclonic/anticyclonic vortex couplet formed over Comanche OK, with an intense rear-flank downdraft in the town. Considerable tree damage was noted in Comanche, with a flying birdhouse breaking a window in one of the mobile mesonet units (this may have been revenge for our killing one bird with a vehicle this morning, and another with a mobile mesonet anemometer later in the day). Teams were scattered at various locations around this town.
Thereafter, due to the erratic motion and unpredictable evolution, surface operations were halted, but the P-3 continued to collect data for a considerable period of time. This storm continued to produce tornadoes/mesocyclones for a number of hours as it moved into SE OK.

Erik Rasmussen
Jerry Straka

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