We stayed the night last night in Guthrie, OK in preparation for our southward advance toward storms today near the Oklahoma/Texas border. We left the hotel around 10:30am and headed toward lunch in Oklahoma City. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant and left around 1pm. Little did we know, had we been in this area just one hour later, we would have been directly in the path of the eventual tornado that tore through Moore, OK and has the death toll as of 11pm at 51 people and many still missing. It's a terrible thing that has happened out there, having tornadoes go through the OKC metro area two days in a row. Your heart goes out to all of those that have been affected, especially the children in the school. But because we have certain chase rules we always follow, like not chasing in densely populated areas or near interstates, this ruled the Moore tornado out for us. Also, as a general meteorological/chasing rule, storms that fire in the southern most portion of a line or boundary tend to be the most tornadic of the storms. This is why the tornado in Moore today seemed very odd. This storm was not anywhere near the southern portion of what would eventually be a line of supercell thunderstorms. The southern most edge of storms was near Wichita Falls, TX. We headed to chase out there and in the process of heading south a storm had caught our eye directly west of us nearing the Pauls Valley, OK area. We decided to start chasing after this storm as at the time, it was our most southerly extent of storms. Upon starting to chase it, it became tornado warned and rotation was starting to show up on radar. Unfortunately, at the times the tornado was reported on the ground, it was either wrapped in rain or was too far away from our position that we just could not see it. We followed this storm throughout the entire day and although we never got to see a tornado, we saw the rotating wall cloud and what appeared to be the lowering funnel cloud at times. Storms had started to form south near Wichita Falls, TX but were firing so fast and became intense enough that we couldn't chase them as they became full of hail and would cut off our route to try and chase them. At this time, we decided that this would be the end of our chasing experience and began to point the van toward Tulsa, OK for the evening.
When I had signed up for this storm chasing class, I had talked to my peers who had taken it in previous years and asked them what their favorite parts of the trip were and what I should expect from it. At the end of these two weeks, I feel as if I've advanced immensely when it comes to forecasting severe weather and know how to identify so many things that come along with severe weather. The class isn't about seeing nothing but tornadoes, it's about learning the geography of places and different types of storm structure and forecasting and how we can take radar images and apply them to what we see with our eyes. You can only learn so much in the classroom, having the field experience cannot compare to anything, the last two weeks have been some of the greatest days of my life.