The Guthrie, Texas Tornadic Supercell

May 16, 1999


Patti and I teamed up today.  

After receiving advice from Al Moller via cell phone, Bruce Haynie, Robert Willis, Glenn Dickson and I gave up on SW Oklahoma and charged south toward Guthrie to intercept a storm coming out of Dickens County (almost a carbon copy of one of last week's chases). The Guthrie storm was the farthest south of three storms in a short line. Tail end Charlie, apparently a tornadic LP, was another 40 or so miles SW in Kent County (was anyone on the Kent County storm?).

The northern two cells were being seeded, but had SW flank rain free bases. Both produced RFD downbursts which raised large dust plumes and perhaps, perhaps a few tornadic dust whirls. Both RFB areas had a hellish red appearance and were full of wrapping rain (and hail?) curtains.

We met Gene Rhoden at Guthrie. Gene had also come south from 287 but told us he had originally targeted the area east and northeast of Lubbock.

Haze was a problem (is Chiapas burning again?). We gassed up in Guthrie and then drove south of town to take a look at the updraft, which was located SW of Guthrie. The storm had a SW flank with a huge wall cloud underneath. The central part of the wall cloud was on the deck, but the haze was bad enough to prevent seeing any detail underneath.

As the precip area moved north of Guthrie, Gene and Bruce drove west of Guthrie, assuming the 4 inch hail had moved north of the highway, to get a closer look at the wall cloud. I had set up about three or four miles south of town and was shooting the storm structure when they made their move. After a few minutes, I decided to follow their lead and headed back north. As I drove north, Bruce and Gene reported the brief tornado. During most of the weak tornado's one to two minute life, it was obscured from my view by a ridge west of the highway. I got a few brief glimpses of a dust whirl underneath a shallow funnel, but never saw condensation to the ground. The storm produced several other brief funnels.

We watched the storms go down hill just before sunset. Bruce, Robert and I then drove east to highway 6 and then turned north to Crowell where we intercepted two HP monsters, one just north of town and one to our northeast near Chillocothe. We turned east toward Vernon and experienced a tremendous lightning barrage as we passed a few miles south of a large meso and wall cloud that was between us and Chillicothe.

Gene stopped in Crowell to gas up. As Bruce, Robert and I continued east, we saw a series of power flashes under the meso to our north. Gene immediately reported a power outage in Crowell via 146.52 MHz.

Six to eight inch diameter tree limbs littered the highway on the western edge of Vernon. We drove through the southern edge of the meso as we passed through Vernon and east on 287, experiencing several miles of high winds, frothy atomized rain and hydroplaning.

The armada grew as we all drove to Wichita Falls for a late dinner and discussion.


99050101.jpg (27753 bytes) Several tornado warnings had been issued for this storm prior to our arrival.  This image was made looking southwest from a high spot a few miles south of Guthrie, Texas.
99050102.jpg (23974 bytes)
99050103.jpg (22558 bytes) Looking west-southwest, the rain free base (RFB) came into view.  Shortly after this photo was taken, we decided to drive north to get into a better position.  Gene Rhoden and Bruce Haynie had already made this decision and had driven west of Guthrie a few miles to get a better look.   While we were driving north, a bluff blocked our view of the wall cloud.  Gene and Bruce reported a brief tornado that conveniently dissipated before we got north of the bluff.
99050104.jpg (26454 bytes) Looking west-southwest from the highway intersection just south of Guthrie, the mesocyclone structure was impressive.
99050105.jpg (26336 bytes) Close-up of the wall cloud structure. 
99050106.jpg (28853 bytes)
99050107.jpg (33488 bytes) Looking west as rotation tightened up and the wall cloud almost touched the ground.
99050108.jpg (27286 bytes) Looking west as a new lowering developed as the wall cloud began to occlude.
99050109.jpg (26450 bytes)
99050110.jpg (27690 bytes)
99050111.jpg (26670 bytes) The occlusion process was almost complete when this photo was taken.  Note the new lowering in the foreground and the more distant dissipating wall cloud.
99050112.jpg (32168 bytes) Looking west northwest.   The new lowering never developed as fully as the previous one, at least while we watched it.
99050113.jpg (25552 bytes) Looking west-northwest as the rear flank downdraft (RFD) started to wrap around the mesocyclone.  We left the storm and departed eastward with thoughts of intercepting the again storm farther northeast.    After dark we drove into a confusing mess of supercell thunderstorms west and southwest of Vernon.   These storms produced a tremendous lightning show that made the drive back home quite memorable.

Copyright 1999 - Samuel D. Barricklow - All rights reserved.


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Last revised: November 29, 2003