May 10, 2008 Storm Chase
in SE Oklahoma
My wife and I had a fun and stressfull chase through the mountains and jungle of southeast Oklahoma. I started from home (Ozark, AR) just after noon. I wanted to head down to Waldron but there was a few little storms popping up W of McAlester and so I headed to Sallisaw. On the way there I was encouraged as a storm moving into NW Arkansas became tornado warned. I ended up going past Sallisaw and checking out the storms just west of there. They had developed into a little line of several storms. I checked out each of the storms before dropping down to the next one. The last storm was the strongest but I couldn't get through Poteau before it crossed through. I tried to get around it but with the roads and storm speed it didnt work out. I noticed some enhanced cumulus developing again west of McAlester so I decided to head back towards Sallisaw. The storms developed pretty good and instead of heading to Sallisaw I headed straight west at them towards Stigler. I then started to have data issues as always happens in SE Oklahoma. I ended up dropping south from Whitefield to Kinta (thanks to Karen Politte who gave me a radar update to verify that I did indeed need to start trucking it south from Whitefield)to intercept the now tornado warned storm. I had to drop further south towards Robbers Cave State Park/Wilburton as the storm continued to turn more southeasterly. When we got to between Robbers Cave SP and Wilburton it got a bit stressful as the the tv station I chase for informed me the rotation was very strong and very near my location. We did see what looked to be a funnel pass just to our north and another storm chaser in the same spot says he saw debris falling out of the sky earlier (they are the truck in the parking lot) and believes nearly 100% this is a tornado. I will probably hold off categorizing it as a tornado unless Tulsa NWS verifies it. I think I got just south fast enough to avoid trouble. I then got on 270 and headed East from Wilburton. The RFD winds wrapping around the storm out of the north were quite strong. We were actually under the edge of the anvil and under partly cloudy skies as we were blasted by heavy rain and strong RFD. We were probably 5 miles from the circ so I would have to say this was some of the strongest RFD I have experienced at that distance from the circulaton center. At Red Oak we dropped south but the road was extremely curvy and we lost ground. We actually did catch up a bit as we got to Talihina and we headed south of there to Indian Highway. We were about halfway between Talihina and Honobia when we had to make our way through some possible tornado damage. I didn't have time to inspect too much but it definately could have been tornadic damage. After we managed to get through (literally) the downed trees our road turned to dirt past Honobia even though the maps say it shouldnt have. It was being worked on nearly the entire way and we nearly got stuck several times but finally we made it to HWY 259. We were behind some storm (no data or cell) so we hopefully (hoping for no hail or tornado!) punched through. We somehow missed any hail and sometime around 830pm we got to Broken Bow. We were able to check radar and saw a strong storm bearing down on us. We then got blasted by some strong RFD again and we took cover downwind of a building. We nearly got hit by a shopping cart that went flying by! After that I took a few pics of the departing storm and then we headed home.