May 10, 2010 – High risk chase in North Central Oklahoma

Today was the day that everyone had been talking about for awhile. The SPC had a high risk of severe weather out for parts of Oklahoma and Kansas. Luckily this was the week I chose awhile ago to take off work. (sweet!) In an attempt to conserve money, I decided not to leave until early Monday morning. It was a gamble to wait that long, but I figured if I left early enough I could still make it out there in time for the storms. Originally I was targeting the Wichita, KS area but the models on Sunday evening were indicating more of a southerly/easterly threat. I chose to go for Tulsa, OK and then adjust my target from there.

I departed Champaign at 5:30am (CDT) on Monday morning and headed south on I-57. I was treated to a really nice sunrise which eventually was filled in by thick cloud cover. I went west on I-70 towards St. Louis and then southwest on I-44 across Missouri. It seemed like forever to drive across Missouri, but I eventually entered into Oklahoma. At 1:25pm (CDT), a PDS tornado watch was issued for southern Kansas and western/central Oklahoma. I was already getting alerts on my phone of tornado warnings in western Kansas, so I knew this system was about to go crazy.

July 2, 2004 – Chase to Central Oklahoma

A rare three day weekend presented itself to me and I wasn’t about to pass it up. There was a slight risk for southeast Oklahoma on the SPC Day 2, and the models were indicating some wind shear. (decent enough for July anyway!) Normally I’d never drive all the way out to Oklahoma for a slight risk, but I wanted a road trip and the storm possibilities were just a bonus. I made my way through work on Thursday just waiting for the day to be over with so I could begin my journey. I went home at 4:30pm and packed up the gear along with a few odds and ends to get me through the extended weekend. I loaded up the car and headed out of Champaign around 5:30pm on Thursday afternoon (7/1). I took I-72 west to I-55 south to St. Louis, then I hopped on I-44 west. I made a stop in Rolla, MO around 10:30pm to get a much needed food and gas pit stop.

I continued my journey west on I-44 in search of a hotel, but each one I passed looked pretty packed to me. I pressed on westward and before I knew it I was in Oklahoma. (sweet home ala..err..Oklahoma!) The state greeted me the way I left it back in June 2001. As soon as I got on the Will Rogers Turnpike around 3:30am, all hell broke loose. The sky lit up with lots of lightning and the wind was driving the rain so bad that I had to pull off for a few minutes. (SE of Quapaw, OK) As far as I know, there wasn’t any severe warnings out but it was pretty impressive. It let up and I continued my way southwest on I-44 towards Tulsa. I was starting to get a little low on gas, so I got off I-44 near Big Cabin in search of a gas station. The one I saw seemed to be diesel only, so I continued south on US 69 in search of some petrol. 🙂 As I was driving along, my low fuel light came on letting me know I’d better hurry up with the pit stop. Up ahead I spotted a small gas station with my kind of gas, but at 4:30am it was closed! I continued south and ended up in Pryor, OK where there was a nice 24 hour Phillips 66 to greet me. (whew!)