All images and text © copyright Gene
unless otherwise indicated.
|We started the day from a small town east of
Wichita, KS. My chase partner for this day was meteorologist Mike Watts from
Memphis, TN. Our original target area was southeast KS and our secondary area
was Henryetta, OK. The surface winds were weak across the entire region this
day, improving in our secondary target by noon. Consequently, we dropped south
to Oklahoma City and headed east on I-40. The storms were beginning to fire-up
across the northeast through eastern horizon. We focused our position just
north of Henryetta which appeared to be a good bet, until we heard the tornado
reports from the Tulsa area -- which was enough to make any chaser squirm. We
stayed on a storm that formed in Okfuskee Co. This storm, and another north of
it, provided enough rotation for one day. The storms moved through the low
rolling hills and trees of eastern Oklahoma, which are seen as obstructions to
storm photography by chasers. We dropped south late in the day to a cluster of
cells forming over Okmulgee, OK where we saw the distant Wainwright tornado in
progress. These images account for a large portion of the tornadoes seen, but
do not include video captures of the first Preston tornado. Images are by Gene
Moore and Mike Watts, all photography copyrighted.
Shortly after this picture was taken we proceeded north from Okfuskee to near Nuyaka, OK. The funnel was lowering as we drove north and we to shoot on the run. It produced the tornado near Beggs Oklahoma. The other supercell that we had been watching was moving east and started to produce tornadic rotation at cloud base. We decided to play this cell first then would rush east to the other storm.
The funnel is front lit white and extends rapidly to the ground behind a row of trees to our northeast. Peering through the trees I can see white condensation below the tree tops and on the ground. We fire off shots, trying to get in position. Our surprise funnel lifts quickly. By the time we get to a field directly west of its position, the funnel is about a hundred meters above the trees. Short lived, but an unexpected thrill as we get a dose of nearby rotation. We catch our breath and continue up the road to the other tornado, still in progress.
Meanwhile Jim Leonard and Chuck Robertson are east near the
base of the funnel traveling along Hwy 16. The tornado is just to the south of
the road and somewhat in the rain. From this point we fear more rain wrapping
around the tornado so we drop south and east for a better photography position
and to get out of the trees.
I overshot the first turn to go east and wound up further south than intended. We still got a clear shot of the tornado from a small hill that opened up to fields to our north. The tornado dry wraps giving us the view we wanted. Chase crews on Hwy 16 at this time confirmed the tornado was on the ground. The contrast is not what we wanted, but compared to being wrapped in the rain this is much more photogenic
A closing wide angle shot of the Preston tornado include blue sky and
building towers. The setting sun lights up the scene white and yellow. After
the Preston tornado dissipated we moved south to intercept a couple of cells
moving up from the Okmulgee area. We traveled east on a highway north of 62 and
watched the Wainwright tornado hang out the southwest side of the cell to our
east-northeast. The scene was much like the sunlit tornado in the above frame,
but more distant and in the twilight. As it began to get dark, a mesocyclone
spun up a funnel just to our southeast near Council Hill. A tornado warning was
promptly posted on the cell. We watched the funnel get close to the ground as a
curtain of rain circled the vortex. We never saw it on the ground. As it got
dark, another cell with a severe warning on it was coming up behind us. We made
a hasty retreat to the west. After nightfall the tornadic storm north of
McAlester provided a spectacular lightning display.
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