The El Reno, OK Supercell and Tornadoes
of 24 April 2006


All images and text
© copyright Gene Moore


The day for me started out well north of Oklahoma City near Perry. It was my first target and a supercell formed on cue out ahead of the dryline. Too easy it seemed, and so it is with chasing, getting fooled and having to refigure the day as conditions change. That big supercell quickly became HP (heavy precip) with the mesocyclone buried in rain. For a highly unstable atmosphere the motions within this storm seemed lame. I broke off this cell and drove south to the Stillwater area where the south end of the line was located. Here I found another supercell showing rotation on radar, but again it just didn't have what I was looking for. So, as hard as it was to do I pulled in a parking lot and downloaded a new data set. Here I would review the whole situation from scratch. It was a critical time of the day and my next decision would make or break it for me. After looking at a surface map, vertical wind profilers and the satellite the stalled dryline it appeared southern OK was held more potential. Within that set of choices developing supercells south of Oklahoma City was the lure. Yet the setup near Oklahoma City included a stalled outflow boundary (OFB) from the early afternoon's activity. It seemed when the dryline hit this OFB the chances for tornadoes would be high, so that became my new target. As I drove into the city from the north the supercells to my south, especially near Anadarko were getting strong. It would have been so easily to bolt south, but this time I would stay the course.


supercell west on I-40   better view of rotating wall cloud

My first view of the developing supercell west of Oklahoma city revealed a flat base under the flanking line. As I navigated the expressway across the north side of town I brought up radar, there was a strong mesocyclone in this storm at midlevels of the atmosphere. Turning west on I-40 gave a better view. Scud cloud formed and lifted to the cloud base. The immediately begin to spin as I could see the clouds in back cross the one's in front.


Clearing the west side of the metro area I got a good view of the updraft and wall cloud. It seemed I had more time, but not much as things were coming together fast. A funnel had already formed


  funnel begins to form   running out of time as the funnel head for ground

Notice how the wall cloud is no long a collection of ragged scud clouds, but now a smooth walled structure. From this a funnel begin to descend, but it took a few minutes and every minute was a mile closer for me.


At this time the vehicles sharing the Interstate with me are beginning to behave in an erratic manor, no doubt their drivers were wondering what to do next with this sight on the horizon. Many started to pull off to the side of the road or hit the exits. That's the correct decision, getting caught on the Interstate during a tornado is dangerous, wait too long and there may be no safe exit between you and danger.


  A little panic ahead?   tornado and rig  

Now vehicles are beginning to scatter. Click on this image and look closely, a car is now sideways on the Interstate just ahead of me. It appears this driver after seeing the tornado decided to dash back to the nearest exit. Certainly his driving presented more danger than the tornado.

  Usually good shots are made, sometime they can fall in your lap.....if you're fast enough to get them. For me, a vertical variation of this shot was my favorite of the chase and perhaps the season. It only lasted for seconds as both the scene and the tornado changed.  

  wide shot of tornado and city lights  

The light rain from the "hook" echo is seen wrapping around the tornado. The funnel is beginning to narrow during this time. Note the high cloud base from which the tornado is hanging from while dry air begins to cut away at the old wall cloud. At least everyone could see this one coming, plus it was on TV. I've been in Oklahoma City when tornadoes came through at night buried in low clouds and rain, this is very different.


After driving another mile closer the tornado loomed tall and narrow. The base of the tornado has started the rope out phase in this shot. I took video after this time and less still images. I could hear the screaming sirens from El Reno during these scenes, one siren was just across the street.


  new tornado develops to my south   narrow rope out in dust

While shooting the tornado to my west a new tornado developed out on the flanking line to the south. This tornado was anti-cyclonic and the rotation was not as strong as the first one. Meanwhile the first tornado was still in a narrow rope out and getting pretty close to me as it dissipated.


You may have to go to the enlarged shot at the link to see the narrow rope tornado in this image. This is the final stage of the tornado to my south. After this tornado dissipated I followed the storm into Oklahoma City experiencing hail and heavy rain, but no more tornadoes.


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