Oklahoma City Tornadoes
of June 13th 1998

Days of hot dry weather and temperatures near 100 degrees build in the Texas Panhandle and over western Oklahoma. Across central and eastern Oklahoma moisture streamed northward from the Gulf of Mexico. A volatile combination that sat for days ready to explode, but capped by a warm layer of air at 10,000 feet in the atmosphere. On June 13th a jet stream system entered the southern plains breaking the cap and lighting off powerful rotating thunderstorms.

The image of the storm shows circular banding extending up the south side of the supercell as it spins its way into the western sections of Oklahoma City. Chasers called it "The Mothership." It has already produced one tornado near El Reno and would spin up many more in the next hour.

All images and text © copyright Gene Moore unless otherwise indicated.

  Rotating storm west of Lake Hefner


rotating storm crossing Lake Hefner   tornado northwest of Lake Hefner

Under the storm the lowered base is part of the broad mesocyclone that engulfs almost all of the storm. It spins cyclonically as it crosses Lake Hefner. A tornado formed over the lake sending up a spray vortex and crashing ashore damaging a marina and boats. Some argue the tornado was not down on the lake, but it could not be seen from the east looking west through the sunlight. The spray vortex was easily seen from the west looking east through.

 

Things began to happen very fast just east of Lake Hefner. This funnel formed rapidly to my northwest while the southwest side of the storm continued to rotate. This funnel may have been northwest of Lake Hefner in open country. The time was about 7:50 CDT.

At 8:00 debris fills the southwestern sky (not shown) as a tornadic funnel forms to the west. Dodging multiple vortices on the ground is not fun. A hasty move to the north was made after firing off a quick shot in the shopping center parking lot. During this time an elongated area of rotation extends for about two miles across the western sky.

tornadic funnel south   tornado southeast

At the time of this image strong rotation becomes organized in one area of the storm. The tornadic funnel passed to the south of my position. Two trips were made up the rip-rap to carry equipment to the top. Light damage was beginning to my south at this time. This is about one mile before it hit the WKY tower. The tornado maintained this shape when it hit the tower.

 

While shooting video during the first few minutes the driving rain wedges into the camera shorting out the battery. The still cameras are soaked, but still work. The wall cloud tightened up and become visually concentric.

funnel decending to ground   Funnel extends to ground

The tornadic circulation continued to tighten as the rotational speed increased. The strong winds were beginning to let up at my location and the rain was reduced to intermittent curtains.

 

The tornado continued on its path across the city now about 2 miles west of Frontier City Amusement Park and I-35.

Condensation funnel on ground   funnel widens and lifts

The tornado extended a condensation funnel to ground at this time. It continued to do damage. This is probably one of the strongest periods in the life of the tornado. The damage was concentrated under the tightly wound funnel. The structure around the top of the tornado is a collar cloud and the outer skirt of rotating clouds is probably depicting the outer edge of intense part of the wall cloud.

 

The funnel loses the condensation to ground, but the damage continued as the circulation remained strong. During this phase of the tornado the damage path became wider, but less intense. I believe it's very near or just on the other side of I-35.

wide angle of storm   collar cloud and short funnel

This extreme wide angle shows the tail cloud entering the storm from the southwest and areas of isolated precipitation south and southeast of the tornado.

GO TO - Oklahoma City Tornadoes Part 2

 

At this time the tornado was reduced to a small rotating cylinder under the wall cloud. A short funnel extended out of the collar cloud. Damage continued under the circulation east of I-35.