Day 10 was our last chase day and we once again woke up in San Angelo, TX, and this morning we knew we would not be in a rush as the storms would be firing along the TX/OK border a few hours north of us. It was close to 90 degrees F (~33 degrees C) so it was a hot! The day started off very interesting as well, just as I was getting down to check out of the hotel, I got a severe warning alarm on my phone and while leaving the hotel we had some pretty decent mammatus over our hotel. What would this final day bring to us today? Despite the frustration of the previous days, I was quite excited about the prospects of the day: dryline storms in Oklahoma! We were also lucky, considering that we had to be back in OKC in the evening, and that were in fact storms with a tornado possibility in our limited chase area!

It was about to become our best – and worst – day of the entire trip.

Peter Wharton, our tour guide, positioned us perfectly near the TX border and we could see storms fighting the cap until finally breaking through. When the first storm started to appear on the radar we were close enough to see it mature. While watching the storm mature from underneath the base, I bumped into Roger Hill – whom I haven’t seen in a while – while pea sized hail was coming in over us. It was fun to chat with him a bit as well!

Our next repositioning was with a perfect view of the maturing, and rotating storm. The scenery was amazing with wheat fields and crepuscular rays from the sun! It was the perfect setting for a tornado to drop, but the storm wasn’t ready yet despite rising scud into the base.

The perfect setting

At our next position the storm had started rotating rapidly and there was a clear rotating wall cloud underneath. Once again, our position was perfect to watch the storm just as it was getting ready to form a tornado. I was filming this rotating wall cloud for 7 minutes as it was trying to form a more condensed funnel. It felt like it was close, but as it never got around to form a funnel but remained quite whispy underneath I never really thought it was going to form a tornado at this point. I am not sure but I think it never got the RFD needed to tighten up enough.

As close as it got at this point. Screen grab from my video.

And here is when the situation turned. We were well aware of that the southern storm, going northeast, was bound towards our storm. This could go either way, either it interrupts the rotation in the storm and creates a mess or it adds the needed moisture and vorticity and gives it the final kick it needs. Kind of like a billiard ball hitting another one I guess.

The problem for us however, was that it was crashing into our storm that we could either go further east and down south at Altus, or down south right away risking to get cut off in the bad road system here in western OK. We chose east, which would end up costing us dearly.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the radar image at this time but as the southern storm crashed into ours it did accelerate the storm but also put a blob of precip in front of the center of rotation. We went further down south to be able to look into it but the sun haze, the precip and the distance made it impossible to see into the notch from our point of view, and there were no roads leading back west either it seemed.

The view from our position as the storm was probably having a tornado. The sun haze and the precis made it impossible to see underneath properly.

So, we had to stand there looking at the storm, once again out of position, while we felt the influx of winds in our backs screamed towards the storms – and to see the reports of tornadoes that was a few miles away but out of reach. It was painful!

The storm itself was moving so slowly as well, so our hopes of it coming our way diminished as it was crawling its way to our position too slow. When the base finally arrived in our position, the tornado was gone and so was much of the rotation. The storm kept a good rotation but eventually became a “normal” severe storm. Our final shot was gone for the day, this tour…and it felt like, my storm chasing career.

When the storm finally came over us again it did have some promising rotation but never got closer than a slowly rotating wall cloud.

I know that the option of going south might have been a risk to be cut off, and it is once again hindsight knowledge to some extent. We could have gone south, the storm might have continued east and produced at our spot. I don’t know. What I do know is that the tornado was spectacular and a lot of chasers (including Roger, who I met earlier) got to see it because they made another choice.

I have had a rough couple of months lately personally, and I had been longing to get out on the roads to chase storms and hopefully see a tornado. I had given myself 10 days to chase to give myself the best opportunities possible, and we had the opportunities 5 days in a row with ~5% risks every day. Each day (except Colorado) had also provided some really spectacular tornadoes. And we missed them, every time.

Added to this, is that last season was bad, and prior to that I had missed three seasons because of Covid. I have only had two tornado days in total since 2017 and not seen a real (i.e. not landspout) tornado since 2017! In addition, my home situation makes it quite difficult to chase – and I am not sure if I will ever be able to go back.

So, heading home to the hotel after this day was devastating. We had been on it/under it, we had been so close, and we had missed out on the best tornado of the day (and there were numerous ones, especially in Nebraska that day). It was one of the most painful moments as a storm chaser in my career along with Bennington 2016.

I don’t want to put this too much on our tour guide. He did his best and I was the one who decided when to go and with whom so it is all up to me. The buildups to this season are completely mine to own as well.

My friend David often calls storm chasing the “worst hobby ever”. You pay shitloads of money, put a lot of stress on your family, only to have to rely on wicked weather events that will, or will not, play in your favor. Along with that you will always know what you missed, because there will always be someone else who got the best position and timing, and the best experience and photo.

I will probably come back again. Puzzle things on the home front, save up some new cash, and hopefully have better luck next time!

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