Tornado Outbreak in Oklahoma

Chase Map
Date: May 10, 2010
Chase Partners: Eric Treece
Chasers Encountered: Shane Adams, Mickey Ptak
Miles: Driven: 1,332 Miles
Severe Risk: SPC Outlooks
States Visited: IL, IN, MI, MO, OK
Weather Encountered:
Funnel Cloud, Hail, Severe Wind, Tornado, Wall Cloud


Videos: (Click to watch)


Chase Narrative: 

Monday May 10th was a day most storm chasers had seen quite a bit of potential in for quite a few days leading up to the event. Model run-to-run consistency had been very good in painting a grim picture for Oklahoma.

I had originally asked for the time off on Wednesday the previous week. I planned to take Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday off, and I would leave for Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon after having lunch with my mom for Mothers day.

Sunday Morning I started talking to Eric Treece. Eric is a fellow chaser, and captain of the Wilfred Sykes freighter on the great lakes. He had given up hope on Saturday night that he would have a chance to make Oklahoma on Monday. Eric was delayed time and time again. We started looking at flights and started seriously talking about having him fly down to Tulsa, as he would be getting off the boat hopefully Sunday night. He still had to beat another ship into port.

It turns out he did, and got a ride to Green Bay from Escanaba, then rented a car in Green Bay where he drove to Milwaukee and got an hour or two nap before his flight from Milwaukee to Tulsa with a switch in Houston.

I started driving down Sunday after lunch and made it to Joplin, MO before stopping at the Motel 6 for the evening. I got a decent night sleep, having gotten into Joplin somewhere around 12:30 am.

Monday I woke up around 8, and had a great breakfast planned at the Cracker Barrel down the road. I was on the road by 10 to Tulsa. Eric missed his connection from Houston to Tulsa because his Milwaukee to Houston flight left on time but was late in getting into Houston. Luckily we were able to get him on another flight an hour later, which would turn out to be fine as I pulled up to the airport in Tulsa about the time he was walking out.

Once we got Eric into the truck, we decided we needed to get west and in a hurry. We took the turnpike out of Tulsa towards Stillwater, and ended up eventually gassing up and stopping at Wal Mart so Eric could get a few items including a tripod.

We decided to still target towards Enid, and headed that way, arriving in time to top off the tank. We ran into Shane Adams and Mickey Ptak as we pulled into the gas station. There was already a cell going up to the west of there, however, I was almost convinced we would never catch up to it. While we were topping the tank off, I went and said hi to Shane. Shane was heading out right then to go after that cell, and was convinced he could catch it.

Eric and I decided to follow, ending up in a convoy up US 60 in an intercept route for this storm. We got to US 64 then headed west to Nash. In Nash we decided to make a turn to the north, up state route 132. The rest of the convoy had also decided to make this turn, except for Shane who pulled off and got behind us all.

We headed up to just before State Route 11. Eric and I bailed west on a dirt road for a few miles unitl we came up to an area where we could clearly see the base of the storm. It was still obviously high based, but managed to form a wall cloud before we decided we needed to keep up with it and get further east. We headed up to SR-11 and then east. We ended up stopping 5 miles east of the SR-132 paved option, and setup tripods.

It was about this time the storm really started getting organized, dropping the first tornado which was a carrot funnel which had a small debris swirl at the bottom. Then a minute or so later the big tornado formed from the rapidly rotating mesocyclone. Eric and I got the initial touchdown tripod-ed and were in a perfect viewing position.

The tornado turned multivortex right away, and then dropped a satellite tornado in the field right in front of us. With storm motions of 60+ MPH, we didn't have a long time period to sit and enjoy the tornado. I was convinced it was going to turn into a huge wedge, and that we needed to get further south so we didn't end up being accidental tornado debris.

We bailed south a couple of miles, setting up for another shot before heading east at a rapid speed. We headed towards Medford on the dirt road network, eventually going north and stopping so we could watch what appeared to be a huge wedge. Our lighting and vantage point wasn't the greatest, so it didn't show up the greatest on our video.

Eventually we got to US81 and took it north into Medford. We pretty much knew there wasn't much of a chase we'd catch up with it, but we thought we'd try anyway, and worse case scenario drop south on I-35 after heading east.

We made it through Medford and too US 81 northeast towards the cell. It was just clearing the road to the east as we were coming up the road. We should have taken a hint when we saw the TIV and the 'Dominator' heading back south, but we continued north a few miles until we got to the power lines down and the road closed.

Opting not to take dirt roads, we backtracked to Medford and then headed east to US 77, dropping south to intercept the cell coming into Ponca City at the time. I did a quick phoner with The Weather Channel while we were near Kildare.

We headed east out of Ponca City and had to core punch the storm coming out of Ponca along US 60. We made it through the storm and then into the clearing on the far side. There was a lot of rotation with this storm and we witnessed a very brief touch down near US60.

We followed this storm east to Pawhuska before giving up on it and deciding to bail south and east towards the beast of a cell in the Oklahoma City metro area.

South and then back east on the turnpike to Tulsa. We editing some video and got it online at this point of the Medford storm.

We took the Muskogee Turnpike southeast out of Tulsa all the way down to I-40, just getting in front of the monster supercell coming east. The storm had monster inflow of 50-70 MPH. Eric and I had trouble holding our tripods up and steady.

While the storm presentation was great on radar, visually it wasn't all that great and we ended up following it to Sallisaw, OK before giving up on it and deciding to get some Pizza Hut and a hotel room for the night.

We turned the TV in the hotel room to The Weather Channel and watched all the video and damage from the day. What an incredible, destructive and sad day. It's amazing that May 10th had such few deaths. It's a testament to the lessons learned after May 3, 1999 for sure.