The storm in the northern cell began looking anemic as the new line of storms cut off its supply of warm, moist air. With little activity registering on our radar, we shifted to the southern edge of the line of storms, about 50 miles away. Then, to our frustration, the storm we had just left produced, in a last gasp, a brief and very weak tornado as it struggled along.
We were close enough to Norman, Oklahoma, that we were able to spend the night at home.
The following day brought greater success. We began by driving a few hours to North Texas, where we waited for storms to develop. As they did, we had a choice of tracking storms that were occurring back in Oklahoma or new ones developing in north central Texas, our original target area.
As we watched the storms evolve, the one in Oklahoma appeared to be more mature and had features that suggested it was more likely to produce tornadoes. We headed for its southernmost cell, just outside Oklahoma.
As we approached, it increasingly had the appearance of leading to a tornado. We positioned our radar trucks to monitor the storm as it passed by.
Bull's-eye! A tornado formed about four miles to our west and approached slowly. It looked like a thin, gray elephant trunk as it struggled again and again to touch the ground. Wisps of debris leaped into the air as it plowed through trees.
Unfortunately for our research efforts, the tornado did not have much gusto. It died after about six minutes, without having grown substantially.
After the tornado died, we continued following the storm because it appeared to have the potential to produce another tornado. But the storm gradually lost its punch and collapsed as it pushed cold, stable air ahead of itself, which cut off its source of energy: the warm, moist inflow of air.
The day was over, but not the season. It is still early, and we still hold out hopes of getting that perfect data set.
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