From Oklahoma to Texas in search of conditions favorable to tornadoes

Bob Ulchak

The day started off with our orientation and our first weather briefing. The group has grown to 19 storm chasers and three vans.

Mark Lisius, president of Tempest Tours of Arlington, Texas, conducted the briefing.

Current conditions as well as computer models showed that today's conditions were not favorable for storm development.

Lisius indicated that several factors are needed to come together to create a favorable atmosphere for storm development. These include moisture, wind shear and a lifting mechanism to get the atmosphere primed for possible severe weather development.

A key ingredient is moisture as measured by the dew point, the temperature at which the air becomes saturated. Dew points in the upper 50s and mid-60s are required at a minimum.

The dew point in Oklahoma City was in the upper 40s with air temperature was expected to reach 70 -- a bit on the dry and cool side for mid May. The good news is that the computer models indicated that moisture would begin to head north from lower Texas by Wednesday, with even better conditions on Thursday. The general weather pattern by then is expected to be ripe for thunderstorms and super cells that may produce tornadoes.

The consensus of the group was that we should head for north Texas today to be in the area of increasingly favorable conditions for mid week.

The vans left Oklahoma City after enjoying a lunch at the famous Earl's Barbeque Restaurant. Since this is considered a down day the drive was leisurely.

A particularly interesting site was at the Red River, which is the boundary of Oklahoma and Texas. The river was nearly bone dry, indicative of the drought Texas is experiencing, with several storm chasers walking the riverbed instead of riding into Texas. We did, however, have one of our storm chasers lose his footing and drop his expensive camera into the red mud of the Red River.

Our first day ended as we arrived around 9 p.m. in Childress, Texas, a 200-mile day.

P.S.: Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel has joined our tour. ... I hope to interview him during our journey.

The Patriot Ledger