My first chase of the 2012 Severe Weather Season in SkyNews9 HD was this past Monday, April 2, 2012. It was one of those conditional days in which the chances of storms developing were rather low, but if they did manage to develop and sustain themselves…whoa buddy. Too often do days like this creep up on us during severe weather season, so it's best to always be prepared – this goes for meteorologists and Okies alike!
We took off around 2:00PM and headed west towards Weatherford,OK near a developing dryline, where thunderstorms were expected to develop within the next two to three hours. The Thomas P Stafford airport in Weatherford is a common staging point on days where storms are expected to develop across western Oklahoma. Just like ancient armies were forced to move from one source of water to the next, the pilot of SkyNews9 HD has to constantly monitor our fuel supply and always be aware of the nearest serviceable airport.
The beginning of most chases always starts with us sitting at an airport to conserve fuel until thunderstorms initiate. During this waiting time the pilot, photojournalist and I will typically grab some food, which is never in short supply at any of the fine airport establishments across Oklahoma! We will monitor the conditions from the field, while Gary and crew keep a close eye on the radar back at News 9. This can be the only downtime we get out in the field, because if conditions are bad enough it isn't uncommon to log 3-6+ hours of flight time during a typical severe weather event. Luckily this was a slow day, and much of the time was spent on the ground.
While moderate-strong instability existed across our target zone, upper-air support just wasn't present. A warm layer of air around 2000ft known as a "cap" also suppressed thunderstorm development. Simply put, there just weren't enough necessary ingredients to overcome the factors working against thunderstorm development on this particular day. A few showers and weak thunderstorms did manage to form to our west from Putnam to Hobart ahead of the dryline, but none that showed any threat of becoming severe. Shortly after the 6:00PM newscast we were instructed to RTB – return to base!