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October 24, 2001 Storm Chase Log :

October 24, 2001
Severe Weather Outbreak in Eastern USA

By mid-September, I'm almost out of storm-chasing mode altogether and preparing my mind and schedule for the long winter months. Consequently, I could hardly believe my eyes when on the morning of October 24, I clicked onto the NOAA SPC Day 1 Convective Outlook to find most of Ohio in a forecasted High Risk severe weather region, the highest and most serious designation that the SPC outlooks can display:

High Risks are rare to begin with, most only occuring in Tornado Alley in the central Plains during the active spring season. It was certainly even more rare to see one this far northeast, and this late in the season at that!

The center of the highest risk was in Indiana, only a 3 1/2-hour drive from Charleston. A potential major tornado outbreak this close to home made it a no-brainer decision to go. I took the day off from work and was heading west on US 35 by 10:00AM. A big thanks to fellow chaser & friend Dave 'Stormguy' Crowley who committed to giving me nearly constant updates via cell phone from his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He had planned on driving up from Tulsa that morning to chase here himself (chasers are that dedicated, folks!), but was unable to go at the last minute due to a sudden case of the flu. From his house in Tulsa, he was able to give me up-to-the minute radar updates as well as changes in the risk outlook and watch/warning situations.

That was a good thing, because (as is typical) the situation changed constantly as the day wore on. Overcast skies in western Ohio prevented the atmosphere from undergoing the forecasted diurnal destabilization (heating of the atmosphere near the ground by direct sunlight), and therefore the severe weather risk was downgraded throughout the afternoon. Tornado Watches, however, were issued for my location by 3:00PM. I ended up hovering around the Dayton, Ohio area on the Indiana state line at 4:30PM, and by around 5:30PM the storms were beginning to move in.

The tornado risk outlook ended up shifting to the north, but there were still some good cells approaching from the west. Consequently I shifted my focus from tornadoes to lightning as I began looking for places to set up the cameras.

The cells quickly 'lined out' into a fairly unimpressive, fast-moving squall line, although the system did produce a nice shelf cloud as it moved through New Castle, Indiana near the Ohio state line (below):

I moved east with the cells, but never could get a good lightning display to shoot. There was too much rain, too much wind, and not enough flashes to even bother pulling over to watch. The rain was heavy and the wind strong all the way home, with a few scattered lightning flashes here and there. I encountered a few areas of wind damage, including some fallen trees and an overturned tractor-trailer near Xenia, Ohio on US 35.

I finally made it home by midnight as the line rumbled over Charleston. I set up the cameras out of the living room window to catch this faint intracloud flash as the storms moved on towards the coast:

It was a long day, with over 900 miles logged in 3 states in 14 hours - and not a whole lot to show for it. But if you don't go out, you'll never know what you could have missed.

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