Tuesday was the six year anniversary of one of my better known storm photographs. Its hard to believe that six years ago I was in north western Oklahoma looking for severe weather. I had planned to leave my apartment in Wichita Falls in the late morning and drive towards Clinton, OK. An approaching cold front and dryline were the mechanisms for storm development. I remember chasers were concerned about the cold front overtaking the dryline and we would get nothing more than a squall line and a shelf cloud, but I was determined to get out and do some chasing--I really needed to. You see, just a few weeks earlier the business I worked at for 3 years closed its doors and I was jobless. The demise of business was a tough and stressful ride and I needed something to help me relax and realize everything would be all right.
I arrived at my target around 4:00pm just in time to catch storms going up to my north. The road networks really worked in my favor. I was able to position myself between two developing supercells and shoot both of them. Eventually the rain/precip core came over my position and it was time to get back ahead of the storm. This time, however, the roads were not working for me. I had to drive almost 20 miles south for an east option (this would help me stay ahead of the storm). I reached SR47 and turned east. I could see all of the storm from this distance and I noticed the sharp edges to the updraft and the intense dark core next to it. I knew this storm was going to be the dominant cell. The storm started to take a more southeasterly direction and I hooked up on 183 and drove a little north. I waited for the storm to come to me and I wasn't all that impressed with what I saw. The problem was the heavy downdraft was blocking my view of the updraft tower to the west. I made a slight navigation change and turned back to the west to see a better view of the storm. A low, ragged wall cloud was just hovering above the prairie. The wall cloud was churning and rapidly rotating over the rural Oklahoma area. "This storm could produce", I thought to myself. I stayed a little too long and the RFD and core engulfed my location and I turned back south to get away from the precip. I didn't go too far, but I did stop and stood in amazement at the sight before me and my camera.
© Ben Jacobi
A colossal HP supercell updraft was moving over highway 183. Where I just was a few miles down the road was now being pounded by hail over 2" and winds in excess of 70mph. A rain foot could be seen suggesting very strong outlfow winds. As the storm came closer I saw a Chevy Tahoe pull in close to me. James Langford and Zachary Biggs came out and I introduced myslef. That is one of the best things about storm chasing getting to meet new people who are just as passionate about severe weather as you. They had just came from KS and wasn't sure if they were going to make it in time. I'm glad they did. This storm has to be the most dramatic storm structure I have ever witnessed. An amazing updraft with seven stacked layers with a vicious rfd hail core wrapped around the base of the storm. There were reports of hail larger than baseballs coming in at the time. We watched as the storm put on a show for us. One of the great things about this storm was its heading. It was moving due south now parallel to highway 183. We could get as close as we wanted and drop a few miles south if need be and not lose our position. The storm kept going until after dark and I said goodbye to James and Zach and headed off towards home. It was such an incredible chase and this photo "Stacked Plates" has become one of my best selling photographs to date. To this day I still have not seen storm structure on par with the July 12, 2010 chase.