The last ten days of chasing in and around the Panhandles has been pretty exhausting. Here is what I hope will be a brief recap---yeah right. I can't guarantee that the days and dates are correct, but I think they are. I need practice with my facial expression "icons," so I'll rate each chase with these. There is a better term for those, I'm sure, but I can't recall it.
On your mark, get set, get out your Texas atlas.
The outlook for severe wx near AMA was pretty weak. It seemed that extreme SE CO, SW KS, and the OK Panhandle might be best. I drove north past Stratford a few miles into OK around 5 p.m., but there was nothing to chase north of me. Some weak stuff was going up between Dumas and AMA, but the road network there is awful. I drifted into Dalhart and south a little and watched a little thundershower for about an hour. I followed it east to Cactus, and it intensified in a hurry around 8:30. It had a neat, smooth, black updraft base just south of me, and the precip area was just north of me. I was afraid to get out of the car to take pics with a lot of long lightning bolts around me. One of them started a little grass fire a quarter-mile north of the road. I got into Dumas at the same time as the updraft base and precip core. The sky was very dark and ragged, a little green, with moderate rain in Dumas. I couldn't go east without getting creamed, so I went south of town a bit. I was upset with the road network---the next east option was 16 miles south and it was about sunset. The cloud base was churning away, and I wouldn't have been surprised had a tornado descended upon Dumas. The cell drifted ESE a bit and I decided to go back into Dumas and to follow just behind the base. While in town I looked west, and saw (against a clear sky backdrop) a "curtain-like" cloud descending rapidly just to my west. "Well, that's pretty interesting," I thought. It wasn't rotating, but it did look threatening, but I just stared and video-taped... Unfortunately, three weeks' residence in the Plains isn't enough to change the mind-set of one accustomed to three and a half decades of Southern California weather. Golfball-sized hail began pelting my immediate vicinity. I frantically looked for car protection, and found a Texaco. Heavy marble-sized hail fell for a few minutes, and my car and I lucked out. The storm didn't seem to strengthen much after that. I drove south and then east a little on Road 1913 and took lightning video and photos as the storm moved east of me over Borger.
A fun, close storm with some exciting, heart-stopping moments! :-) :-) :-)
Keith Brown (KB) and Curt Kaplan (CK) arrived from L.A. in AMA early afternoon, and we drove back up towards Dalhart early in the afternoon. There were no indications that severe wx would occur, but they were anxious to see anything that resembled convection. We went SE on US 54 out of Dalhart and found a dirt road west that headed towards a little cell. We had five tripods and cameras set up in the middle of nowhere pointed towards this dinky thundershower! What would the cows think? After sunset the area west of us strengthened considerably, and we had a very entertaining lightning show. We moved a little east a couple of times to stay out of rain, and we took a lot of lightning pictures and video. We got back to AMA around midnight as the storm followed us home. By then there were awesome anvil/mammatus lightning crawlers streaking through the sky.
Another entertaining storm on a "marginal" storm day :-) :-)
This was the BIG day of the week. The Weather Channel was chasing with Chuck Robertson (CR), and they were at Bary Nusz' (BN) house in AMA at 10 a.m. rearin' to go. (The team from TWC, including Stu Ostro, Linda Lloyd and cameraman Randy Fostig are chasing along with several experienced storm chasers this May.) Upper air and surface parameters were great for big supercells, and lots of sun bathed the Panhandles that morning. There were indications that a surface low would develop near Liberal later in the day, and I thought SW KS might be the best place. Chuck felt that the East Panhandles could be just as "prone." Martin Lisius (ML) and Chris Scott (CS) were on their way from Arlington to meet me--Martin wanted to get some footage of me on a chase for "Chasing the Wind II." We planned to meet up in the NE Panhandle near Perryton around 3 p.m.
Around 1:30 p.m. a four-vehicle caravan left AMA for points east. Towers started going up near AMA soon after, and a Tornado Watch was issued close to 2 p.m. The caravan stopped near Pampa, TX, to watch the building thunderstorms to the west, but I had to meet Martin up at Perryton, 55 miles north. KB and I found Martin and Chris south of Perryton, and we immediately zoomed back south towards Pampa----the others were in the same spot we had left them--and they were watching a tornadic storm! A long and skinny tornado and funnel cloud was visible for up to 10 minutes to their west or WNW--perhaps 10 to 15 miles away. When we got to Pampa the "caravan-team" was down near Lefors, and we all witnessed another very weak tornado close to Pampa. While the caravan chased a cell to the ESE, ML, KB, CS and I anxiously watched a very suspicious base just to our NW. We had awesome contrast and incredible, fast cloud motions under this small base, but it just didn't pan out for us. Meanwhile, the caravan team was steaming to McClean, which is along I-40. They got under the core a little and found themselves in a lot of golfball-sized hail. They waited it out under a freeway overpass, and had to decide whether to trail the storm on I-40, or to go south 27 miles on Road 273 to the next E-W road. The wall cloud was just south of the Interstate. They went east on the Interstate.
My four-person, two-vehicle team got to McClean and found hail-covered terrain. It wasn't even sprinkling, but Martin received a small crack in his windshield from a very stray hailstone. It looked like certain death (or at least massive bludgeoning) just east on I-40, so we decided to go south to try to get southeast of the updraft. About 45 minutes later, near Quail, we had a fair, hazy view of this massive thunderstorm and its smooth, rotating updraft region. Surface winds were very strong as they raced in from the south from 25 to 45 mph. Lots of dust was being picked up from dry fields in the area. We phoned Bary on his cell phone---he was headed south on U.S. 83, just in front of the incredible updraft, and dodging sporadic baseball-sized hail! (oh well, he bought that ugly Subaru so he could do things like that. Curt was with Bary, Chuck was in his Subaru by himself, and TWC team was in a nice new rental-van! Bary and TWC were following Chuck.)
My team stopped between Wellington and the OK border on Road 203 to admire the thunderstorm which swirled about 5 miles to our north. Several VORTEX vehicles and the "Chuck caravan" whisked by us to the east to get in front of the SE-moving cell. It was around 8 p.m., and the cell was only moving about 20 mph. My story isn't very exciting forthwith--we went south on Road 30 towards Hollis a little and watched the storm pass north of us. We had an incredible view of the sunlit cumuluform towers on the west side of the cell as it moved to our east. Al Moller stopped by to say that this was one of the most impressive-looking storms he had ever seen--comparing it a storm near Borger some time ago. He had approached the storm from the southeast---apparently his view had been less hazy and more incredible than ours.
Meanwhile (again), the Chuck caravan was testing fate---they were frantically heading south from Road 9 on some little road while baseball hail sprinkled the land. They came to a river--the Salt Fork of the Red. There was no road across the river. As all three vehicles squeezed under a little metal covering, grapefruit-sized hail began falling---causing great banging sounds upon this metal protection. I've seen Curt's video--it is amazing. Of course, TWC, Bary, and Chuck got video, too. (On Tuesday TWC mentioned several times that their chase team in the Plains had gotten caught in this hailstorm, and that a special show will be produced in a couple of months with highlights from their chases.)
We met Bary and Curt back at Roads 9 and 30 as darkness fell---Bary's car was quite dimply, but his windshield (and all windshields in his caravan team) survived. Bary was very surprised that no one lost their windshields. We headed north to Erick, and got about halfway there. Another hail-filled supercell was blocking the path. Instead of waiting for it to pass, we went back south to head west to AMA.
I felt a little cheated on this day. I missed the tornado, the "great" view of the supercell's updraft, and the massive-citrus-fruit-sized hail. At least I was closer to the storm than I would have been if I was sitting in California. I still had a nice-looking chase vehicle, too. :-) :-) :-) :-) :-(
Martin and Chris joined Bary, Charlie Sill, Keith, Curt and myself in AMA. We left Bary and Curt in Charlie's apartment parking lot and headed south to Plainview, near a weak surface low. Bary and Curt were doing the coathanger shuffle while waiting for AAA to come save them. (Bary's keys were locked inside.) Martin stuck his professional camcorder out the window along I-27 to show what a Pathfinder looks like on the way to a storm. Bary and Curt found us at a Mr. Burger in Plainview. Cloud motions at several levels indicated great shear, and around 6 p.m. we were chasing a cloud base SOUTHWEST from Lockney towards Lubbock. The problem with this base is that it wasn't holding anything up. It was dark and mean-looking, with terrific inflow from the east, but we were chasing a wanna-be storm. There were a couple lightning bolts, but this chase was a dismal failure. Apparently the strong east winds were outlflow winds from other storms way to the east of us, and there was not enough moisture to sustain convection in our dark teaser base.
The only good thing about this chase was that my vehicle remained free of hail-induced dimples. :-( :-(
Curt, Keith and I drove south from AMA to LBB to Snyder, as the stupid cold front continued to sag south towards the Permian Basin. It wasn't supposed to go that far south. We met Martin and Chris in Colorado City and watched nothing happen. We found TWC at a motel, and there was a wisp of a cloud out west near Fort Stockton. We were bored silly and had nothing else to do, so we left Martin & Chris and drove through Big Spring and Midland to see a few puffy-little nothing clouds to the south. We stayed in Midland and had Dominoes deliver some food to our motel room. Keith and Curt said the mushrooms weren't very good. At least there was some funny stuff on TV.
Chases like this one makes one appreciate the successful chases---the ones with the BIG puffy clouds.
:-( :-( :-(
Curt, Keith and I stopped by Midland NWS to check out the latest data. Greg Jackson was working there--he had helped me tremendously to get radar data of the Last Chance storm when he worked at Goodland. Apparently Matt Crowther and Corey Mead had just left the office for sunnier chase territory: Fort Stockton. This was near the end-of-the-earth chase territory, as Scott Woehm called it. We got to Fort Stockton around 2 p.m. as a severe cell with an impressive base and small wall cloud approached from the west. We were forced to go southeast on U.S. 285 (you never want to chase south of Fort Stockton, unless you don't need roads to chase) to stay in good position. We saw a couple nearby gustnados, but we turned around when a tornado warning went out for a cell to the WNW near Balmorhea (and Saragosa!). We stopped about 10 miles northwest of Fort Stockton. The "tornadic" cell had bombed (in the theatrical sense), and we had a good (though distant) view of the first storm we had been on. Fortunately, it just looked "good," and not "incredibly awesome," so we didn't feel like fools for not staying with it in roadless land. We "hung out" for an hour or two at the intersection of US 285 and Road 1776 and watched an updraft base try to get its act together just north of us. Midland put a warning out on it, but they wouldn't have if they were watching it from our locale. Finally, around 6 p.m., the sky darkened rapidly to out west and another tstorm warning was issued for NW Pecos County. We found a spot a couple of miles south of Coyanosa and set up our five tripods. To our WSW, about 15 miles away, lightning was becoming very frequent and rapidly changing protuberances were skittering beneath a greenish/black cloud base. This was becoming very intriguing. We were in great position to videotape any tornado that this beast might spin out. Several funnelly/scuddy bits seemed to scrape the ground, but it was a bit too distant and unclear as to whether these were tornados or not. Another base to the SSW began to merge with our "better" base, and soon the storm had a beautiful shelf look. We stayed as long as we could as the HPish cell and its lightning encroached. We shot north to Coyanosa and then east when rain began to fall. We saw hints of low-level rotation as we struggled to stay in front of the storm on the barely-adequate road network. We also had some swell outflow winds--perhaps up to 50 mph. I'm glad the ground was moist. At one point we were forced to head south for four miles, just in front of the core, in order to go east again. We managed to stay out of any hail (though Curt was cursing my navigation scheme--he was driving his car on this chase) and the storm never really strengthened any more. We let it pass over us when we found a railroad overpass between Girvin and McCamey. The storm was pretty wimpy by then, as no hail fell. We had a Dairy Queen dinner in McCamey and drove to AMA for the next day's events.
We got neat video (and, I presume, slides) of this severe storm as it approached us. I'll never forget those magical moments near Conayosa, uh, Cosanostra, uh, Coyoloco, uh, Conan O'brian, uh, Coyosona, uh, wait, uh, Costo Rica, no, Coyanosbleed, awe shucks, Pecos County. :-) :-)
The front was finally headed back north towards LBB. AMA had been stuck in dreary, wet overcast with upslope flow for several days. An upper-level trough was forming over the West U.S. again, and impulses were forecast to initiate severe wx near the Panhandles again. Around 3 p.m. we were in a Tornado Watch, and a severe cell (with a radar-indicated "possible" tornado) was moving ENE near Dimmitt (sw of AMA). Curt, Keith and I went south on I-27 to get in front of this storm. Around Happy, TX, we finally came out of the low overcast, and we saw an unimpressive HP-ish blob moving in on us from the west. Bary took to the road about a half hour later and drove to Claude to intercept this cell. It impressed him so much that he turned around and went back home. There were some pretty and dramatic dark cloud patterns covering the sky, but the storms themselves were blah. As we watched the sky west of Silverton, we saw several other chasers pass by. Warren Faidley honked as he headed east, and Tom Dulong (NWS Denver) and a Texas Tech chaser stopped by to chat. I apologize for forgetting the Texas Tech student's name. He's writing a paper on blowing dust, though, if that helps anyone out there out. We watched another mediocre shelf cloud-storm near Tulia on the way back to AMA. A little hail was along flooded fields near Wayside. A very interesting roll cloud moved southeast over AMA just before sunset. We got our feet muddy shooting this feature.
The roll cloud didn't quite make up for what might have been a real good chase day. When are these dreary cloudy days going to end? :-(
I forget exactly what the weather was like this day. We didn't chase, though.
This was the one-year anniversary of the somewhat surprising tornadic LP supercell storm in Roberts County. The SELS outlook was not very optimistic for any severe wx in West Texas, so we stayed in AMA through mid-afternoon. By 4 p.m. an isolated storm had popped up near San Angelo, and it soon produced a tornado or two and grapefruit-sized hail. We were quite bummed. There was a forecast for activity by evening in NE NM because of continued moist, easterly, upslope flow and a disturbance aloft, so we drove west into NM to forget about the storm we wanted to be watching. Some piddly cu went up near Clayton, but when we got to Nara Visa it wasn't worth chasing. It was getting dark to our west, though, and it wasn't just because the sun was setting. As we approached Logan, NM, from the NE on US 54, lightning was increasing and a nice updraft base was developing. We got some video near Logan, and the rain chased us east to the part of Road 392 in NM, ENE of San Jon, where it right angles south to I-40. It was nighttime, but frequent lightning illuminated the active cell to our WSW. This thing had a flanged base and a wall cloud! It looked like LP-material, with lots of scuddy/funnelly appendages. The video shows several near-ground cloud material. Whether it produced a tornado or not, who knows. This could have been the storm of the month for us if it had been a couple of hours earlier---with lots of sunshine around. It was a very pleasant surprise, nonetheless, and salvaged a day that probably depressed a lot of chasers.
This day gets four happy faces and four sad faces. I'm sick of typing them out individually.
No, I didn't drive all the way to Sanderson from AMA to see the only storm worth chasing in Texas today. I stayed in AMA and helped Keith and Curt chase down there! They called at 8:30 p.m. to say that they got close to Sanderson and turned around--the storm looked decent, but was no longer chase-worthy. Besides, the road they wanted to take was flooded out.
Picture a face with shoulders shrugging here.
That's it for now.