Damaging tornados have occurred in the Texas Panhandle this (Friday) evening. Rob Allison and I chased a tornadic cell up in extreme NE New Mexico, in and around Nara Visa. We arrived in Nara Visa from the southwest on U.S. 54 right around 6 p.m., and saw a suspicious, rotating lowering near that small town. Contrast was poor and it soon became obscured by rain. A chaser team from the Weather Channel, including Stu Ostro, had just come out of the precip core---they said they emerged from the core in time to see the tube tornado briefly before it became wrapped in rain. We remained near Nara Visa for close to a half hour as the storm appeared poised to do its thing again, but it couldn't. The horrible road network forced us to wait in the core of a new cell between Nara Visa and Logan for about 15 minutes. Hail was up to nickel size, and winds must have been gusting to at least 70 mph--probably the strongest I've ever been in.
We raced south towards I-40 as a very dark and low base took shape. We had lots of rapid rising and curling motions to watch near Glenrio, at the NM/TX border, but the base never organized. It was from here that we learned of a tornadic cell near Dimmitt, TX. Two large tornados were reportedly near Dimmitt. The time was 8 p.m., and it was too late to get to Dimmitt. We drove back to Amarillo, close on the heels of a severe and very wet line of thunderstorms. Meanwhile, the tornadic "supercell" storm that had affected Dimmitt was bearing down on Tulia, near I-27.
I just caught the local news shows here in Amarillo. Ch. 10 led off with quite a bit of tornado video from the day's activity. They showed several large tornados (all from the "Dimmitt" cell, I believe), one with great backlighting during the daytime, near Floydada, and another near dusk with poor contrast. There was much damage to Friona, TX, and vicinity, including derailed train cars. Dimmitt had some damage as well. No deaths have been reported (to my knowledge).
My friend Bary Nusz got some good tornado footage when the storm was near Nazareth. He says he videoed a large tornado that was on the ground for at least 8 minutes. He said the cell was moving quite slowly, and the stucture was very impressive. This cell was the southern-most of a quasi-line of activity. VORTEX and several other chasers (at least) were on this supercell.
The chase day was not exactly a classic West Texas chase day, in that the storms were very wet, and the atmosphere was quite hazy. Dew points in Amarillo were up to 68 by noon. Strong southeast winds were feeding the storms during the evening. My fate was sealed around 5 p.m. near San Jon, NM, when I decided to go for the first big cell of the day up north in Harding County, NM. There were several thunderstorm towers going up at the time, but a call to Charlie Sill at Ch. 7 in AMA revealed that the Harding County storm was by far the strongest at the time. Next time I think I'll play the tail-end-Charlie cell game, especially if it that cell is likely to be in a better road network (as was today's Dimmitt cell). The thuderstorm outlook from AMA DID say that the best chance for tornadic storms was in the southern third of the Panhandle, while SELS seemed to favoring SE CO and SW KS.
By the way, last Tuesday I was on a beautiful, LP (low precipitation) tail-end-Charlie cell near Nazareth. Unfortunately, surface inflow was a little too weak for tornadic development that evening.
The dry line is sloshing back to the west now. Saturday looks like a repeat.