5/27/97 Cedar Park, TX et al chase by Bruce Haynie


From: Bruce Haynie (kbhaynie@FLASH.NET):

Lon Curtis wrote:

...deletia...

>As I turn northwest on SH195 north of Georgetown, Bruce Haynie calls
>from Austin (it is 3:55pm, give or take a minute) and wants to know
>where I am and where he should go. I tell him to head northwest, out US183,
>toward Cedar Park and Liberty Hill. Bruce gets out in time to catch the next
>tornado at Cedar Park, but I'll let him tell that story himself.

...snip...

>Lon Curtis
>Belton, TX

I suppose that Lon has put me on the spot :).  The Cedar Park, TX storm
chase account follows...

As Lon mentioned in his chase account,  May 27 dawned quite unstable.  For
a more detailed look at the forecast parameters, refer back to Lon's chase
report.  As the morning progressed, I stayed abreast of the potential
situation using the Quick Weather section of the NWSFO LBB home page (http://
dryline.nws.noaa.gov) and Greg Thompson's Real Time Weather home page (http://
www.rap.ucar.edu).  Thankfully, my job is such that I can surf the net
intermittently(sp) using a Sun SparcStation 2, allowing me to multitask
to my heart's content.  While plowing through several ARC/INFO sessions I
peeked at the hourly output from the LBB and UCAR weather sites occasionally;
watching visible satellite images (UCAR) and surface plots (LBB) of the
Central Texas area.  The two obvious clues: 1) a stationary boundary (s),
2) enormous instabilities.  The latter approaching or possibly exceeding
the instability numbers on June 8, 1995.

Around 1:30 PM, I checked the latest visible image... "HOLY COW!!", I nearly
shouted.  My co-workers looked at me a bit strangely.  A huge storm,
located in southern McClennan County, had a magnificent over-shooting top
and a flanking line was easily seen.  It was obvious that this storm was
located right on the boundary.  Immediately, I get antsy and start looking
for warnings... a couple of tornado warnings had already been issued.
Further investigation of radar data indicated an extremely deviant storm
motion to the south-southwest ALONG the boundary.  My production on the
job decreased some after that.

Now... it's approximately 3:20 and I try to call Lon on his cell phone from
the office... no answer.  I didn't know that he was photographing what would
be called the Jarrell tornado.  At 3:45, I can't stand it any longer and
ask my supervisor for an hour off to be made up the next morning.  He agrees...
and out of the building I run with camera gear in tow (I had taken my gear
to the office in anticipation of an after work chase).  North bound on I35,
it's 3:55 PM and I try Lon on the cell phone again from my chase vehicle.
He answers, nearly out of breath (I would be too after seeing what he did),
and tells me what he has seen and gives me some much needed info which
confirms my suspicions of storm motion and how the meso's are evolving over
time.  Lon
says: "Go up US 183 northwest!"  I do exactly that.  Proceeding northwest
on 183, toward a darkening sky, a frantic call on the ham radio exclaims:
"Tornado in Cedar Park! I'm turning around!"  Hmmm... I'm approaching the
intersection of 620 and 183 and looking in the direction of Cedar Park... I
didn't see any tornado.  I turn back to the east-northeast on 620 to get out
of the traffic... as I do, I catch a glimpse of what appears to be a loose
column of smoke suspended over north sections of Cedar Park.  Uh oh... my
interest is beginning to peak.  Lon calls: "Tornado Warning for the Cedar
Park area."  I make a u-turn at a crossover on 620 and head back toward 183.
A small funnel comes into view to the northwest as I make the u-turn.  Tornado
at 4:23 PM from my perspective.  Dust (and unseen debris) is being pulled
skyward as the condensation funnel thickens, extends closer to the ground and
moves south-southwest.  I start looking for a suitable place to take video
and stills.  After some meandering, I find a place at Lakeline Mall on a small
hill to stop.  I begin to video and take stills for approximately 5 minutes
as the tornado unfortunately moves through the Buttercup Creek subdivision
of Cedar Park.  The tornado, with condensation 7/8 to the ground and a very
tight debris cloud, veers more to the west and gradually becomes wrapped in
rain.  I become concerned about getting pounded by the core and try to go south
and then west towards Lake Travis only to become stranded in traffic gridlock
on 360.  Cringing as the core moves over me, I get lucky some how and miss all
but heavy rain and some 1/4" diameter hail.

That's where the chase ends for me.  Unfortunately, another tornado develops
and moves through the Hazy Hills area very near Lake Travis and takes the
life of a 25 year old man.

My deepest sympathies to the families and friends who were affected by this
tornado outbreak.

Bruce
"Happiness is Lubbock in my front windshield!"
------------
Bruce Haynie            Austin, TX              kbhaynie@flash.net
Cartographer/     **Standard Disclaimer**       kbhayni@why.net
Automation Specialist
"Those who live by the extended models shall also die by the extended
models."

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