The first chase of the season to Aspermont, TX. The season started with a bang for me as I managed to track down a supercell which developed in the Snyder, TX vicinity and moved rapidly off to the northeast. The storm intensified as it moved northeast. Just north of Aspermont a tornado developed as a dust whirl and lasted for about 5 minutes. My first tornado of 1995 and it was only April. My optimism soared for the remaining portion of the season.
Worked for VORTEX during this time as driver for Probe 8. However, there was a slight problem. An outbreak of record breaking cold air effectively killed any chance for surface based convection. The convection that developed was elevated in nature and were not targetable storms. Many thanks to the fine folks at NSSL and VORTEX (Erik Rasmussen, Jerry Straka and Paul Janish to name a few) for allowing me to participate.
My how soaring optimism can be dashed quickly. Several chases in May with no successes. Days that looked pretty good on paper didn't seem to pan out during the first half of the month. Activity picked up during the second half of May but work schedules and the flu interfered with such days as 5/22 near Pampa and 5/31 near Sweetwater. My optimistic chase season was turning sour in a hurry. Chuck Doswell got great photos of the Pampa tornado on 5/22 and Pete Blotman from NY (an old chase buddy from my Texas Tech days) got the Sweetwater, TX tornadoes on 5/31. Some people have all the luck!!
Essentially, my chase season boiled down to these seven days in June. One of the most active Junes for West Texas in recent memory.
6/2- left Lubbock eastbound on US 82...north on FM 28...east on FM 684 to Roaring Springs...north on SH 70 to Matador...northeast on FM 94 for about 5 miles and stopped for a few minutes...back southwest to Matador on FM 94...west on US 62/70 to Floydada...south on US 62 to FM 37...west on I27 and south back to Lubbock...
After working a midnight shift and taking a 4 hour nap, I returned to the office to analyze the situation. An outflow boundary extended from the southwest Texas Panhandle east southeastward to near Plainview, TX and eastward off the Caprock to south of Childress. High instabilities, good convergence and good shear promised an exciting day for chasers. The million dollar question: Where along the boundary would the best storms fire? I was waiting patiently at the office when a mesocyclone alarm sounded on the 88D. The meso was located on the boundary along the Floyd/Motley County line northeast of Floydada but with no parent storm. So I waited for the next volume scan. To my surprise a storm had developed and was located precisely at the same location as the meso. I blasted out of the office and headed northeast and came upon an "LP" supercell with striations in the cloud base. Unfortunately, the storm could never get its act together. The structure was good but maybe it looked too good. Meanwhile things were becoming much more interesting to the northwest of Lubbock. I could catch bits and pieces of the NWR broadcast from Lubbock which was reporting southeast winds gusting over 50 mph. I knew I was in trouble at that point being too far east to recover from my mistake. But I tried anyway. VORTEX got great data on this day from the Dimmit and Friona tornadoes. Congratulations to VORTEX and other chasers who made the right decisions.
6/3- left from Lubbock northbound on I27 to Kress...east on FM 145 to just west of SH 86 and stopped for a few minutes...talked with other chasers at same location...east on SH 86 to Estelline...southeast on US 287 to Childress...north on US 62/83...then east on US 62 to just west of Hollis, OK...south on some unmarked paved road for about 2 miles and stopped...then somehow made it back to Lubbock by midnight without becoming delirious!?!?
Thoroughly disgusted with myself as well as being frustrated, I got back on the horse for yet another chase day after another midnight shift. My target was the area between Turkey and Childress. Another boundary was the focus for severe convection this day. After playing in the cold air and extremely low cloud bases up on the Caprock just east of Silverton I hooked up with some other chasers and we decided to proceed eastbound as a small caravan toward Childress in search for warmer air and a supercell. We found both near Estelline west of Childress. No doubt, some of the strongest inflow winds I have ever encountered. But that's not all. In my years of chasing, I have never seen such a circus of chasers and yahoos alike along highway 287. What a mess! After proceeding into southwest Oklahoma to near Hollis, I finally stopped to view an HP supercell with good structure. A funnel cloud developed on the northeast flank about 3/4 to the ground but with no apparent debris cloud. Nice video but no tornado. Several tornado warnings were issued for this storm, but to my knowledge, there were no tornadoes. Still disappointed from missing the 6/2 tornadoes.
6/4- north from Lubbock on I27 to Plainview...northwest on SH 194 to Edmonson... north on FM 1424 to SH 86...east to I27...north to FM 214...west to 1424...south to Edmonson...northwest to FM 179...south to FM 597...east to I27...and south back to Lubbock.
Chase day #3. Yet another frustrating day after another midnight shift. Fatigue was beginning to set in as I was averaging about 3 1/2 hours of sleep during my set of mids. I was trying to get to a storm in Castro County, TX that had a tornado warning issued. By the time I got to it I was in the cold air once more and the storm was on its way down hill. This was the famous 6 tornadoes at-one-time storm that was on TWC. I turned south and changed identities from chaser to spotter to help out the Lubbock spotter net for storms developing west of Lubbock. Later I heard about the awesome LP storm near Lamesa, TX with great structure. Another miss.
6/5- north from Lubbock on I27 to FM 145...east to FM 378...south to FM 2286... east to SH 207...south to FM 97...east about 6 miles then turned around back west to SH 207...south to Floydada...east on US 62/70...south on FM 651 to Lakeview...east on FM 1958 to FM 28...south to FM 193...then south and east to SH 70...to Dickens, Spur, Girard and Jayton to US 380...east to FM 2211...to Aspermont...then south on US 83 to Hamlin to FM 126...south to US 180...west to Snyder...then northwest on US 84 back to Lubbock.
A day which had tornado written all over it, at least in my opinion. "Head for the triple point" was the strategy I used for this day. The triple point was located just north of Plainview around 1 pm. A stationary east/west boundary was located just north of the Plainview area with a dryline extending southward to near Lubbock and into the Permian Basin. Weak northwesterly flow prevailed in the upper levels which was indicated on the morning charts. The big kicker was a short wave embedded in the northwest flow aloft evident on the water vapor satellite loop. I expected this disturbance to move over the triple point region during max heating. CAPE and instability were in abundance to boot. Poor road decisions left me west of the action area which was naturally obscured by precipitation. Southeast of Floydada I noticed inflow bands moving rapidly into the action area. I figured something was happening on the other side of the hook. Unfortunately for me, I was right. However, Al Moller and Chuck Doswell were up in the notch and had a great view of a multiple vortex tornado which evolved into a wedge. Congratulations to those guys. We ran into each other in the vicinity of Dickens, TX and proceeded south and southeast toward Jayton. East of Jayton a few miles we watched an enormous mesocyclone wrap up just to the southwest of Jayton with great lightning. I managed to sneak in a photo or two of some daylight lightning. Supposedly a tornado was produced out of this wrapping meso but darkness underneath cloud base prohibited us from seeing any tornado that might have developed. We continued southeast and south as the chasers became the chasees. Eventually we turned back to the west and skirted under a new cell developing south of Hamlin. As we passed underneath the cell we encountered a few hail stones perhaps one inch in diameter. West of the new storm we stopped to take some photos of sunset CB's. A few minutes later, a Fisher County EMS vehicle pulled up and showed us hail stones the size of baseballs they found about 2 miles up the road from where we had come!?!
Overall, this was a good chase for me but I was becoming depressed and even more frustrated. My forecast was right on the money, but poor road decisions early on cost me the wedge. Storm chasing obviously takes more than just forecasting.
No chasing. Much needed down time for R and R after averaging about 4 hours of sleep while working mids and little in the way of healthy food. I thought my chase season was over and done with. Little did I know...
6/8- from Lubbock eastbound on 82...north on 62 to Floydada...north on 207 to 97...east to 1065...north to Quitaque and 86...east to Turkey...north on 70 to about 10 miles south of Clarendon...north to Clarendon...southeast to Hedley on 287...east on 203...north on 273 and stopped several times...continued north on 273 to 1 mile north of Mclean...back south to I40...east to 1443...north on 1443 and stopped several times...continued north to 2473...east on 2473 until debris blocked the road...back west to 1443...then south to I40...east to 83...north to Wheeler...east on 152...north on 592 to Allison...continued north on 277 to the intersection with 2124 and stopped for a few minutes...then back south to Allison...continued south on 592...west on 152 to Wheeler and 83...south to I40...west to Amarillo (finally found gas in Groom)...then south to I27 and back to Lubbock.
I guess one could say that I saved the best for last!! Or maybe one might say "The mother of all chases", at least for me. Perhaps "Wedgefest 1995" would be the most appropriate. At any rate...a great chase day for myself as well as many others. The day dawned quite unstable. All one needed to do was look at Amarillo's sounding. After taking a look at some of the data and modifying AMA's sounding, a forecast CAPE of 7000+ j/kg and an LI around -15 was all I needed to see. I analyzed a surface chart and found the dryline/east-west boundary intersection (triple point). My target would be anywhere in the eastern Texas Panhandle. The same target for many others. I left Lubbock around 2 pm and proceeded northeast toward Turkey. Nearing Floydada I began to see tops of a developing storm north-northeast of my position. Jogging east and north toward Clarendon, I finally got to a point where I could view the rain-free base. I was located south of Clarendon about 10 miles and the action area was located about 10 miles to my west. I watched this storm for many minutes while listening to the reports coming in from the Pampa tornado. I was tempted several times to go north and try for that storm. Thankfully, sound reasoning prevailed and I stayed with my storm. About 5 pm, things started happening. A small lowering developed in the rain-free base and was rotating from the get-go. The wall cloud got better developed during the next 15 minutes with numerous funnels spinning up and dissipating all most as fast. As the storm moved northeast I continued to go north to Clarendon and then southeast to Hedley. Hail the size of baseballs had fallen in Clarendon. The storm continued its trek into the canyons and valleys of the Salt Fork of the Red river. North of Hedley on highway 273, I crested a hill top and a large tornado emerged out of the haze to my northwest approximately 10 miles away. The tornado was a fat cone with a horizontal tube extending to the northeast. I stopped and started taking video of what was to become the first in a series of four tornadoes. So to no surprise I named the first tornado "Tornado #1". As Tornado #1 moved northeast rain began to wrap around it and it also became cloaked in dirt. A new wall cloud was developing to its northeast. After watching tornado #1 for about 10-15 mintues contrast started to decline. I loaded up again and continued to move north towards Mclean. At 610 pm Tornado #2 developed, first as a full condensation funnel to the ground but then the condensation funnel lifted to about half-way off the ground with multiple vortices writhing on the ground beneath the funnel. A minute or so later, the condensation funnel returned to the ground as an elephant trunk which evolved into a stove pipe and then a wedge. A power line flashed well northeast of the tornado in the inflow region which was followed by another power flash about 1 minute later very near the tornado. I watched this tornado for 15-20 minutes as it remained nearly stationary. Once again rain and dirt degraded contrast and I continued north to just south of Mclean where a ropy Tornado #3 developed about 2 miles northwest of my position. I stopped to take more video. Tornado #3 was short lived and was on the ground for about 2 minutes. However, the funnel remained visible for several more minutes as it was drawn into a much larger circulation to its immediate northeast. The funnel finally dissipated into a rapidly rotating wall cloud. It was only a matter of time before the next tornado developed. Tornado # 4 developed at 6:28 pm less than 1 mile northwest of Mclean. I raced north to capture the tornado crossing highway 273. I passed through the wrapping rain curtains and there it was. A large multiple vortex tornado passed the road less than a mile to the north. "Wow! Look at that motion", I proclaimed. Power poles were snapped like match sticks. I moved east on I40 as the tornado moved northeast toward Kellerville. I turned north again on FM 1443 to make my second intercept of Tornado #4 before it reached Kellerville. About 4 miles north of I40, I stopped to take video and stills of the second wedge about 1-2 miles northwest of my location. Tornado #4 moved northeast passing FM 1443 ripping down power lines and peeling up about 25 yards of asphalt. After this tornado passed the highway I continued north to see if my route was blocked by debris. The tornado evolved into a cylinder/cone and moved out into a field of red dirt as it continued northeast. After finding that my north route was not blocked I drove on to the next east option about 2 miles up the road. Unfortunately, my east route was blocked by power poles. So, I back-tracked to I40 and tried to make it to the Allison event. I was too far behind at that point. Traffic, darkness and rain contributed to the fact that I missed that tornado. Oh well. I decided not to press my luck any further.
Chase summary: By far, the best storm I have ever intercepted in my years of chasing. If only it was this easy every time. Some of you may have seen some of my video on the weather channel. Be looking for more on a 1995 highlights tape soon to follow.