September 20 TX Night Chase By Jason Jordan

Howdy all-

     After watching all the tornadoes near the Waco area on the 19th,
several meteorology students at Texas A&M felt that today would be the day
for severe weather in and near the College Station Area.  As it turned out,
Brazos County and the Bryan-College Station area dodged a major supercell.
All times are in CDT, and CLL is College Station.
    Two chase vehicles left CLL at 4:00PM heading north on Texas 6.  In Car
1 was Adam Houston and Steve Randle(driver), while Car 2 had Dave Gold
(Driver), Matt Gilmore, and I.  We drove through the anvil precip from a
storm off to the northwest of us and we figured that this was trouble.  It
had layed down a cool pocket of air, and all the other thunderstorms around
had started to become unraveled.  As we got closer to Waco, we heard reports
that the local t.v. station was without power and things started to look up.
We also heard reports of vehicles flipped on I-35 and then things really
started looking up.  However, our thoughts were dashed as that was damage
from the storm that we saw dissipating and who's rain we had just driven
through.  Figuring this out, we stopped for a needed bathroom break in Waco
and another storm off to the northwest caught our attention.  We pulled into
an open lot near a T.V. station (don't know which) and watched, much to our
dismay, as ourflow undercut the storm.  Dejected once again, we decided to
ignore some promising towers to the south and head back to CLL.
     While driving back home, we passed a Channel 25 T.V. truck in Waco, and
mused that they were the reason that the storm died; video killed the
supercell storm (for those of you who remember the first video ever on MTV
:-).  We still saw the towers to the south and decided to pull off in
Riesel, which is 1/2 way between Marlin and Waco.  Calling back to the
Meteorology Building, a couple of fellow students said that the only
isolated storm was near San Saba, and to intercept it we would have to drive
to Austin.  All of us decided it would be too late to chase that storm, so
we continued home.


      By now it was 7:15 and we were about 45 minutes away from the A&M
campus. Off in the distance was a dark area of rain with a nice shelf cloud.
I also looked around and noticed some nice nuckles on an anvil almost
directly above us.  The three of us decided that it was with a storm that
wouldn't affect us.  We were wrong.  Coming in on Texas 6, we entered what
would turn out to be a supercell. Both cars plugged along and by 8:00PM, we
were in the outskirts of Bryan.  I turned on the weather radio and hear that
a Tornado Warning was out for Burleson Co.; just west of us!  Things started
to speed up.  I called Car 1 and got them on frequency (both vehicles were
equipped with Dual Band Transceivers 2m-70cm) with the local amateur radio
net.  The net controller gave us the information on storm position and we
headed after the storm.
     At 8:15, we were in almost constant lightning and were heading south on
Texas 60.  We were receiving reports of a doppler radar detected tornado
with a hook echo reported on the local CBS affiliate radar located in CLL.
Both vehicles turned off of 60 onto Farm to Market (FM) 15 towards Brenham.
Driving under inflow bands, we eventually made it into Brenham at 8:40PM.
Much to our horror, an outdoor carnival was being held and traffic was
backed up on our main route.  Constant contact with the local amature radio
net helped us to find our way around.  We were stuck in Brenham until
8:50PM, telling the traffic police that the NWS had a confirmed tornado on
the ground 10 miles WNW of them moving ESE at 25 mph, and finally made it
out of Brenham on FM 1317 towards Chapel Hill into Washington Co.  Stopping
outside of this little community, we saw our first true glimpses of the
storm.  It was clearly an H.P. supercell, with an unbelieveable amount of
lightning strikes.  QUICK NOTE:: should anyone have the lightning data for
this storm, WATCH IT!!!  This storm was extrememly electrified an was
putting out bolts less than 200 yards from us.  The inflow bands fed into a
skirt that had the nastiest rain shafts in it, and there were several hard
to see lowerings back in the notch.  Suddenly, several bolts of lightning
started to strike in our immediate vicinity and the 5 of us saw a new
rain/hail shaft opening up to our west headed towards us.   
   We continued east and south, and at 9:30PM we stopped at a farm with
another clear view of the storm off to our west.  The NWS reported that
Doppler radar showed the circulation to be between Chapel Hill and Brenham.
This also corresponded to what we could see from our location.  There were
several flashes back towards our old location, but Adam and I could not tell
whether or not they were lightning or electrical lines flashing.  Once again
we were forced on the move due to the lighting, and the need to keep ahead
of the storm.  We continued along 1317 and eventually got into the town of
Bellville and stopped for another potty break and to gas up at around 9:40.
The NWS came across with a new Tornado Warning for Austin County and so we
hopped back in our cars.  Our stop had allowed the storm to get very close
and several CG bolts were in the area, and Car 2 was either hit or had a
disconnected leader surge.  Our ham radio "blipped" (for a lack of a better
word), cutting off power temporarily while resetting the frequencies in the
tranceivers memory.  All of this happened on the route to Sealy and this was
when we decided that we had had enough.  Dave and I wanted to try and get
some lightning shots, but it was too dangerous to set up cameras and video
recorders.  The chase was officially called of a little after 10:00PM due to
the close lightning strikes, distance from home, and the direction the storm
had started to travel (SSE at 25 MPH, taking it towards the coast).


    We made it into CLL at 12:15AM and went up to our Meteorology computer
lab. We went through are archived NIDS data and saw what we were up against.
This storm early on took up the entire eastern two-thirds of Burleson County
and had a well defined velocity couplet in the Base Velocity data.
Reviewing the times on our chase and the radar pictures, we realized that we
had managed to stay in the notch of the storm for most of the trip, and
amazing feat considering we had no access to any kind of first hand radar
information.  The storm maintained it's couplet for almost 3 hours, making
this a rare Southeast Texas long-tracked supercell.  We were hearing reports
of damage from winds (NOTE:: this could be downburst or tornadic, we do not
know) from amature radio people throughout the chase and it should be
interesting if the NWS does a damage survey on the storm. Unfortunately, we
at A&M cannot because several students have planned on attending the
football game.  I also wish there was some way to set up my camera inside of
Car 2.  The lightning shots would have been incredible.


     Should this storm have started 30 miles further to the east and north,
College Station would have been faced with a possible tornado tearing
through the heart of the city.  We reported all of our observations to the
amature radio nets we were on after conferring with each other, and I hope
that this information was passed onto the NWS in Houston in a timely manner.
You know, this is the third night chase I have been on, and I have seen
supercells on all 3 occasions.  I really hope that I will be able to see one
in the daytime.  Maybe later this month....

                                        Tired and Sleepy,
*            Jason Jordan, KC5KND                    *
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*     Texas A&M Sophomore Meteorology Major          *
*              (409) 847-1128                        *