4/10/97 TX Panhandle chase by Dean Cosgrove



"The COLD Front"  April 10, 1997 I awoke early in anticipation of a chase
into the TX Pan.  My target area was between Clovis NM and Lubbock TX.  I
left home in plenty of time to reach this area by around 12:30 PM MDT. 
What I had not counted on was the extent of the ice storm over eastern CO. 
A thin coat of ice covered my car as I prepared to leave early on the
10th.  The iceing did not turn to snow as soon as was forecast but
continued to get worse and increase in coverage.  Driving over 40 MPH was
nearly impossible.  By the time I was around 50 miles north of Lamar, I
heard reports of roads being closed due to numerous accidents.  Soon after
that my CB tuned to CH 19 informed me that my route out of the state was
also being shut down due to wrecks blocking HGY 287 near Lamar. I was
still determined to try to get out of CO and to feel the other side of
this cold front.  I took out my detailed CO map and decided to take gravel
roads the rest of the way.  Even the gravel roads were very slick due to
the nearly 1/2 inch of ice on the ground.  The weight of the ice was
enough to break one of my antennas off my vehicle.  Had I known just how
bad this was going to get I would not have even attempted to drive through
this ice storm.  Turning around and going back home was no longer an
option since the roads were now closed behind me too.  I also knew that
SOON??? I would make it far enough south that I would get into warm enough
air that iceing would no longer be a problem.  To make this long and
exausting white knuckle drive out of CO took over 8 hours.  This usually
takes less than 5 hours.  As I enterered the OK Pan. I was still north of
the cold front but at least the temps were a little above freezing.  I
arrived in Dalhart with the temp down to 37.  From NOAA WX Radio out of NM
I heard that the temp at Clovis was 73 with a stiff south breeze.  I
continued south as the cold front had just passed AMA and I was still
north of it.  I was north of Vega when I heard of a Severe Thunderstorm
near Herford..  By the time I got to Herford there were breaks in the low
clouds and I was able to get my first glimpse of the towers in the area. 
I decided to let the Severe Storm continue NE without me since I could see
that it was headed into the colder air and would soon not be worth
chasing.  I continued south to Dimmitt and then se towards Hart.  As I
arrived in Hart The warning went out for a Tornado (88- Denadic type) 2
miles east of Hart. I was now about 4 miles sw of this impressive Meso but
still out of position to see any tornado since the outflow dominant storm
obscured the "area of greatest interest".  I could now see a storm well to
my south but decided I couldn't make it into position before dark do to
the length of time it took me to get out of CO.  "IF only" I had been able
to make it to my target area by the time I had planned I would have been
on the Monster cell that fired just se of there.  Frustrations like this
are part of a Chasers life that we learn to accept.  Meanwhile back in the
Hart area--hey I still had a possible Tornadic cell just to my ne--the
chase was still on. Chunks of ice were still falling from my vehicle from
the ice storm I had just made it through.  Now chunks of hail to 2" dia.
covered the ground as I proceeded east on Road 145 out of Hart. My heart
was really getting into this Hart storm as the view became clearer of just
how massive this Meso was.  I never was able to get into position to see
if this storm put down a tornado or not.  I was near 5 or 6 more of this
type of outflow dominant potentially tornadic cells through the rest of
the late afternoon into the evening.  The Storm that actually put a
Tornado down west of Plainview was in plain view of this chaser and I was
in good position to possibly get to see this one except for the fact that
I ran into some road destruction ( sometimes referred to as construction )
on Road 179 north towards the town of Halfway.  "They" had removed the
pavement from a portion of the road leaving a bed of dirt which had turned
into a nearly impassible area of mud.  I barely was able to get turned
around and by then the mud splashing onto my windows had nearly made
actually seeing the ---- road--well you get the picture. Of course storms
don't wait for chasers to get through these type of things and by the time
I was out of this mess, I no longer had any chance of getting back into
position to see any action with this storm.  I continued east after
escaping the area of destruction and cleaning my windows as CG was
striking around me and the icy chill told me I was again north of the cold
front.  I had to stop and rest for a bit as the events of the day had me
nearly exausted by this time.  After a few minutes rest I was ready to go
again I was determined to just once get far enough south of this front to
feel the strong south winds in my face.  I had been staying just south of
the front all evening as the cold front continued plowing south.  I headed
east to just west of Floydada and pulled over as I could tell I had made
it to the strong south flow.  I got out and just stood in awe of the
lightning show--feeling the energy in the air as south winds of 25-35
raced towards their collision with the cold front.  The Monster Supercell
was still going and the report came over the radio about that time of a
trailer being hit near White River Lake.  I could have still intercepted
this cell but I was too tired to safely do so.  It was time to get some
rest.  I pulled into the 1st Motel on the west side of Floydada and asked
for a upstairs room facing southwest so that I could get some shots of the
CG as several storms were still south of the area moving in.  The cold
front had now passed this area too and the icy north winds along with
frequent CG all Quads made for an erie scene.  I wasn't able too stay
awake long enough to get much video of lightning. I was awake long enough
to to thank God for getting me safely to the motel and for allowing me to
experience such an amazing variety of weather that day. 
Dean L. Cosgrove 


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