4/10/97 TX Panhandle chase by Tim Doggett



Sorry I didn't post sooner... with the number of vehicles on the road, I
figured there would be a hundred chase logs posted by now.

As forecast, last Thursday turned out to be a rather spectacular day in
West Texas... the 18th anniversery of the 1979 Witchita Falls tornado.
SPC and Lubbock NWSFO forecasts picked up the threat area pretty well,
good enough for me to gas up the car and load the chase gear the night
before.  Unfortunately (or maybe forunately as it turns out) I was stuck
in a meeting until 3:00 pm, missing the departure of my usual chase
collegues.  This left me solo, which I don't mind but also don't prefer.

The 3 pm surface analyses showed a SW to NE moisture convergence axis
cutting through Lubbock, with max values north of Lubbock county.
Maximmum theta-e advection was also located north of LBB.  Prog'ed shear
values were also best for the areas north and northwest of Lubbock, though
shear looked good over most of the region.

On the other side of the coin, best surface heating was in southwestern
areas, and as noted above, moisture convergence was increased in this area
as well.  By 3:45, an isolated storm had fired up near Seminole (north of
Midland).  Torn between going north or south, I headed west, as this
leaves ample opportunities to go move north or south later.

Not completely by chance I ran into members of the Texas Tech Storm
Intercept Team in Ropesville (about 10 SW of Lubbock).  I knew they were
in the area as we had coordinated a few hours earlier.  At this point
storms were begining to get going in the counties north of Lubbock, while
the storm near Seminole also continued to strengthen nicely.

As we compared notes and decided which direction we wanted to go, I was
impressed at the strength of the surface winds.  Winds were blowing from
the southeast at 25-30, with much stronger gusts.  This provided plenty of
dust and tumbleweeds and gave the day that special West Texas ambiance.

We eventually experienced chaser convergence as a second TTU vechicle
joined our ranks.  After coordinating with the other two TTU chase teams,
one north and one south, we opted to go south.  The southern most storm
had intensified further, and a second storm had developed north of it.

As we headed south from Ropesville, we took a series of Farm-Market Roads,
slipped by the first storm, and headed in towards the larger second storm.
As we did so a tornado warning went out for this storm, now east of
Seminole, heading for the community of Loop.  As we proceeded down FM 179,
the base of the storm came into view, as did some of the spectacular storm
structure.  We continued down to FM 1066 and positioned ourselves on a
rise in the terrain, about 10 miles ENE of Cedar Lake, or 15 miles ESE of
Loop.  At this point we got a fabulous view of a large, strongly rotating
storm, with very strong inflow from the southeast.  We were positioned
due east of the storm base.  Even though we were well away from the
main precipitation core of the storm, we were continuously pelted by pea
to marble size hail.  In addition, lightning from this strom was also
very frequent... and close by.  Needless to say, we remained in our cars.

Although the whole storm was rotating and had plenty of inflow, there was
a lack of lowering in the rain-free base.  Occasional scud beneath the
main tower was about all the indication of the updraft we had.  The storm
continued on to the northeast and as we got a better look at the whole
storm, and it was really impressive.  This was one of the best examples
of a rotating supercell I've seen in seven years out here... definately
not bad for April 10.  Somewhere along the way we lost one of the TTU
vehicles, which had opted for a different route, and been joined by
the other TTU vehicle that was on this storm.

We eventually we decided to move to catch up with stay east of the storm.
We moved through the town of Welch, before moving east on FM 2053 and
north on FM 3112.  By this time a nice Beavers tail had formed, along with
a distinct hail shaft to our north.  Also, a well defined lowering also
developed as we treked on looking for a good observation point.  We
stopped about 2 miles south of the intersection of FM 213 and watched the
storm strengthen, as the inflow to the storm increased.  As we fought the
inflow, we were again treated with a view of strong, "firm" updrafts,
along with great storm rotation... with the near classic barber pole
appearance.

Finally, we headed east on FM 213, across Rt 87, and turned north on FM
2956 before pulling off to watch the storm again at about 7:30 PM.  The
storm continued moving northeast.  At about 7:50, with the lowered base
to the NW of our position, two well defined funnels lowered from the
base, and several minutes later a well defined hose apppeared.  By my
best estimates, the tornado was located about 7 miles SE of Tahoka and
was on the ground for approximately two minutes.

The tornado was followed by another funnel cloud, which moved over FM
2956 and continued on to the NE.  We followed this strom for about
another 20 minutes, before losing sunlight and calling it a day.  At this
point the storm still seemed to be strong, but the wall cloud had
dissipated and we had lost all visible cues of storm rotation (as we were
now under the storm).

This storm later restrengthened and produced more tornadic damage in
Crosby and Dickens counties after 10 PM that night... resulting in one
fatality in near White River Lake.

Over all, a great day and one heck of a storm.  Really got spring fever
jump started in a hurry!  It was nice to have a storm in April that
wasn't moving at 50 mph out of the area.  My only regret is that we
didn't get another hour or two of daylight so we could have chased this
thing further.

Anyway, sorry for the long winded account.  I'd be interested in hearing
any account from other chasers on this storm, or account of the storms in
the northern counties that also went severe.

1 for 1 in '97!

-Tim

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Tim Doggett, Ph.D.
COMET Visiting Scientist     e-mail: x9ald@pegasus.acs.ttu.edu
NWSFO, Lubbock                       doggett@rainfall.atmo.ttu.edu
Lubbock, Texas               fax:    (806)743-7363
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