4/20/97 TX chase by Lon Curtis

A combination of factors left me chasing alone yesterday (4-20-97). The
initial SPC outlook area extended only as far south as the Red River
valley north of DFW, but my analysis led me to expect intense convection
southwestward toward San Angelo  during the late afternoon, and so I
patiently waited, and watched the surface data and satellite images for
signs of impending convective initiation. I left Temple at 4:30pm for
Gatesville via TX36. The sky was almost completely clear but the surface
wind was increasing from the south-southeast and dew points had risen
steadily during the afternoon. Approaching Gatesville I could see a nice
cumulus tower to the west ~35 miles, so I continued west on US84 to
Goldthwaite (Mills Co.) and intercepted a high-based storm which
appeared to have a hail shaft WSW of Goldthwaite (time about 6:00PM).

        I left Goldthwaite southwest on TX16 and stopped just outside
city for photos of a nice barber pole in a storm just southeast of my
vantage point. New towers were rapidly going-up ahead of me toward San
Saba and one appeared to have tapped the boundary layer. Unlike the
others I'd seen so far, it had a hard, flat rain-free base which was
~5-8 miles  in diameter. As I continued on SH16, I phoned a report of
these observations to NWSFO/FTW (Mills Co. is the southwestmost county
in the FTW CWA.) I crossed the Colorado River north of San Saba and
encountered quarter-size hail ~8 miles north of San Saba.

        After a quick stop for photos, I of some interaction between the barber
pole cell and the new storm developing overhead my location ... I
arrived in San Saba and turned east on US190 toward Lometa and Lampasas.
The cell I had passed under north of San Saba had developed a large
precip mass and (headed east of US190) I was perfectly positioned for
observation of the RFB and the interface. As I crossed the Colorado
River into Lampasas Co., I encountered dime-size hail virtually covering
the highway with occasional quarter-size hail. The interface and RFB
were still visible behind me, visibility was OK ahead, so I continued
eastbound to Lometa.

        I was just east of Lometa when NWSFO/FTW issued a Tornado Warning for
the storm I'd just penetrated (GOT MY ATTENTION!) and from a hill just
east of Lometa I had an excellent view of the whole storm. The NWS
warning cited spotter reports of a FC but I could not see one. The RFB
and interface were still clearly visible, and there was no sign of any
lowering from my vantage point. The storm was, however, beautifully
striated and electrical activity was brilliant, so I found a better hill
and watched the storm move southeast west and southwest of my hillside.

         The sun was setting through a break between the main cell and a
left-mover which had split from it. I made an attempt at some low-light
photos and hope to have captured at least some of the lightning as
darkness overtook me. After a brief rest stop in Lampasas, I returned to
Bell Co. on US 190 with a new cell producing brilliant electrical action
to my right. Passing through Killeen, strong downburst winds from that
storm raised dust and began to do some damage (ILE AWOS indicated winds
1407G41!!) ... NWSFO/FTW issued a STW for the winds but most of the
storm was already to the south in northwestern Williamson Co.

        Not long after I arrived home, a heat burst associated with the
collapse of part of the Williamson Co. storm struck the Belton-Temple
area. From temperatures ~80, the burst produced a rapid increase to the
low ~90s at about 9:45pm.

        Summary: No tornadoes but not a bad day, all things considered.
After passing Gatesville, every county I visited had either a STW or TW.
The storms provided some nice photo-ops and I was home in time for a
good night's sleep.

Lon Curtis
Belton, TX

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