June 12, 2005 near Spur, TX

June 29, 2005 by
Filed under: Summary 

Nondescript and/or discorganized convective development witnessed for 4-5 hours in Crosby/Motley Counties. Late-arriving and stern-driving approach to southern storms, couple of tornadoes, one magic moment.


Elke and I left Canyon around noon, then dropped SE from PVW to observe the earliest development in Crosby County shortly after 1 p.m. Looking S at the promising early convective eruption. It split several times then mushed away, as did several other cells in the area. View SW from 1 NW Dougherty, as our first storm vaporized and another (later futile) Cb developed to its SW:

We got somewhat discouraged and wandered about the Matador area, sitting there for over an hour watching various struggling cells. It was amusing observing several “First Doppler Alert Fast Storm Team 4000” type vehicles criscross Matador while we were waiting. Refueled by an Allsups burrito or two, we wandered S of some rain-dominated cells to observe a low-based supercell that was moving E out of Crosby County… but weakened as it sucked in yet more rain from another, more southern storm.

It was apparent we were bouncing southward down some closly packed string of rainy supercellular pearls, but where would it end? The next storm was also moving E from Crosby County, but a little more interesting visually (looking W).

This storm seemed to be close to producing a tornado when we first got on it, but raised its base and became more ragged and disorganized-looking afterward. Now, still more rain was pouring into the inflow region from more activity still farther S. We wandered W almost to Crosbyton to sample hail (technical severe of up to an inch, but nothing of true consequence) and weren’t too impressed at first by the back side (wrong side) of the development farther S. Farting around like that caused us to miss the first 2 or 3 hoses with the more southern storms. Our radio antenna lay unremembered, having been disconnected during the blistering lightning storm of the previous night’s drive to Canyon, and prevented us from hearing any traffic or NWR updates. [We thought instead that the Matador area info void was *really* bad.]

Still, without knowing of their tornadic nature, we gradually decided to turn SE toward Spur and intercept the tail-end storms anyway, based on more interesting visual structure and the promise of more veered and stronger mid/upper flow with time. Elke thinks she may have seen the earliest “elephant trunk” tornado from the very distant NW, but discounted it as a smooth scud column because of other large chunks of true scud under the base to our SE.

Finally within cell phone coverage again, calls from Roach and from D. Fogel revealed the storm was t-warned and already had at least one tornado report. Needless to say, our liesurely SEward pace accelerated! We roared safely down the W side of the storm between Spur and Clairemont, W of the precip areas, discovering the loosened radio antenna along the way.

This was a good find, because as we rounded the storm’s starboard stern, we heard Alnado and maybe Sam on the radio reporting a tornado. We topped a hill, and Elke noticed it…behind us! We pulled off and shot a few pix looking N of a beautiful, white, highly contrasted, scorpion-tail tornado, dangling out the rear of what obviously was aremnant meso deeply occluded and thrust out of the back side of the storm.

The rain soaked earth smelled rejuvenated, invigorated, cool and clean. No rain, clouds or other impediments interfered with our view. The tornado, ghostly and long, dangled harmlessly for several minutes and slowly fizzled away.

It was more of a work of atmospheric art than atmospheric violence…so fleeting, yet so indelible. This was one of
those moments we wish would freeze in time, so it could be enjoyed through and through, and more deeply immersed within than the few minutes of time allowed. In a way, really, it has. With or without the pics, no matter what anyone else did or didn’t see (I’m not doing this to compete with anyone), it would be an image etched forever in the mind and always cherished by us. We may have missed the previous hoses — some apparently rather stout — but that’s fine.

It was a rare case where running down the storm’s backside paid off in a simply spectacular view of one particular tornado. During May — indeed, during at least 10 of my storm seasons — it would never have seemed conceiveable; and it takes that perspective to most fully appreciate such a gift from the storm clouds. [More thoughts about this moment are on my personal BLOG at http://www.stormeyes.org/tornado/blog/archives/2005/06/savoring_a_deli.php ]

That storm dying, we immediately targeted a new cell S of Clairemont. Through some rain and hail we watched a 5-8 minute tornado to our SW which varied in shape from a smooth vertical tube to tall/narrow cone.

Breaking out of the precip area, I witnessed an amazing barrage of close CGs, including one which caused an explosion and fireball about 100 yards to my left, somewhere in the scrub. More insights on that moment here… we encountered the chaser hordes N of Rotan, as two more nontornadic occlusions came and went. This was the demise of the last, W of Hamlin, looking N:

The storm weakened more amidst beautiful sunset colors, hues of gold, apricot and slate. Some fascinating waves propagated through its anvil backshear. We left our perch on the E side of Rotanthen called it a night.

This was my most prolifically tornadic June, having missed that magical week in ’95 thanks to evening shifts. The favorable pattern change *finally* coincided with an extended stretch of time off and available to chase, after ~20 years of storm observing. Such timing, when forced months in advance, can be nothing more than blind luck, like the busted clock being right at some point between noon and midnight. But I suppose that, with persistence and patience, anything good can happen.

Highly recommended: The Willow Park Inn in Snyder TX. It’s one of those fine little West Texas inns with an indoor pool and hot tub beneath an indoor atrium, surrounded by all the rooms whose doors face the atrium. Good wi-fi too.


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