11 June 2005 near Vigo Park, TX

July 3, 2005 by
Filed under: Summary 

SHORT: We were on the Nazareth-Tulia-Vigo Park storm from the very beginning until the “chaser pinch-off” along TX-207 at the canyon. Tornadoes seen. Seven separate mesocyclonic occlusions, most nontornadic.

LONG: Started the day in DHT and drove through dense stratus all the way down to Hereford, where we got under a precipitating turkey tower and ate some Allsups burritos for a wholesome snack. We sat at the Easter crossroads for a couple of hours with the Alnado/Christine and Fogel/Brown crews, shooting the (high theta-e) breeze & getting sunburned.

We watched towers try to fire both to our N along the differential heating boundary (along the old stratus edge) and to our S along the originaloutflow line. The image at left looks south.

Several storms went up almost at once — N of us near Bushland, NE of us near Canyon and S of us (W of Nazareth). The initial storm died and we briefly gave thought to going N along I-27 toward the AMA development. However, another cell fired near Nazareth, so we followed it ENE to Tulia. Initially high based, it developed a flat wall cloud (1) to our NW (NW of Tulia).

The big base was cause for optimism; however that wall cloud dissipated as a shower formed to its S and merged in. As we were repositioning NE, and as the shower finished merging, BOOM…suddenly (within less than 5 minutes) there appeared a very low, rotating wall cloud (2) with rapid rising motion, just a mile or to our NW. It was a spectacular and beautiful wall cloud — very low and pronounced, and close enough to fill up an entire 50 mm photographic frame of view.

A blistering barrage of CGs to our near NW and N, close to the wall cloud, sent us back into the car; though I left the camcorder outside on a tripod, aimed at the quasistationary wall cloud. [Better to zap the camcorder than the human, in the event of close strike.] The meso drifted N, the wall cloud rotating better and threatening a tornado (but not following through with the threat):

During this second (and closest) meso occlusion, a pronounced gustnado formed to our SW on the edge of RFD outflow, but the wall cloud itself gave way to a new meso to its NE (3). We repositioned and watched its similar circulation for awhile.

Meso #3 was a broader circulation which quickly handed the baton to another circulation (4), NE of Tulia and about 10 W of Vigo Park. It developed quite a long, scuddy, westward-racing tail cloud.

As we were watching this area to our NW, and talking with Bob Henson, the crews of Carsten Peter/Jon Davies and Tim Samaras/Carl Young went past us on a dirt road. The new meso can be seen cranking up, dark and ominous, in the background as the occlusion gust front from the older, closer circulation blew their dust eastward (looking N):

Shortly before or afterward (don’t recall which), we saw a brief, vertical, needle or rope funnel to the NW (no photo). This skinny little vortex was separate from the deepening occlusion process, and the same one confirmed as a brief tornado by several other chasers who were to its E or ENE. I believe that this
“wimpnado” came from the desperately clinging remnants of meso #3.

A probable multiple vortex tornado appeared in the distant NNW, beneath #4, as we were still talking to Bob. Contrast wasn’t good, but we saw fingers of cloud material orbiting around beneath the very low cloud base and either on or very near ground level, a veritable carousel of condensation filaments. This lasted 3-4 minutes, but with no debris or power flashes apparent, I can say only with about 80% certainty that this was a short-lived, probably not very intense, multivortex tornado. In any event, clearly this storm was now ingesting better boundary layer theta-e than it had as a high based struggler NW of Tulia!

Meso occlusion #5 came and went with a nearly ground scraping wall cloud almost buried in rain, and lousy contrast, but nothing confirmably tornadic. As we continued E through Vigo Park, then N, another mesocirculaton formed (6), a broad and visually intense circulation with a bowl shaped base to our WNW.

This entity yanked a clear slot around itself and rotated like mad — in nontornadic fashion — for what seemed like a very long time. We pulled up beside Rocky Rascovich and watched it for awhile, shooting tripodded video just in case…as yet another meso (7) wound up to the NW in very dark, slate-blue murk. We started to move N to get better contrast on #7, then (maybe 100 feet N of Rocky) pulled back off the road in a big damn hurry.

The reason: a tornado finally formed from #6, as that mesocirculation began shriveling. This was the same tornado seen by many others, and my estimated position of it was 3-4 N of Vigo Park.

The Vigo Park tornado popped a distant power line and posed for our tripodded camcorder and may others’ for several minutes, moving southward as the parent mesocirculation continued shrinking and apparently began to orbit the SW rim of meso #7.

Are you ready? The story of the billion-occlusion supercell isn’t over. A separate condensation funnel formed just N of where the last (southward moving) tornado had been, but still under the #6 mesocirculation remnants.

It also moved southward before turning northeastward, clearly taking a course around the center of the deeply occluding mesocirculation. At times the condensation funnel extended perhaps 4/5 to ground and clearly was *not* the same as the previous tornado, based on video review. It disappeared in the rain for a minute or two, the re-emerged as a highly tilted rope, dangling SWward before dying completely.

Meanwhile, meso #7 churned along toward the “choke point” of the only area road heading down into the canyon. In a brief burp of over-curiosity, we briefly went down the canyon road on the S side of the hook. Then with intense winds swirling from every direction below the roadside rock walls, rocks falling onto the road from same, and atomized rain both rising and sinking, we regained our sanity and bailed
back south onto the Caprock, letting the storm go.

One very fascinating aspect of the many occlusions this storm did: with each new one, the storm seemed to stall for 10-15 minutes, then move ENE again. How polite of this storm to wait until Rich/Daphne T and the other AMA storm refugees got there also. Glad they didn’t miss the best hose!

Good to see folks like Tim, Carsten, Jon, Carl, Scott FitzGerald, Bob H, Ken Dewey and the Thompson family out there. Yes, Rich got to that storm just in time to see the Vigo Park tornado, and after all the crap he’s been through this season, most definitely deserved that good break.

We tried but failed to beat an elevated, electrically explosive HP supercell to Canyon (where we stayed for the night), and almost got flooded out. But we managed to get some food and a room, and even went out to watch a midnight lightning show on the back side of the complex.

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