June 12, 2005 near Spur, TX

June 29, 2005 by · Comments Off on June 12, 2005 near Spur, TX
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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.

June 10, 2005 Dalhart TX

June 10, 2005 by · Comments Off on June 10, 2005 Dalhart TX
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Elke and I left HYS in tandem with the Fogel/Brown crew, initially targeting the outflow boundary region in SW KS and the OK Panhandle. We got to LBL just in time to intercept a supercell that was interacting with said boundary. This was the same storm that Chuck observed, and also was intercepted by Brian M and Bill R (whom we heard on radio), Dr_David_Gold and others. The low, smooth wall cloud later briefly developed a broad but brief conical lowering while we were measuring 82 deg F sfc temps in its immediate inflow region. Then the wall cloud got ragged, higher based and less well organized as it moved into a region characterized by 72 deg F sfc temps to its SE.

We abandoned that storm and dropped SW, noting darkening skies to the S from the massive overturning episode that was underway across the panhandle. By the time we got to DHT, having driven through mile after mile of horrendously cold ouflow from the SE, we called it a day and checked in to one of several motels here with Internet access.

Than a fascinating little event happened: A small, elevated, LP updraft with hard, overturning ribs and curving “backbones” appeared to the S, on the W edge of the MCS, and rolled NNEward right up the back of the ghastly cold convective complex. We found a vantage on the SE side of town for viewing and photos.

It had a flared, laminar base with a tail cloud, and obvious rotation in the cumuliform plume above. The convection shot right into the ambient anvil shield and mammatus field of the bigger MCS, sending a series of deep, undular waves rippling through the mammatus and anvil bottom.

A pronounced midlevel funnel developed and stayed alive for about 3-4 minutes, appearing long and skinny and black against the light gray, textured convection. The funnel rotated cyclonically and very slowly. We also had found corn and wheat fields on the SE side of DHT from which to shoot sills and video of those tremendously fascinating processes.

A line of towers formed to our NW, on the intersection of the outflow boundaries from the NM convective line and the Panhandle MCS. That quickly grew into a narrow squall line with a pretty shelf cloud which moved over DHT. Then it was time to eat.
It was great to see OF Moller and Dr_David_Gold, the former having joined us for dinner at Bar-H Steakhouse and the latter with Bill Gargan and the tours. We had some good laughs before going out for evening photography opportunities. I recommend this eatery whenever in DHT; their selection and prices each are reasonable. Where else between AMA-DEN can one get well-prepared, spicy shrimp skewers?

After dinner Elke and I went to a remote crossroads about 10 SW DHT for some admiration and photography of sunset coloration, amidst clumps of elevated convection and the wondrously refreshing scent of newly soaked, semiarid countryside.

The combinations of hues and tones of a rainy Great Plains sunset, earth and sky together, just cannot be duplicated in any other setting. This is why the observing and appreciation doesn’t stop for us when the active storm intercept is over, and a great part of why we come back year after year for more.

Our sunset immersion turned into a 2 hour nocturnal light show as storm after storm formed to our S-E in a zone of elevated warm advection, atop the MCS outflow pool.

Lightning 1
Lightning 2
Lightning 3

I burned 2-3 rolls of film on the lightning, which was mostly filamentous discharges aloft and a few CGs. [I do now have power in my still camera and can at least force the bulb setting to work, though it still is acting strangely otherwise.]

It was good to hear from Alnado and bScUM yesterday as well.


6-7-5 Sculpted tornadic supercell in the Badlands

June 9, 2005 by · Comments Off on 6-7-5 Sculpted tornadic supercell in the Badlands
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SHORT VERSION: June 7 2005: Two sculpted supercells in Badlands National Park, one with small 6-10 minute tornado. Many CFDGers and other apparent chasers seen. Munched by bow+supercell merger in Murdo.


We began the day with a pheasant struck outside Pierre. Keith Brown filmed as I had to pry (!) loose the pheasant from within my grille, bloody gory piece by piece, using a geological chisel. I thought that last drumstick section would never come out.

[Argh…before the last 5 days I have never plastered an animal to the front of my car. Since, I’ve had to peel off a woodpecker, a mourning dove and a pheasant on separate days.]

The outflow boundary arching across SW SD looked like a good place to go, so that was our target. We were buoyed by Bobby’s call to inform us of an apparent mesolow and thickening towers on that boundary, over the southern Pine Ridge Reservation. By the time we reached Badlands NP, Two supercells were apparent under one shared anvil — a flared LP to our WSW and a distant, more robust storm to our SSW. We time-lapsed both for awhile just N of the park entrance, using the verdant green prairie and sculpted ash beds of the Badlands as foreground. Simply breathtaking…Elke an I got to leisurely observe two supercells at once across the Badlands — a chase dream coming true. It was great to share this experience with OFs Moore and Watts. And it got better.

After using our National Parks Pass to avoid paying their Tornado Intercept Fee, we wound S down the park road to a beautiful, somewhat sheltered overlook which was open to the SSW-SSE — a perfect place to shoot time lapse as the supercell’s base began to lower. Optimism grew and we headed down to Interior to get in position to observe a lowering, bowl shaped portion of the base on the N (nearest) side of the storm. The lowered area formed a conical tip in the middle, then a conical funnel, which extended about halfway down. I was able to get tripodded video of this as it fattened into a front-lit, baggy funnel, then wrapped NWward and Wward around the NW side of the storm. The funnel the became partially rain-wrapped but still quite visible as a persistent rope, extending to the ground.

Meanwhile this sculpted storm maintained a beautifully flared base with a Spearman-like appearance to the convective wall on the right (NW) side. And we were well able to watch the evolution of the tornado (singular, not plural, please note) from the N, our filming position being 2 miles E of Interior. We were fairly close to the Alnado and Christine Krause storm intercept tandem, with whom we shot time lapse 15-45 minutes earlier from a vantage up in the Badlands. Sorry they had to pay 11 bucks! But I bet it was worth it for them.

We followed the storm for awhile, a truly beautiful storm in a beautiful place. After some maneuvering we caught back up to it near Murdo as the storm got munched by a bow echo roaring up from the SW. We rode out the combined storm under a protected overhang of a Mudro diner, filming near hurricane force winds and hail in town. Then came the steak dinner in the diner to cap off a fine, fine day. This easily was the most enjoyable chase this year, despite the avian carnage.
Tomorrow is a likely down day to refresh and reinvigorate in the Black Hills, and to visit one of our favorite places, the buffalo-laden green carpets of Wind Cave NP.

It was great to see, meet or hear from the following CFDGers out there, all of whom I congratulate for pulling another needle from the haystack in the Pine Ridge Resveration today: Gene Moore, Mike Watts, Bobby Prentice, Scott FitzGerald, Alnado, OF Moller, Ed Calianese, bc, Charles (No Relation) Edwards, Dave Hoadley…I’m sure there were many others.

Since I have no slides of it (just digitals and video), maybe I can beg some pix of OF Moller, who got the tornado on *three* film cameras.

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