11 June 2005 near Vigo Park, TX

July 3, 2005 by · Comments Off on 11 June 2005 near Vigo Park, TX
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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.

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.


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