Monday, May 4, 2009

04/25/09 Chase..TX Panhandle and OK...

It has been a couple of busy weeks in the weather department tracking storms however, I did get some time to break away from East Texas and do some chasing in the Texas Panhandle and far northwestern Oklahoma. The time line for my chase was small, only one day, and the outlook for severe weather was promising. So it was all or nothing. We left early Saturday morning, the 25th of April, and headed northwest to Shamrock Texas, a small town on I-40 in the Eastern Panhandle. Here we met up with many other chasers how were in for a two day chase opportunity as an upper level disturbance moved out of the Rockies into the Great Plains.

Once we reached our targeted location, we waited for the signs of thunderstorm development, towering cumulus clouds to the west. Finally around 4:30, the first signs of thunderstorm development occurred. It was this storm that would tease and tempt us for the three ours across the rolling plains of the Eastern Panhandle and Northwestern Oklahoma throughout the evening hours.

This storm quickly developed into a supercell storm producing large hail and strong gusty winds. The storm started to reach severe levels near Mobeetie, TX where it was showing classic signs of a supercell structure. In the image of the storm you can notice a cloud lowering, where warm air is being ingested into the storm. This would later form into to a rotating wall cloud which produced a weak, short lived tornado outside Mobeetie.

Here you can see the Rear Flank Downdraft (RFD) punching into the back of the storm, helping to promote rotation under the updraft. It was shortly after this picture when the weak, short lived tornado touched down and moved into a field of cattle, scarring the you know what out of them. Unfortunately form my position, I could not see the rotation on the ground.

The storm also produced some large hail. These stones, about the size of golf balls, where found in Briscoe, TX where we did measure a few stones to 2.5” in diameter, or about the size of a tennis ball.

The storm continued to intensify as we drove east to Alison, TX show a bell shape lowering with rotation. It is at this time we really began to believe this storm would produce a significant tornado. As we crossed east into far northwestern Oklahoma, the wall cloud began to rotate significantly and produce multiple funnels. At one point we almost looked as though this storm would produce twin tornadoes that could lead to a strong, multi vortex tornado.

Over the next two hours this storm showed signs of strong rotation and teased us with the threat of tornadoes but, in the end, it would be a gusty wind and large hail producer. As the sunset we finally turned south to head home.

On the way we passed under a sever hail producing storm. Noticing the storm was producing large hail we decided to find a gas station overhang and ride the storm out, along with many other cars. In the next video you can see the hail as it falls and grows to the size of quarters.

This storm could never make up its mind. As the storm weakened we drove back on the interstate towards Oklahoma City. The storm suddenly intensified again and started dropping up to ping pong ball size hail, very loud while driving. So we looked for another gas station overhang and waited this storm out. As the storm moved north of the interstate we saw a great opportunity for some night lightning shots. The only problem was the strong southerly inflow feeding into this storm along with the nocturnal low level jet beginning to form. I have never witnessed clear skies overhead with 40 to 50 mph winds feeding into a storm over twenty miles away. I tried to set the shutter speed on my camera at 20 seconds to get an amazing backlit structure shot but, the winds were too much form my tripod. The photos turned out very blurry thanks to the camera movement. The two photos below were shot leaving the shutter speed at 8 seconds.

Finally I would like to give a special shout out to my new storm chasing companions and friends Paul and Maria Lachowsky. They drove me all over the rolling plains in pursuit of severe weather that Saturday. They are almost as much of a “Weather Geek” as I am and with a little coaching, I think I can get them to my level.

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