Storm Chase May 19, 2015: Supercell in Southern Texas Panhandle



Approaching storm near 70/256 intersection, 7:05 PM (click for larger view)


chase images,log, video links by William T. Hark, M.D. Video (HD) and pictures available for licensing. Click on images to enlarge


Severe storms were expected along a boundary extended across the Texas Panhandle to the region along the Red River dividing Oklahoma and Texas. More isolated storms were also expected along the dryline in western Texas. There was decent upper level support and backed surface winds. My biggest concern was the effect of early morning storms. My target was initially near Lubbock, Texas though any area along the dryline was in play. There would also be storms to the east along that boundary but they would be difficult to chase. Instead of isolated storms, there would be a big amalgamation of individual cells.

I left Amarillo in a driving rainstorm. There was occasional thunder and lightning. Due to these conditions, progress was slow. There were areas of flooding. Dirt roads would not be an option and there was the potential for paved roads to be blocked by flood waters. I continued south and eventually the sky cleared as I neared Lubbock. As there was no obvious immediate target, I found a gas station and relaxed while eating lunch. I wanted to be ready to leave quickly if conditions changed. I checked more data. There were some potential areas of development just to the east and north. The massive storm system farther to the north was slowly moving east and the Storm Prediction Center issued a mesoscale discussion about the possibility for severe weather including tornadoes in that system. I resisted the urge to blast east . After more waiting, I briefly shifted to a town on the east side of Lubbock. Eventually, there were some signs of storm development near Plainview. I got back on the interstate and drove north. Near Hale Center (just south of Plainview), I stopped to watch some agitated cumulus. I also talked with Jason Persoff who had come up from Lubbock. We decided to meet up in Hale Center at a convenience store/gas station. My other friends including Dave Lewison, Scott McPartland, Steven Barabas, and Mark Robinson, Jaclyn Whittal, Brad and Dayna Rousseau, Matt Grinter and Michel Millaire of The Weather Network were also there after a long drive from southern Texas. We waited and chatted while watching the sky. The towers to the south started to die while there was more persistent development to the north. After some more waiting, we headed north in a massive storm chaser caravan of vehicles. Two storms had formed near Tulia and the were shifting eastward. Initially, the more northerly storm was better organized as it tracked along the interstate. We drove east along the southern part of the southern storm. It was intensifying and showing signs of rotation. We passed large areas of flooding including roads that were still under water. The road options were limited and we had to take a detour south on 207, then east and north to continue to follow the southern storm just as it was exploding. I was worried that it would drop a tornado while we were slowed in the canyons. We reached our east option just south of Brice. Continuing north would route us directly into the core. Visually, the storm was impressive but any area of circulation would be wrapped in rain. The chances of seeing anything was low. We continued to the town of Memphis. The storm was starting to die and the chase was over. After another stop for photos, we headed into Childress except for Jason who was able to get a nice sunset picture. For future reference, all the decent restaurants close at nine or earlier in Childress. Scott, Dave, Steve and I were stuck eating at McDonalds. The Canadians decided to brave another restaurant completely full of storm chasers including Cloud 9 Tours who stayed at the same Super 8 in Childress.

We were disappointed that we didn't see any tornadoes. There were multiple reports near the border between Texas and Oklahoma along that boundary. Those storms were messy imbedded HP storms and the tornadoes would have been difficult to track. Some chasers had success but most had chosen western Texas including ourselves. This was still an enjoyable chase.

Driving to the target

Waiting in Hale Center

"Groupie," courtesy Jason Persoff

Enjoying Allsups bean burritos
Courtesy Dave Lewison

Storm explodes, 6:31 PM

Winding road slows progress

Storm near 70/256 intersection, 7:02PM

Storm, 7:03 PM

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All images Copyright 2015 William T. Hark