Storm Chase May 21, 2012: The Agony of Defeat


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This was a day of low expectations. I was with Jason Persoff, Robert Balogh, Brad Rousseau, Dayna Vettese, Simon Eng and John Mann. We started the day in Clovis, New Mexico. With the light of day, I could see why our hotel was inexpensive as it was in a run-down industrial section on the other side of town from the main hotel strip and by the railroad tracks. The price was good at $50 per night. After forecasting, there was a minimal chance of severe storms in the Texas Panhandle, and we decided to have lunch at the famous Big Texan and then target the Dalhart, Texas area. As we left Clovis, we passed multiple dead and dying businesses. A billboard proclaimed that Clovis has some medical specialists. I guess they have to advertise something. At least, the odor that could only be described as fermented yeasty cow had dissipated. I was definitely glad to leave. Lunch at the Big Texan was delicious. Unfortunately, nobody was attempting the 72 oz steak. The weather data was more promising with a nice increase in moisture and heating. The upper level winds were still weak. We headed west and passed through Vega before tuning north. We arrived in the dusty Texas Panhandle town of Dalhart, Texas and waited. A few weak storms were developing in New Mexico and Colorado but nothing in our location. Finally, faced with the prospect for a long drive to get into position for chase possibilities Tuesday and Wednesday, we decided to leave at about 6PM. Jason; however, said that he was tired and didn't want to make the long drive north for slim possibilities. He was going to get a room in Dalhart and relax after checking out some mushy storms to the south. We finally left for the long drive to Oakley, Kansas. The storms to the south were forming a big convective mass that had limited tornado potential. The radar appearance was terrible. Heading south would also put us out of position for upcoming chase prospects. As sunset arrived, we were in a nice position to photograph the sun by an isolated dying storm to the west. I was happy to at least get a few pictures. As I finished, the phone range and it was Jason who said, “I just photographed a tornado. And the storm had beautiful structure.” I said, “bull!” I've pulled this stunt on Jason previously. “No really, I saw a tornado near Vega, Texas. Look at the radar.” I went back and saw the tornado warning and radar couplet on a storm that had briefly broken free of the mass of storms west of Amarillo. The tornado was near the same town that we stopped earlier. Ughhh, that hurts. I was happy for Jason but annoyed about missing the tornado. Oh well, there will be more chase days ahead.

Lunch at the Big Texan

I love the open road

Sunset with dying storm

Sunset with dying stor

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All images Copyright 2012 William T. Hark