May 23, 2002: Lipscomb, Texas dusty tornadoes and
the Pampa or Borger, Texas tornadic supercell

chase images and log by William T. Hark, M.D.

Chris Kridler, Dave Lewison and I started in Hays, Kansas at the Super 8. The sky was overcast with a cold northerly wind. After a final check of weather data with Scott Blair and several other chasers (1P) , Chris, Dave and I headed south on 183, stopping briefly in Greensburg, Kansas to view the largest hand dug well in the world. We wanted to get south of the front and then wait for storms to develop. We continued on 34, crossing into Oklahoma. At the town of Woodward, we were worried because the winds had changed to the south yet the sky was still overcast. We were south of the front, but the clouds would retard daytime heating and decrease the severity of the storms. We checked data from the internet at the Woodward public library (after signing a form stating that we understood a 6 page booklet on computer usage). The library Nazi wouldn't let all three of us into the computer room at the same time to look at data on one machine. Anyway, we discovered that there were rain and weak storms across central Oklahoma. At this point, we were sure the early rain would kill the possibility of chaseable storms. We had a long lunch in Woodward, bummed that our chase day was already a lost cause. While considering our next plan, I talked with Tim Vasquez via cell phone. There was clearing to the west and a field of cumulus had formed from Alanread to Canadian Texas in the Panhandle region. This would be a good place for storm formation.

Chris, Dave and I left Woodward at 3:10PM on State Road 15. The skies to the west and south were rapidly clearing and a cumulus field was becoming visible. We stopped in Shattuck, Oklahoma to view a windmill museum (2V) . The small park was filled with metal and wood farm windmills that creaked and popped in the light breeze. To the west, we started to see some vertical development. The first tower of cumulus died. We went west on 51 through the town of Higgins and found a place to watch the sky (3P) on state road 213. One area showed persistent development (4V) as it was moving northeast. Radar and satellite reports from Jason Politte (who was nowcasting from home) confirmed that this was the main area of storm formation. By 4:15, it was a thunderstorm. Several areas of convection had merged into a single storm.

1P 2V 3P 4V

Dave, Chris and I went north on 305, then west and met several chasers (5V) on a hillside to watch the storm (6V) . Matt Crowder and Betsy Abrams (both meteorologists for the weather channel), Jay Antle, Mike Umscheid, and the "Twister Sisters" were in the group (7V) . The storm slowly strengthened and there was evidence of rotation. The structure was still fairly disorganized and high-based due to lack of moisture. We saw a brief tornado (dust swirl) (8V) under the rotating base at 5:40 PM. The tornado lasted several seconds (9V) before dissipating. The storm started changing direction from northeast to east. It was "right turning" and we expected additional strengthening. Chris, Dave and I headed north for a better view. Another tornado (10V) pic#1 formed at 5:51 (11V) pic #2 , (12V) pic#3 , (13V) pic#4 , (14V) pic#5 , (15V) pic#6 and again at 5:53. These were whirls of dust and debris. Although the visible funnels didn't connect to the rotating cloud base, they were tornadoes. The dry air limited the visibility of the funnels. The area of the storm above the tornadoes approached (16V) and crossed the road ahead of us.

5V 6V 7V 8V
9V 10V 11V 12V
13V 14V 15V 16V

We went south and east to follow the storm along dirt and gravel roads. We received a radar report that the storm was intensifying. At 6:27, the storm produced rising scud clouds (17V) and a rapidly rotating linear wall cloud by 6:34 that was almost directly overhead (18V) . There was a tornado warning for the storm. The storm moved to the east and we watched the core (19V) with reported baseball-sized hail. As our storm died, we heard reports of another isolated storm near Borger, Texas that was rotating. After some debate on whether we could reach the storm, we blasted south, eventually onto 70 by 8:22PM. Along the way, we watched a pretty high-based storm (20V) silhouetted by the sunset. We stopped near the 281/70 intersection at 8:35 to watch another storm produce a wall cloud, clear slot (21P) and a lowering/?tornado (22V) . We later talked to Scott Blair, who was closer to the storm, and he verified that there was a tornado.

17V 18V 19V
20V 21P 22V

We continued south and the massive dark supercell (23V) loomed in the distance. We could see the edge of the updraft by 8:54PM to our southwest. The storm was a beast. We raced southward, concerned about the impending darkness. A large wall cloud (24V) (pic#1), (25V) (pic#2) was visible by 8:55 but there was some brief loss of structure (26V) by 8:59PM. We parked along 70 with the storm to our west. We were about 10 miles north of Pampa, Texas. The storm towered thousands of feet into the air. It was round (like a tall cylinder), and the smooth edges glowed with a faint whitish color in the fading light. The whole storm was rapidly rotating. Pictures and video stills can't capture this amazing storm. Under the main updraft, there was a large black wall cloud that was also rotating. A very brief tornado (27V) appeared at 9:05PM and the tornado (28V) lasted about 30 seconds. It was visible using the low-light capability of my video camera. Another funnel (29V) appeared at about 9:09. The funnel (30V) may have also been a tornado. The whole storm (31V) was lit by flashes of lightning. Huge bolts emanated from the upper edges of the storm. There was no rain where we were observing the storm; however, we were blasted with warm inflow wind directed into the base of the storm. A new wall cloud (32V) formed at 9:30 but no additional tornadoes were visible. The storm (33V) crossed the road to the north. More lightning emanated from the edge of the storm (34V) . Since Chris had to get back to Oklahoma City to meet her friend at the airport and it was late, we left the storm. At a Braums in Pampa, we had a quick dinner. Charles Edwards and Jim Leonard arrived with Cloud 9 Tours and Jason Persoff, the only other physician storm chaser, dropped by while we had dinner. It was great seeing old friends and sharing stories.

23V 24V 25V 26V
27V 28V 29V 30V
31V 32V 33V 34P

What an awesome chase. We saw a huge beast of a supercell, great storm structure, lightning and a few brief tornadoes. If there was a bit more moisture, I'm sure the Borger storm would have produced a monster tornado.

(P -- Photo) (V -- Video Still)

Pictures 27-30V and 32V were image inhanced with Photoshop because of poor lighting.

Next Page: May 24, 2002

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