Storm Chase 2003: May 24 - 25

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

May 24: Severe storms near Childress, Post and Lubbock, Texas

After breakfast with the Pioneer Production crew who were going to follow chaser Jeff Piotrowski, we left Amarillo at about 11:30AM with a target area of Childress, Texas. This area had better moisture, winds from the southeast and a boundary from earlier storms. Outflow boundaries from storms can provide an area of focus for storm development or storms can intensify when they interact with a boundary. Childress also had good roads to the south, east and west in case we had to rush off to intercept a storm. The forecast was very difficult. Upper level winds were very light. Moisture return from the Gulf had improved but was not very good. There were many possible target areas. We arrived at a gas station in Childress, Texas and checked additional data. Both Ron and I pulled up weather data via cell phone modems. There were several boundaries including one just to the south of Childress along with boundaries near Lubbock and in the Texas Panhandle. While discussing data, Jeff Piotrowski and the Pioneer team arrived. Jeff looked at weather data with us and we came up with three possible target areas. The Lubbock, Texas area, near Childress Texas or in the Texas Panhandle. Despite the Storm Prediction Center not issuing any severe storm risk for the Texas Panhandle, Jeff Piotrowski was fairly confident a supercell would develop in the Texas Panhandle. There was evidence that a mesolow would form near Pampa; however, moisture return from the south was still doubtful. We weren't convinced and chose to watch a storm forming just to the south. We drove northwest on 287 to Estelline and followed a storm back to Childress. Along the way, we passed Jeff and the Pioneer Crew photographing the storm (1V). We encountered heavy rain as we entered Childress at 3:45PM. We stopped in Childress and monitored the storm. It produced some small hail but it never intensified. At that point, the storms appeared to be forming lines and not strengthening. George and Ron, who have a long drive to Canada, decided to leave along with Jack and his son-in-law. Scott had to take his two friends to the Dallas airport and also decided to leave. We said our goodbyes at gas station in Childress.

I made another check of the data. Storms were forming west of Lubbock, and I expected them to move east and intensify. Not much else was going on except for some showers in the Texas Panhandle. Since Lubbock was also near my target for Sunday, I headed south and then west. ( I later found out there was a brief tornado in the Texas Panhandle observed by Jeff et al, oh well.) Along the way, I was notified of a storm near Snyder, Texas with a severe warning. This was on my route. As I neared the storm, it died. A new one formed to the northwest near Post, Texas. The storm rapidly became a beautiful LP supercell (supercell pic: #1 (2V), #2 (3V), #3 (4V),#4 (5P), #5 (6V), #6 (7V)) with inflow bands and striations. The storm lasted from 7:10 to 7:35PM and I was able to take some video before it died. I continued toward Lubbock watching lightning over the city (lightning pic:#1 (8V),#2 (9V),#3 (10V),#4 (11V)). A storm developed to the west of the city and a tornado warning was issued at 8:55PM. I targeted the storm and blasted west on 114. Dave Lewison, via cell phone, gave me some great radar guidance. The possible tornado dissipated and the storm formed a huge bow echo. I was blasted with 70 MPH winds and frequent lightning (12V). I ended the chase as it was dark and went to a Motel 6 in Lubbock. Although I didn't see a tornado, I had a very good chase. I saw great storms and had the opportunity to take some great scenic photos.

1V 2V 3V 4V
5P 6V 7V 8V
9V 10V 11V 12V

May 25: Severe storms in Pecos and Reeves Counties, Texas

Sunday, May 25, began with disappointment. A promising forecast the previous day was downgraded. Supercells were unlikely and the threat for tornadoes was removed by the Storm Prediction Center. Severe storms were forecast over southwest Texas. They would form over the mountains and move eastward. I left Lubbock and headed toward Fort Stockton, Texas. Although the Texas landscape can be very pretty, the area near Midland is quite ugly with fields of rusting oil tanks, pumps and other equipment. When I arrived in Fort Stockton, storms (13V) were already developing over the western mountains. I headed west on I-10 into Reeves County and watched a storm to the south. By 4:17PM, the storm formed a ragged wall cloud (14V) and lowering (15V). Soon, the storm lost its structure. The storms were forming a line and were obviously not supercells. I struggled for an hour trying to get my Verizon wireless internet to function while parked on low mesa near town. Luckily, I was able to call Tim Vasquez of Weathergraphics for some radar data. One storm, south of Fort Stockton, was a bit larger and moving slowly eastward. I drove east on I-10, then blasted south on 385 barely escaping the approaching core of the storm (16V). Cool wind was blowing away from the storm. It was linear, outflow-dominated and would never produce a tornado. I watched the storm from the south until it started to die. I then dropped further south and drove through another storm. I encountered quarter-sized hail that covered the road like snow (pic#1 (17V),pic#2 (18V)). The hail stones (19V) were almost penny-sized and some showed visible banding. Fog, several inches in depth, floated above the ground. I broke through the storm and then headed west on 90 through Marathon, Texas. I briefly stopped to watch the distant storm (20V) and chat with a couple of chasers. I had driven 60 miles without passing a single gas station. The road was surrounded by angular mountains and fields with scattered shrubs. I arrived in Alpine, Texas which is southwest of Fort Stockton. The next day, I reviewed the weather data. Although there was a slight chance of storms in a long north-south line just east of the Rockies, there was no focusing mechanism and supercells and tornadoes were unlikely. The forecast was even more dismal over the next few days. I checked the long-range outlook and the ridge in the jet stream across the Plains was predicted to finally move a week after my return home. At that point, it was too early to leave because I didn't trust the forecast past a few days. Since no storms were predicted, I headed south to explore the mostly uninhabited region (21V) of Texas near the Mexican border and to increase my portfolio of landscape pictures.

13V 14V 15V 16V
17V 18V 19V 20V


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

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