May 27, 2002: Texas storms near San Angelo

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

We started the day in Amarillo, Texas. Chris Kridler went back to Oklahoma City to take George to the airport for a flight Monday evening. Dave Lewison and I joined with Scott Blair, a meteorology graduate student, and Jason Persoff, a physician (internal medicine) with the Mayo Clinic. We checked data for a long time at a truck stop (pic L to R: Dave, Scott, Jason) (1V) in Amarillo. The forecast was especially difficult. Finally, we left Amarillo at 12:30PM and headed to Tulia, Texas. The town is about 30 miles to the south on I-27. Dave was riding with Scott because Dave wanted to see large hail. Scott's hailshield allows him to enter hailstorms and survive with his vehicle relatively intact. Along the way, we saw many carloads of chasers including a group from Mississippi State Broadcast Meteorology School and Warren Faidley's Severe Storm Interceptors in several black vans. The sky seemed promising with scattered cumulus. In Tulia, we stopped at a crossroads in a field and watched the sky. We passed the time playing Storm Chaser Ground Curling (2V), a game with rocks that are tossed into a target area scratched on a dirt road. I then received a call from Tim Vasquez of Weather Graphics who stated that there were weak storms west of Lubbock that would cut off the flow of moisture to our area. He suggested the Midland, Texas area. Jim Leonard, the veteran hurricane and storm chaser now with Cloud 9 Tours also called us and suggested a more southerly area. On their advice, along with rechecking my own analysis, I decided to leave the group and blast south at 1:15PM. About 30 minutes later, I received a call from Jason and Dave who decided to do the same thing. Scott remained and stuck with his initial forecast.

I saw some storms to the west of Lubbock, Texas that would weaken with the approaching dryline. They were not targets. A Tornado Watch was issued for the southern Texas Panhandle at 2:23PM. At least there was a chance of some decent storms. At Tahoke (2:45PM), other storms were visible, (3V) but they had fuzzy anvils and appeared weak. I headed south and arrived in Lamesa by 3:15PM. There was a weak storm to the west that was being watched by Cloud 9 Tours. It appeared to be weak, and I decided to continue to Big Springs where I checked weather data and watched the development of storms in the area. Thunderstorms were firing all around, and I was concerned that too many storms would compete for energy. Dave and Jason arrived, and we headed southeast on 87 to intercept a large well-formed storm. Both Tim Vasquez and another chaser, Jason Politte were giving us real-time nowcast radar data. We saw a [air of storms including a left-mover storm (4V) and a nice lowering (5V) on the right-moving storm. I couldn't determine if the lowering was under the updraft. Another wall cloud (6V) formed but the storm died. We encountered some small hail while watching the wall cloud. We continued to Sterling City and could see another storm in the distance (7V). It appeared outflowish and weak. At 5:35PM, a lightning bolt (8V) came out of that storm northeast of Sterling. We drove southeast on 87, through Sterling City, to get ahead of the storm to the north (9V). It appeared to be organizing (10V). A small cloud resembling a funnel developed near the notch in the storm (11V). It was not rotating. We turned north on 2034, to get ahead of the storm (12V). Unfortunately, it became linear and "gusted-out." (13V) We watched dark clouds that were pretty but indicated the storm would not produce a tornado. A roll cloud (14V) formed from the cold outflow from the storm. Later, we observed a brief rainbow (15V).

We then heard from Scott that he was observing a large supercell near Spur, Texas to the north. Jason, Dave and I headed north and we could see the storm in the distance. It was a perfect supercell (16V) and from a distance, it looked like a textbook picture with single main updraft, overshooting top, mammatus, and anvil. It was too far away to intercept before dark. Disappointed, we decided to head to Abilene for the night. In Abilene, we met with Scott Blair who showed us pictures of the supercell that he intercepted. Nice structure but only one brief tornado. He also encountered baseball-sized hail that was spiked (like a mace). His windshield was cracked and there were more dents in his car. We were bummed that we missed the main storm. Chris Kridler arrived a bit later and we looked at some pictures on Scott's laptop before Pizza Hut kicked us out.

I saw awesome and beautiful storms, but missed the supercell of the day.

1V 2V
pic by Dave Lewison,
used with permission
3V 4V
5V 6V 7V 8V
9V 10V 11V 12V
13V 14V 15V 16V

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

Next Page: May 28, 2002

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