Storm Chase May 30, 2012: Texas Tornadic Supercells


chase images and log by William T. Hark, M.D. Video (HD) and pictures available for licensing



May 30th was a fun and exciting chase day. I started in Weatherford, Oklahoma and headed west on I-40 to Erick, Oklahoma and then to Shamrock, Texas where I waited at DQ and checked data. There were a couple of potential target areas, and I didn’t want to commit too early. With signs of development near Clarendon, Texas, I headed south. Soon there were two areas of storm development. One was near the town of Memphis and a lesser area was farther to the south. I decided to head to Memphis, Texas. The storm was rapidly growing and starting to rotate. As I got into position, it had a nice base and a small funnel formed to one side of the mesocyclone. The storm became tornado warned. The funnel lengthened and became a weird corkscrew shape. I don’t think it ever touched to ground. I followed the storm to the southeast. The storm was rapidly rotating and appeared as giant hard cylinder in the sky. I stayed a bit too long with this storm as the structure was very beautiful. Another storm was also forming to the south, and in general, storm chasers pick the more southerly storm that has unobstructed inflow from southeast winds. West of the town of Estelline, the storm had amazing structure and could drop a tornado at any second. Tornado sirens wailed from the nearby town. I shot some amazing video and stills before the hail became too large. I headed back east and south. At this point, I left the original storm that was now dying and blasted south to get ahead of the southerly storm. I headed southeast on 287 through Childress and Quanah, then south on 6 through Crowell. I was on 6, racing southward (26 miles north of Benjamin) and could see the storm to the southwest. It had become a massive beast of a storm. I missed some earlier reported tornadoes on it. The storm had transitioned to a High-Precipitation supercell. These are very dangerous as the tornado is obscured by rain and one has to venture into the notch or “bears cage” to see a tornado. I raced south, barely getting ahead of the storm as it was approaching. There was incredible inflow into the storm, maybe 50 to 60 miles per hour. I could only stay at one point for a few minutes before having to shift southward to get away from the storm. While filming by a side road that lead into the storm (Main St toward Truscott, TX), a car come flying toward me. It was Jeff and Kathryn Piotrowski. They had just seen a big tornado in the storm. They had ventured into the “bears cage” and had a close encounter with the tornado. I couldn’t see anything from my location and had no intention of driving inside the storm. I continued to film and had to race east to stay ahead of the storm. As dark approached, I ended the chase and drove north barely keeping from getting munched by the storm. In addition to high winds and possible tornadoes, there was also baseball-sized hail in this beast. Although I didn't see any tornadoes, this was a successful storm chase day.

"Dryline, OK"

Storm near Memphis, TX at 4:13 PM

Close-up of funnel on storm
near memphis, TX at 4:13 PM

XM Radar and GPS position 4:15PM

Storm with funnel 4:16 PM

Storm approaching Estelline, TX
at 4:42 PM. View to west from town

Storm just west of Estelline, TX

HP beast, view to west at 6:43 PM
from 6 and Main St toward Truscott.

Another view of the beast

The "jaws of the beast" are getting closer at 7:03 PM

Driving away at 7:34 PM


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All images Copyright 2012 William T. Hark