June 13, 2009

Statistics:

Initial Target: Shamrock, TX
Departure: Westchester, IL 11:00 pm June 12
Arrival: Clarendon, TX 8:30 pm
Intercepts: Guthrie, TX, Turkey, TX
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: None
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: Wall Cloud, Rainbow
Miles: 1171

Summary:

Dryline setup in the TX panhandle.  Targeted Shamrock, TX where a dryline bulge was forecasted to kick off early evening initiation.  Left night before with Adam Lucio arriving at target area by early afternoon the next day.  Storms fired 100 miles south of target and quickly organized.  Left target and intercepted tornado warned cell near Guthrie, noting rain wrapping wall cloud.  Storm fell apart, and went back north towards tornado warned storm near Turkey, TX.  Intercepted noting another wall cloud which also quickly fell apart.  Saw beautiful rainbow and Texas scenery after storm passed.  Stopped for night in Clarendon, TX after remaining storms weakened.

Crew and Equipment:

Chase team included Adam Lucio.  Equipment:  Kenwood TH-F6A Tribander, Dell Inspiron Laptop.  Kyocera data card and router, Holux 236 GPS, Robotic camera dome with Sony XR-520V.

Details:

With southwest flow returning to the plains and the arrival of the weekend, a marathon chase trip was in order.  I had originally been eyeing this setup for upslope play in Colorado or Wyoming, but Saturday looked best over the Texas panhandle with its shear and instability combination.  Low level flow looked weak, which could limit tornado development, but overall speed shear, veering of wind direction with height, and instability was more than enough for some serious supercells.
 

This was my first chase to Texas.  Luckily, Adam Lucio decided to team up with me at the last moment, which meant I would have someone with which to split the ridiculously long drive.  We left the night before with an initial target of Shamrock, TX and drove straight through the night, arriving at our target early Saturday afternoon.  Shamrock is a cute town but it was pretty limited on grub joints.  The only open place that Adam and I could agree on was McDonald's.  The place was packed with travelers and flies.  We'll have to find a better place to stop for lunch next time we are in the panhandle. 

 

Adam and I waited around in a gas station for storms to pop.  A few members of Reed Timmer's crew also showed up.  Storms started to pop near Lubbock and organized quickly.  We made the decisions to move on these storms after seeing that initiation at our target area was not imminent.  The east moving storm turned right to a southeast course and we had to go much further south than anticipated to intercept.  North of Guthrie, TX we had a visual on the base.  There was a wall cloud with some rapid motion (not pictured) that quickly became rain wrapped.  Looking southwest as the base of the storm bows out:
 

En route to the storm we hit a big data hole.  Neither my Verizon data card or ATT phone could download data for us so we were chasing blind.  I was able to get a few calls out to other chasers for a nowcast, however.  Our storm had lost its tornado warning and blew up into a huge severe blob.  There was discrete activity up north now closer to our original target.  I knew the shear would be better further north and that the storm we were on was probably on its way out.  The decision was made to fly back north.

 

Driving north through Childress we were able to get our data back.  There were two discrete supercells south of Amarillo and we turned west for the intercept north of Dunlap.  Looking west at the anvil of a supercell through a break in low level clouds:
Sun rays through a gap in low level clouds while en route to an intercept point of Turkey, TX:
It took seemingly hours to reach the storm through the hilly and winding roads near Turkey.  The supercells started to lose intensity on the radar before we arrived.  Once we were through the town we had a good view of the base.  We could see a wall cloud but little rotation.  Cloud Nine Tours pulled up next to us.  They had been on the storm well before we arrived and had reported a brief rope tornado.  We watched the wall cloud deteriorate as the storm fell apart.
We finally bailed on the storm and started heading north towards storms that were still going strong north of Amarillo.  As our storm passed off to the east, the sun emerged creating a double rainbow.  We pulled off the road by a red clay canyon lined with prickly pear cacti to get some pictures.  It was a very scenic site that was practically ruined by some hick trash locals.  After friendlily greeting them, I got a "Get the F- off the road" in return.  "Well F- you," I had to say back, and we had an F bomb contest until the trash locals finally drove off.
Rainbow over red clay flood plain:

We went north out of Turkey to catch new storms north of Amarillo.  These storms also fizzled long before we got there though so we called the chase off and decided to get some dinner in Clarendon.  We booked a room at a grubby little motel that was run by a guy who looked Cotton Hill, and then grabbed dinner at Pizza Hut.  Apparently its fashionable to wear spurs on your boots when you eat out at the Pizza Hut in Texas as we saw some of the locals do.

 
Conclusion:

This was the furthest target from home I had ever chased and by a wide margin the farthest I had ever chased for a 5% tornado risk.  What made the trip worthwhile, however, was that there were going to be at least two more promising days in the area.  This was also my first chase into Texas and I found there to be data holes, similar twisty roads to the ones I saw in western Oklahoma, and crazy locals.  This chase was a bust, although we got some pretty pictures out of it.  We might have been able to catch the tornado that Roger Hill reported if we stuck to our northern target, but there were lots of storms to pick from and the tornadoes that did form were brief and isolated.

 

Lessons Learned:

  • There are major data holes in the Texas panhandle.
  • The locals are loco in the Texas panhandle.