May 14, 2010


Initial Target: Midland, TX
Departure: Ardmore, OK 7:30 am
Arrival: Carlsbad, NM 8:30 pm
Intercepts: Carlsbad, NM
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: Non-Severe (not measured)
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: Wall Cloud
Miles: 567


Upslope/dryline setup across southwest TX/NM. Originally targeted the Midland/Odessa area, but didn't arrive in time for the tornado show so headed west into NM after new development coming off the dryline. Intercepted dieing updrafts southeast of Carlsbad until a large cell managed to maintain itself north of Carlsbad. Roads prevented getting close to the storm but noted a wall cloud in distance as storm went tornado warned. Watched the storm until it weakened, stopping in Carlsbad for the evening.

Crew and Equipment:

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






Friday's chase was our fourth attempt at getting a tornado with Extreme Chase Tours. The target was Midland/Odessa and the setup called for an early show with little capping to delay initiation. Unfortunately our tour was in a rather up-ended state by this point. Yesterday's chase had been called off because the tornado probabilities looked too marginal. The plan for the rest of the tour was to play locally in the OK area since our forecaster Jill, had to be back in Springfield, MO by Sunday to work.

This greatly restricted our chances at intercepting a decent storm as the only play for the rest of the trip looked like it would be upslope flow play much further west across the Texas panhandle, New Mexico and Colorado. I hated to see the tour be held back, especially since Phil and Annette, our clients, hadn't gotten their shot yet, so I offered to drive Jill back up to Tulsa where she could catch a ride home. I would then head back down and meet back up with the tour so we could continue chasing further west the next few days. The day before the chase, the group wound up in Ardmore after calling the chase off. I drove Jill back up to Tulsa and then met back up with the group in Ardmore. It was a good six hour run, but worth it I thought if we could chase the next few days.

Unfortunately, our position in Ardmore made it difficult to get to our target the next morning in a timely fashion. We awoke to a morning MCS and driving rain and had to load the vans up, trying out best not to get the gear wet. Our target was the Midland/Odessa area which looked like it would have the best chances for tornadoes near a dryline/warm front intersection. Our location in Ardmore was hours away from our target, however. We were up early and on the road by 7:30, but our route along highway 70 through southern Oklahoma was slow and made slower by the training MCS.

We crossed the Red River and made our way through Wichita Falls and then over to Lubbock where we headed southwest. Storms quickly fired south of Midland/Odessa by noon, earlier than expected and went tornadic. Before we could reach them from our position to the north, they started to congeal into more of an MCS with embedded supercells. We stopped in Seminole, TX with the group divided on what to do next. I still thought we could make a play for the Midland/Odessa storms, but at the risk of core punching them. Chad wanted to play it safe, however, and in the end we ultimately wound up targeting new development further west in New Mexico.

We headed west through Hobbs, NM and towards Carlsbad. My first time in New Mexico! Overcast skies gave way to developing storms that were coming off a dryline/cold front. Looking south at a dieing updraft, as the base evaporates into a skinny point with the anvil still stretching overhead:

Looking straight up from the dieing updraft tower at some mammatus on the underside of anvil:
Another shot of a skinny updraft tower:
Small cells continued to pop along the dryline and then move northeast into the cooler, overcast skies where they quickly died. We followed a few of them east past some scenic salt flats and lakes, but none of the storms were able to mature.
Small updraft base above a salty lake:
New, much more robust storms started to fire north of Carlsbad and they quickly went severe. We headed back west for the intercept but had to hang back a few miles because the roads options were too sparse to approach the storm. Annette shooting the distant storm with cumulus feeding into it in the foreground:

Our vantage point was photogenic, but we were several miles away from the base and couldn't really discern what was happening underneath.

We headed back east a couple miles and then south hoping the storm would move to us. It went tornado warned at this point, probably as it interacted with the cold front to the north. We saw some distant lowerings that was probably a wall cloud along with some outflow scud.
The contrast at our location became excessive as the sun peaked out from behind the storm's dark base. We couldn't see much past the bands of cumulus that were feeding into the storm, so we decided to head towards Carlsbad and approach the storm from the south. The storm had probably started to cross into stable air as the earlier storms had done, however, and it quickly died. We headed into Carlsbad for dinner at the Subway and to get a room for the night.




Our fourth attempt at a tornado with Extreme Chase Tours netted us some pretty pictures but no tornadoes. The day also wound up being our last chase day. I was hoping we'd get some upslope play during the remaining portion of the tour, but everyone was so fried at this point and the chances so marginal that it was decided to call the rest of the tour off early. We had missed a couple nice tornadoes in Midland/Odessa, TX that the Twistex team had scored, which stung with the rest of our busts from the trip. Our position in Ardmore that morning cost us though.



Lessons Learned: 

  • Make sure your overnight location is close enough to get to the next day's target.