May 24, 2014


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Roswell, NM
Vaughn, NM 12:27 PM 5/24/2014
Fort Sumner, NM 9:48 PM 5/24/2014
Roswell, NM
0 mph
RFD Clear Slot, Mammatus


Upslope setup in eastern New Mexico. Targeted the Roswell area for afternoon supercells, stopping in Roswell briefly before heading back north to catch storm coming off higher terrain. Flooded road prevented intercept so awaited storm, noting RFD clear slot as storm cycled. Followed northeast noting severe hail and photogenic skies before stopping for the night in Fort Sumner.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm, Sony HDR-xr500v..




My fourth day on an upslope chase trip with Jennifer Brindley Ubl, we started the day with Brad Goddard in Vaughn, NM grabbing some breakfast at the local diner and chatting with a local chaser before we all split up. Brad headed south toward Carlsbad, but decided to stay further north where the capping looked less severe. By midday it was becoming apparent that a cold pool expanding from a cluster of storms to the east in Texas would mitigate the severe threat near Carlsbad, flooding the area with cool, stable air. The only plays left looked to be in central New Mexico above the cold pool, where storms coming off the higher terrain still had a chance, and then way down by the Rio Grande, where the instability was substantially higher, but the terrain much more difficult to work with.
Brindley and I mozied down to Roswell, not terribly far from where we started the day and where models indicated we had a decent chance at catching storms forecast to initiate just to the west. We stopped at the first gas station on the north side of town. While Brindley was in the store, I was cleaning off the acylic dome on the roof of the van housing my cameras. A couple of women leaning up against a railing in front of the store were watching me, and finally one of them asked me, referring to the bizarre plastic bubble, "What's that on top of your van?" Taking advantage of our location and without skipping a beat I replied, "It's for filming the aliens!" The second woman immediately turned to the first, "I knew it!"
Storms fired about 40 miles to our west, coming off the higher terrain as forecast. We left Roswell heading back north. A couple cells to the south struggled to get going and then failed against the strong capping inversion and cold pool, while the northern extent of the storm coverage started turn into a multicellular cluster near I-40. We targeted what would become "Tail End Charlie" but it was tracking into a triangle of terrain with no nearby highways. We tried one of the one lane, unpaved ranch roads attempting to get closer. Just a few miles in, however, a flooded creek was flowing across the road. The water was moving and the road was quite muddy on the other side, so there wasn't any chance of crossing it in the van.
We parked the van off to the side and got out to check out the flooded road and nearby surroundings, while storms could be seen going up to the west.
I hopped across a narrow part of the creek. Brindley shooting the flooded road, and the van in the distance as far west as it was going to get on this chase:
We decided to go on a little hike and see if we had a good view of the storms to the west atop one of the nearby hills. Brindley donning her red hiking boots:
New Mexico Surrealism
We climed a couple hills and explored the nearby area. The storm was still well off to the west and we didn't have much of a view of the base yet.
We spooked a lizard and he scurried off to a hole in the ground, his tail sticking out.

Approaching Supercell
40 miles NNW of Roswell, NM
6:11 PM
Our storm went severe warned and I set my cameras up to start time lapsing as the growing anvil finally blocked the glare of the afternoon sun.

Storm Reflection
40 miles NNW of Roswell, NM
6:14 PM

New Mexico Storm
40 miles NNW of Roswell, NM
6:20 PM
An interesting inflow band formed a Saturn like ring around the storm and into the updraft tower, the base just becoming visible on the right.
To our surprise, the small storm picked up a tornado warning. Chances for tornadoes were slim today, and we had managed to position ourselves right in front of the one warned storm in the region, in the middle of nowhere without another soul around for miles and miles.

Tornado Warning
40 miles NNW of Roswell, NM
6:42 PM
Giddy with excitement, Brindley and I grabbed a couple cameras and ran to the top of the nearest hill. From the top of the hill we could see an elongated updraft base scooting by to the west and north, streaky bands of rain underneath, and interesting shapes in the rising scud:

Backlit Cow
40 miles NNW of Roswell, NM
7:05 PM
The rear flanking downdraft started to move in and we got back to the van to get out of the approaching rain. The storm had sent some nearby cows on the move, and we didn't realize there weren't any fences as the horned cattled came quite close to the van.

RFD Clear Slot
40 miles NNW of Roswell, NM
7:11 PM
As the tornado warned storm passed overhead, a prominent RFD clear slot was visible under the base. The northern end of it had a nice cinnabon spiral that persisted for a few minutes, but was difficult to shoot through the rain and hail straight overhead. We were directly underneath the area of rotation. I would have been alarmed to have been in that position on a more robust supercell, but I figured the small upslope storm wasn't that threatening. We watched the horseshoe base pass to the north with amazing color and contrast. We would have had an absolutely phenomenal view if the storm had produced a tornado. Some day we'll get that photogenic shot, but were more than happy and even exhilerated by the view we did have.
The storm finally moved off to the east and we headed back to the highway to keep up with it. A paved highway ran northeast which allowed us to stay with the storm for awhile, but lead directly into the hail core. We punched it, trying to maintain our view of the base to the southeast. The storm was shrinking in size and the tornado warning had been dropped. The storm still packed a punch though. Some of the hail stones were over an inch in diameter, and the road turned to white.
The storm was moving more east than our northeast highway and we eventually were no longer to get any closer. We watched it drift off to the east as the sun came back out and lit up a briliant rainbow,the sunbeams hitting the rain and hail we had just driven through.

Hail Shafts
27 miles SSW of Fort Sumner, NM
8:11 PM
White hail shifts in the sunlight:
Sun rays shooting over the tops of convection to the west:

Marcus Diaz, James Siler, and Hannah Taylor caught up with us and stopped to chat for awhile. We shared photos from the day and watched the beautiful skies that surrounded us.

High Contrast Convection
27 miles SSW of Fort Sumner, NM
8:21 PM
High contrast, bubbling convection on the storm's flanking line:

Storm Pano
27 miles SSW of Fort Sumner, NM
8:34 PM
Brindley shot a panoramic of the storm as it moved away from us. The lighting was perfect and we had a dazzling view of the mammatus studded anvil under a deep blue sky with glowing white convection. What a photogenic end to the day.

Dusk Lightning
6 miles S of Fort Sumner, NM
9:20 PM
Clusters of storms erupted around us as we headed toward Fort Sumner to stop for the night. We stopped in the twilight to shoot some lightning. The colors were pretty, but the bolts proved too elusive to catch.

Brindley and I grabbed a room at the Super 8, but all the restaurants in town had just closed for the night. Fortunately we had a huge cooler packed with all kinds of food and had a delicious vegan picnic in our hotel room.


This was our favorite chase of the upslope trip, featuring a gorgeous supercell with beautiful skies and scenery. The only real tornado play wound up being down in southwest Texas, but I don't think we missed anything significant, and we were happy to have positioned ourselves directly under the one tornado warned storm in the state. Brindley got some amazing stills and I shot over a thousand still frames of time lapse so it was a great day for us.

Lessons Learned

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