May 26, 2014


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Midland, TX
Hobbs, NM 12:05 PM 5/26/2014
Springfield, IL 10:51 PM 5/27/2014
North of Midland, TX and Garden City, TX
0 mph
Wall Cloud, Outflow Dust, Gust Front


Warm sector/warm front play in southwest Texas. Targeted Midland area for afternoon supercells. Intercepted tornado warned storm north of Midland noting rain wrapped wall cloud and RFD gust front. Storm gusted out with some severe hail so retargeted developing cell south of Midland. Followed tornado warned storm southeast noting wall cloud and RFD gust front. Abandoned outflow dominant HP before dusk due to lack of visible structure and traffic. Stopped for dinner and room in San Angelo, TX before driving home the next day.

Crew and Equipment

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




Brindley and I had spent 6 days on the road chasing upslope supercells across Colorado and New Mexico. May 26 looked to be our last day out before the upper level winds finally tapered off to the point that supercells were unlikely. Although we had seen several photogenic supercells, we had yet to catch a tornado on the trip. Our last day out looked like it might give us the best chance, with a warm front draped across southwest Texas, modest deep layer shear and moderate instability. Supercells were forecast to fire near the Midland/Odessa area by early to mid afternoon and move east southeast. We awoke in Hobbs, NM and hit the road early heading into Texas. We stopped in Odessa to do some brief shopping before continuing on to Midland to await storm initiation.

Highway Gust Front
18 miles N of Stanton, TX
4:27 PM
We didn't have to wait long. After gassing up on the north side of town and chatting briefly with Lanny Dean of Extreme Chase Tours, we had storm initiation to our north and went after it. The storm organized quickly and went tornado warned as we approached from the south. A low contrast rear flanking gust front and wall cloud came into view. We continued north and northeast to get into the inflow notch of the storm, but the area was heavily shrouded in rain. A tornado report came in from a chaser at this time, but it was probably a brief dust whirl or small and rain wrapped as we had no visual on a condensation funnel. The lack of separation between the precipitation core and the notch and updraft base made it difficult to maintain our position northeast of the area of interest. The roads also get quite tricky in this area with a diagonal grid that forces you to travel in zig zagging angles. We were in and out of heavy precipitation at times. We stopped north of Big Spring as the storm appeared to finally be gusting out for good. The core clipped us with some one inch hail before we decided to head south to I-20 and retarget new development.
Heading west on 20, we had a developing storm going up to our east that looked promising. There already appeared to be a jagged gust front underneath it as we approached near Stanton. Another storm and anvil can be seen far to the southwest:

Approaching Gust Front
13 miles S of Big Spring, TX
5:24 PM
We headed south of Stanton, briefly caught at a train crossing. The diagonal grid and farm fields provided plenty of spots to stop and with good visibility. The rear flank was still a ways to the west, but we were getting clipped by rain from the forward flank of the storm so we couldn't stay too long before we had to stair step south and east to stay out of the storm.
Surging outflow:

Mean and Green

4:50 PM
The storm sported another menacing high preciiptation gust front. It was photogenic and dramatic, but it looked like it would again be difficult to spot tornadoes on the storm.
A super wide panoramic of the approaching HP supercell:
Oil derrick silhouetted by gust front:

Cone Lowering
24 miles S of Big Spring, TX
5:58 PM
We stopped a few times before we were finally clear of the storm's forward flank and in a good position to let the rear flank of the supercell approach our position for a shot at a tornado. The hook on the storm developed and the storm went tornado warned. We headed south toward Garden City. The terrain was becoming hillier and the fields gave way to scrubby brush. All of the chasers in the area, and there were a lot, had been previously separated by the different storms and road options, but paved highways through the ranchland south of Midland grow sparse and there was just one dominant supercell now. We were seeing numerous chasers, and most of the elevated pull offs were packed with parked cars. We kept going south until we found a gated drive with enough room to stop in front of. The view was decent, but not ideal. A wall cloud approached us from the northwest. A shaggy cone shaped lowering got our attention, and we hoped it would tighten up into the first photogenic tornado of the day.

Filming Wall Cloud
24 miles S of Big Spring, TX
6:01 PM
A wide angle shot as the dramatic looking storm approaches our position:

Wall Cloud
24 miles S of Big Spring, TX
6:03 PM
A robust wall cloud was located on the north end of the RFD gust front with a tail cloud extending off into the rain.

Outflow Dirt
24 miles S of Big Spring, TX
6:05 PM
We scanned the base for areas of tight rotation, but noted only huge plumes of red brown dirt starting to get kicked up from the storm's outflow. It was not a good sign for spotting tornadoes, but it made for some dramatic shots.

Garden City Storm
Garden City, TX
6:11 PM
The gust front was getting alarmingly close. We got on the road to get out of the way of the approaching rear flanking downdraft. Heading south into Garden City, we got caught in traffic. A long line of chaser traffic and locals were stopped at the main intersection in town, waiting for openings in the busy crossroad. The gust front hit while we waited. Plumes of dust blew through the street and the traffic lights rocked and swayed in the wind. It was a tense couple of minutes for us waiting to turn, hoping we wouldn't get slammed by severe winds, hail, a hidden tornado, or fall behind in the nasty green core. We finally made it up the intersection. To Brindley's dismay I turned the wrong direction heading east, which put us on a course for impact from the storms forward flank and severe hail. It turned out to be the right maneuver, however, as the storms southeast, right turning motion had ceased and the storm was now moving mainly east.

Dangerous Traffic
11 miles WSW of Sterling City, TX
6:33 PM
Heading east now, we could see an ugly gust front behind us. It was scary looking, but we didn't see any decent shots for tornadoes as the storm looked like it was now becoming outflow dominant. The east west highway we were on was packed with traffic, including dozens of chasers, locals, and numerous trucks. The road wound through a series of hills. There was no place but the shoulder to stop, and the sides of the road were lined with stopped chasers where ever there was a view between the hills to the west. Brindley and I ignored the stops, however. The view of the storm wasn't worth getting trapped on an overcrowded section of shoulder, dangerously close to the busy highway. At one point we saw an uncoming vehicle dart across our lane right in front of traffic and into a gap between parked cars on the shoulder. The move was reckless and we feared for an accident.

Tower and Anvil
4 miles SE of Sterling City, TX
7:02 PM
We left the hordes and continued east. The view behind us wasn't worth dealing with the circus. We gassed up in Sterling City, ahead of most of the traffic. Ric Burney stopped by to say hi and warned us that baseball sized hail was heading our way. Heading east out of town again we finally had a couple crossroads where we could get off the highway and stop. The storm was well to our west now, but the updraft tower and anvil were pretty in the evening light.
Brindley poses in front of the storm:
We moved t o stay ahead of the storm, transitioning to get structures at a distance rather than playing close for tornadoes. We caught up with our friend Victor Gensini and the College of DuPage Trip 3 storm chasing tour. We hung out with them and watched the storm to the west.

Cod Trip 3
2 miles SW of Water Valley, TX
7:49 PM
Brindley got to shoot a group shot of College of DuPage Trip 3 in front of a wall cloud:

Last Wall Cloud
2 miles SW of Water Valley, TX
7:50 PM
The storm made an attempt at forming a new wall cloud, but it quickly merged into the mass of outflowy junk fanning out from the storm.

Falling Apart
2 miles SW of Water Valley, TX
8:02 PM
The gust front was looking rather junky as it slid off to the north, so we decided to call it a chase. We headed into San Angelo craving some Meixcan food, margaritas, and a room for the night.

Sirens in San Angelo
2 miles SSW of San Angelo, TX
9:22 PM
The storm didn't forget about us. A large lined had formed while we were getting dinner. We sat on the patio out front eating a small feast of vegan burritos, tacos, chips, and gaucomole as an embedded suprecell approached our position. The sirens sounded briefly as the rear flanking of the storm hit us with gusty winds, small hail, and torrential rains. The patio was perfectly positioned so we could keep watching from outside and stay dry. It was like a tropical storm had descended upon us, the palm trees whipping in the wind with sheets of rain. It was a great end to the trip. One last hurrah.
Brindley got her local's portrait. One of the restaurant staff stopped to tell us all of her tornado stories as we waited for the storm to die down.
We bunked down in San Angelo for the night before making the long haul back to Springfield in the morning.


Our last chase of the trip was a success in terms of capturing photogenic supercells. We hoped for a bit more of a tornado play, but the structure and wall clouds were dramatic and enough for us to not count the chase as a bust. Numerous tornado reports did come in on the storm, but they all appeared to be brief dust whirl type spinups, or possibly even scud in the gust front. We certainly didn't miss much not being able to say we saw any of them. The chaser convergence traffic we had seen on the storm was some of the worst of the year, and made the chase a little difficult and dangerous at times with erratic moving vehicles parked all over the shoulders. Fortunately there wasn't much we were missing at the time or a large tornado threat that could have made the situation much more hazardous.

Lessons Learned

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