May 17, 2021


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Seminole, TX
Springfield, IL 12:53 PM 5/16/2021
Lubbock, TX 10:44 PM 5/17/2021
Seagraves, TX; Lubbock, TX
0 mph
Funnel Clouds, RFD Clear Slot, LP Updraft, Dust Storm, Mammatus


Dryline chase in the TX PH. Targeted afternoon supercells, intercepting high based turkey towers near Seagraves, TX noting orphan anvil funnels before intercepting LP supercell near Sundown. Tracked storm east to Lubbock noting intense dust storm, photogenic funnel, classic supercell and mammatus. Called chase at dusk stopping for the night in Lubbock.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl, Anton Seimon, Tracie Seimon, Hank Schyma. Equipment: Sony AX100, Samsung S9, Photography courtesy Jennifer Brindley Ubl shooting on a Nikon D4s.


Video courtesy Hank Schyma



From Anton's morning disucssion:

"Looking at the current surface observations and 12z runs, I see a fairly straightforward target SW of Lubbock around Seminole TX. Woodchuck is in range for arrival at 2030z. NAM has improved from earlier runs and now shows a well- defined 500 mb velocity maximum above 50 knots with CAPE >3,500 advecting NW along the retreating outflow boundary as a strong dryline pushes in from the southwest. Directional turning is weak in the lowest 2 km, but the overall setup is volatile and primed for several hours of discrete supercells following initiation. Right-moving cells should create enough low-level shear to make strong tornadoes today. "

1 miles WSW of Seagraves, TX
4:19 PM
Monday, May 17 was our first day of research operations with the Seimons and Hank Schyma, but also my first chase of the year with Jennifer Brindley Ubl. We reunited at a gas station in the Texas Panhandle and headed down the highway toward Seagraves to watch developing storms.

Turkey Towers
1 miles WSW of Seagraves, TX
4:27 PM
We watched Turkey Towers going up on the High Plains above the Caprock. A local stopped to check on us and kindly offered the carport at his ranch for us to use in case of hail.

Mid-level/Orphan Anvils Funnels
1 miles WSW of Seagraves, TX
4:31 PM
Lingering inhibition was preventing storms in our immediate area from taking off. The first few turkey towers died in the capped air. Some really well-formed midlevel/orphan anvil funnels resulted as the updrafts withered and the rotational energy within was stretched and concentrated.

New Updrafts
1 miles WSW of Seagraves, TX
4:56 PM
The following attempts were more robust. Meanwhile, a storm 100 miles to our south near the Midland/Odessa area was tornado warned and about to produce. We had yet to pick a team lead for the day and needed to start making some crucial targeting decisions.

Conch Holder
1 miles WSW of Seagraves, TX
5:12 PM
Every chase day we designate a new team lead, otherwise we turn into a headless snake, indecisively missing tornadoes. They are the proverbial “conch holder” where in Lord of the Flies, whoever holds the conch is the one who speaks. This year I got us a real conch from Florida. I surprised everyone with it when we designated Hank as the lead for our first day out. It was a big hit, Brindley capturing the moment.

2020 Team
11 miles NNW of Brownfield, TX
5:55 PM
Hank, armed with the conch, had us holding at our original target for a supercell.

Interesting Shapes
11 miles NNW of Brownfield, TX
6:10 PM

Early Mammatus
11 miles NNW of Brownfield, TX
6:24 PM
Multiple cells were flaring up around us, and for a while I was worried it was going to go multicellular cluster on us with interfering cells and cold pools. Mammatus studded anvils filled the sky. It was pretty, but the cloud cover was also choking off surface heating for our needed low level instability.

LP Supercell
9 miles S of Levelland, TX
6:46 PM
We finally had our storm. A textbook High Plains LP supercell went up near Levelland. We hopped on it with a bunch of other chasers including a mobile radar team.

Developing Dust Storm
8 miles SE of Levelland, TX
7:11 PM
We tracked the storm east. It would probably need several cycles before it was a potentially a robust tornado producer.

Developing Dust Storm
8 miles SE of Levelland, TX
7:12 PM
Plumes of dust started to kick up as a rear flank downdraft cut into the updraft base and then fanned out across the bone dry High Plains.

8 miles SE of Levelland, TX
7:14 PM
Masked from the dust and dressed for the elements, our photographer emerging from a post-apocalyptic scene:

Barber Pole
9 miles SE of Levelland, TX
7:31 PM
A beautiful corkscrew, barber pole updraft appeared on the north side of the horseshoe as the storm drifted east of us.

Dust Storm
9 miles SE of Levelland, TX
7:35 PM
Outflow surged under the storm and the dust storm was in full swing.

Dust Storm
11 miles ESE of Levelland, TX
7:41 PM
Moving east to keep up with the storm, the plumes were mesmerizing.

Dust Storm
11 miles ESE of Levelland, TX
7:41 PM
We drove toward the dust as it jetted south across the road, Hank just ahead of us.

Dust Storm
12 miles ESE of Levelland, TX
7:43 PM
And then in the next moment, Hank was gone.

Dust Storm
12 miles ESE of Levelland, TX
7:43 PM
We were enveloped next. It was a total blackout. I had to just stop in the road, and then with practically zero visibility tried to nose the car off the highway onto the shoulder as best I could. The car rocked, and we were blasted by bits of sand, rock, and grass. Visibility improved slightly, and the tops of the powerpoles appeared, but a jet of low dust was still surging across the highway carried on intense northerly winds. Two-way traffic was still trying to push through the dust as we held our positions waiting for conditions to improve. Hank and Anton warned the group of approaching traffic over the radio from the front and rear respectively. Hank also noted that the storm was exhibiting a prominent hook echo on the radar. All of our phones sounded moments later with a tornado warning.

Classic Supercell
3 miles WSW of Wolfforth, TX
7:54 PM
The dust cleared and we were able to proceed. Brindley and I remarked to each other that the encounter was more exciting and impressive than many tornadoes we had witnessed.

The business end of the supercell was off to our north, and we were able to push east ahead of it. We stopped at a pull off with a transformer station and a bunch of gnarly power poles. A classic supercell with a huge horseshoe updraft base looking northwest:

Cone Funnel
2 miles SE of Wolfforth, TX
8:09 PM
The storm was tracking right into Lubbock. We stayed south of town so we could maneuver and maintain visibility. The downdraft surges and RFD clear slot were the storms signals it was wrapping up for tornadogenesis. A cone funnel cloud formed on the north side of the horseshoe. We pulled off and scrambled to shoot the developing tornado.

Cone Funnel
2 miles SE of Wolfforth, TX
8:09 PM
The structure and funnel were gorgeous in the evening light, and yet we watched anxiously with grim expressions. The supercell was tracking into a major urban area. A tornado at this moment would be disastrous.

Cone Funnel
2 miles SE of Wolfforth, TX
8:10 PM
Chasers who pursued the storm into town and were much closer noted a dust whirl at the surface pendent to the funnel technically making this a tornado. It didn’t surprise me at all as I suspect most substantial funnels are also at least weak tornadoes, but we decided not to tally the tornado as we couldn’t confirm ground contact ourselves. And fortunately for Lubbock, the tornado didn’t develop further than this, peaking as a half condensed cone looming above the city.

Midlevel Rotation
2 miles SE of Wolfforth, TX
8:12 PM
The funnel roped out and dissipated, but the midlevel rotation in the supercell’s updraft tower was cranking. We stayed a few minutes to shoot video and time lapse before moving east to get ahead of the storm once more.

9 miles SSW of Lubbock, TX
8:16 PM
The boundary layer cooled and the updraft base started to wither away. The storm was dying, but the scene was only becoming more and more beautiful. Mammatus stretched across the sky catching the sunset light.

7 miles SSE of Lubbock, TX
8:30 PM

Sunset Storm Motion
7 miles SSE of Lubbock, TX
8:41 PM
Swirling and turbulent motion on the downdraft-updraft interface made for a dramatic finale in our video and time lapse shots. We watched the storm move off to the east in the dusk light with a bit of lightning and then called the chase, grabbing dinner and a room in Lubbock.


The dramatic dust storm encounter was better than many of my tornado intercepts. That combined with the impressive structure, beautiful skyscapes, and photogenic cone funnel made this into a great, well rounded chase, and the highlight of our 2021 storm chasing season. A lackluster year for tornadoes for us, this would also be our best shot of a funnel. We missed a tornado or two on the south storm, but the Lubbock supercell more than made up for that with its own show.

Lessons Learned

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