Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hailer in New Mexico

DAY 4 MAY 28, 2008

Well, I kinda regret not getting to bed earlier. I had a lot of blogging to do to get caught up, so I didn't get to bed till around 5 am. Thank goodness we got to sleep in today! Hell, I don't need no stinkin' sleep anyway.

Anyway, managed to finally wake up and went online to check models for Friday's forecast. So far it looks very interesting in Nebraska. Models were hinting at an isolated tornadic supercell. But that's tomorrow... today we need to worry about the 5% tornado risk for eastern New Mexico. Prior to leaving the motel, Geoff, Drew, my sister and I were playing a game of bouncy ball catch in the parking. It would bounce off their vehicle. I wonder if Spotter Network would take a report of bouncy ball hail?

We left around lunch time, and headed west on hwy 287. Shortly after 12:30, the overcast sky finally started to break up into a nice cumulus field to our north. We stopped in Amarillo for lunch at the Big Texan and visted the Cadillac Ranch. We then continued west towards New Mexico. On the way we saw nice big transverse rolls.

Boundaries were setting up New Mexico. At 4:29 MDT we saw a developing supercell west of San Miguet, so we decided to target west northwest of Santa Rosa, or southeast of Santa Fe. The Baron was already picking up rotation couplets and a boundary heading westward was expected to intersect the storm. As we were heading west on I40, two supercells were now developed, one to the north of the highway and the other to the south. We planned to take hwy 84 because it was the best road option to go north. There aren't many road options in New Mexico, so this was going to be tricky to intercept. A tornado warning was issued for the first storm, which was moving northeast at 39 mph.

At 5:13, the north storm went east of hwy 84, so we had to turn around and go find a road further east. By now the southern storm was weakening while the northern storm was still cranking. The couplets were getting stronger as the storm was tracking east and it slightly slowed down a bit to 30 mph.

We finally found a road option to go north on hwy 129. At 5:46, a new tornado warning went up. It was difficult to really see the storm from a distance because of the hills and mesas. We encountered heavy rain and saw a small beaver tail ahead. We then turned left on some back road and pulled over to watch the storm. A brief wall cloud formed but fell apart. We had to turn south once again to get out of the approaching rain and hail core, but it almost caught up to us. A few powerful CGs struck some of the hills. We had some small pea sized hail but then heard two loud thuds on top of the van. That was the sound of golfball sized hail. That's okay, it's not like we actually own the vehicle anyway! Just hope they don't question Jack when he returns the van back to Buffalo, with the sandblasted windshield and headlights and two new hail dents on the roof.

We finally got ahead of the core and had enough time to watch an area of rotating scud, but we had to get ahead of it again since the core was catching up. We stopped briefly to take pictures of the heavy core, but then the core finally overtook us. The core was wrapping around with the storm's rotation. At 6:49, we turned around once again to check out the storm behind our current storm. We didn't see much else, other than another developing wall cloud and some outflow features. A couple of chasers passed us quickly... no idea who they are, but the white van was tailgating the other guy ahead of him. Crazy, but whatever floats their boat I guess. The storm was no longer doing much else, and we said goodbye to Geoff and Drew. Glad to have made a couple of new friends on the trip as they are cool guys.

We decided to start working our way east back up to the Oklahoma panhandle. We went to a small convenience store to take a bathroom break. We got back on the interstate and saw a small compact wall cloud directly ahead of us. Ron wanted to get a shot of it but a light post was in the way. By the time the viewing cleared, the wall cloud had fallen apart. On our way, we were keeping up with the storm. We found a gas station and filled up with gas. Lots of lightning and heavy rain. We did get some pea sized hail mixed in there as well. The storm was starting to bow out. We stayed the night in Delhart, TX at the Comfort Inn. Tomorrow we were to get up early and haul north in time for a potential tornado fest in Nebraska and Kansas.

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