Friday, May 15, 2009

Briscoe County, Texas supercell

DAY 11 MAY 12, 2009

When I woke up this morning, I found Ron putting new tires on one of the vans, and then we left the motel by 11 am. Apparently this morning, there was golf ball sized hail reported in Norman, OK from some storms that went through the area. We decided to stop for breakfast at Ihop in Plainview and Ron updated himself on the setup for today. A warm front was supposed to be move through Oklahoma by the evening, and we were hoping that the morning system would leave outflow boundaries for later. The RUC showed the highest instability to be around the Childress, TX area. Jack heard that Vortex 2 was also in west Texas to play today's setup... if anything would develop, it would be their first storm.

We made a stop at an Allsups in Quitaque, TX for a little bit to wait around. We saw some of the Vortex 2 vehicles drive by. I continued the chaser tradition of enjoying an Allsups burrito, and took readings of the temperature and dewpoint with my Kestrel. It's a good thing there was heat and moisture, and the surface winds were slightly picking up. We took off towards the west, where we noticed a boundary building over Hale county moving northeast. We were in a very scenic area, near the Palo Duro Canyon so we decided to stop and get some pictures. The boundary was showing some punchy tcu's, and behind the boundary was a storm developing. Ahead of this boundary, there was a lone turkey tower and underneath it, a textbook shear funnel appeared under the base. It lasted for a few minutes before the tcu vanished into pretty much nothing. The tcu's along the boundary were only getting bigger so we took off towards Briscoe county to get closer to the storm.

At first the storm looked like it was becoming a classic supercell. On the north end, there were classic inflow feeder bands, which led into the core, where to the south of the core a wall cloud was developing. The rear flank downdraft soon kicked in and whipped up several gustnadoes. As we continued up the road, we saw some of the Vortex 2 guys parked on the shoulder taking their readings. Several minutes later up the road, the rear flank was really kicking up a lot of dust. By now the storm looked like it would become a haboob. Some of us needed a quick bathroom break and as we pulled into Allsups in some small town, we saw the rest of the Vortex 2 crew as they were pulling out. The field command vehicle was still parked however, along with some members of the media. From what I could see from the parking lot, the storm was starting to remind me of the haboob we saw back in 2006. Craptacular! I always wanted an outflow dominant storm! Of course I ain't serious when I say that.

We pulled out and continued towards the storm. The winds were really picking up and dust was everywhere. We pulled onto some back road to stop and get pictures. Surprisingly enough, I thought I would have been more sandblasted than I was. Since there was not much else to see in this area of the storm, I mentioned to Ron that we should get ahead of it again and see if there was a decent shelf cloud. As we blasted eastward, it seemed the storm was beginning to pick up in intensity. It was entering the target area, with the highest instability. I saw a very skinny narrow hailshaft, which fooled me for a second thinking it was a landspout. Off to our left, we noticed some lowerings starting to form. When we neared the Palo Duro Canyon, we stopped on the shoulder. It appeared the storm was becoming more supercellular finally. We continued on where we intercepted the core, with some hail and heavy rain. After that, we took a very scenic route through the Palo Duro Canyon... what a sight to behold! We finally got into some flat country again, where we spotted rotation just ahead of us. We stopped again and noticed rotation in the base of the storm, showing twisting action in the clouds. Soon a white funnel cloud formed in front of the downburst on the left. There was another core to the right as well. Now that's what I'm talking about! It was quite a scene, with the downburst appearing as a solid wall of precip which included a rainfoot and the almost cinnamon bun-like swirl in the cloud base.

We intercepted another core and after that, we saw the TIV and some other chasers following the TIV. Oh crap! Chaser convoy! Sure enough they turned onto the road we were on and somehow managed to get ahead of us, leaving us stuck behind this convergence. There must have been about 6 other chasers behind the TIV. We all continued through some town. We wanted to get ahead of these guys and fortunately, the TIV had finally pulled off onto the shoulder and traffic seemed to be moving quicker again. We stopped again on the shoulder and I took some pics of the ragged leading edge of the storm from behind, with scud fingers hanging down and sucking in inflow. After that, we zipped past the TIV crew and continued down the hiway. The sun was now starting to set, casting beautiful orange hues behind the storm. A pretty full arched rainbow appeared. Off to our left we saw either a massive scud bomb or a developing wall cloud.

Ron wanted to pull over and get some twilight lightning shots. Unfortunately it was starting to rain, so I had to attempt my shots without using the tripod. Ron managed to get a nice shot of a CG, whereas I was not so successfull. Instead I managed to get one of in cloud lightning. As it got darker out, there was another core to the south. We intercepted it and encountered a bit of hail. This cell was becoming very electric and I saw one CG that turned out to be beaded lightning. We stopped to grab some lightning pictures since the strikes seemed so frequent and powerful and it was dark out. Afterwards, Ron wanted to book our rooms in Childress. As we pulled into one motel, there was no vacancy left. Vortex 2 was in town as well... I saw some of the vehicles parking along the front of one motel. We finally managed to find a motel that had enough rooms for us and grabbed a hot meal at Kettle, where a few of the Vortex 2 guys were. Apparently this restaurant already fed half of the Vortex 2 crew and I could tell that the employees just wanted to call it a night.

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