Sunday, June 12, 2011

A good chase

Saturday, 11 June 2011 looked like a decent day to chase storms over in the panhandles. After spending 5 weeks in the Hazardous Weather Testbed we were eager to once again let mother nature show us how much we didn't know. En route we targeted Woodward but continued on west and wanted to be in Lipscomb county Texas where we intercepted our first storm of the day. It took a while to get going and looked a bit ragged at times, but slowly it matured into a rotating supercell. And man was it slow moving. We watched it for nearly an hour, and in the latter half of that time it kept on trying to spit hail and rain on us, with each pulse a little stronger, and then finally rear flank downdraft cuts emerged and multiple spin ups at cloud base resulted. It was wild to see the mesocyclone occlude and wander back to the NW, while the next spin up emerged a little further east and south. There was a small funnel we observed at this location, and also a possible brief tornado, though it was pretty far away to know for sure. I think it was reprted as a brief rain wrapped tornado, though. At one point it appeared to jump to the east, right over the road we were, but another of rotation developed over the car. The cloud motions were awesome, and the bases of the clouds that were higher were slowly, but step function wise, lowering.

I was also struck by the interesting fact that the storm was half heartedly splitting, with the left mover barely making it out before essentially evaporating at the base. There must have been at least 3-4 splits, marked only by the ragged low-mid level cloud (remnant updraft).

So we headed south to Darrouzette to reposition further east, essentially trying to get northeast of Follet. But, another storm blew up right in our storms flank. So we stopped on 15 just before Follet and got to watch a few tornado genesis attempts, which were pretty cool. As we were watching, the RFD came surging out, maybe 40 mph winds from the west.  The circulation had jumped further south and was heading east. So after watching this for about 25 minutes we pushed on east and within 5-10 minutes we got slammed in some RFD rain. This was about 8:11pm and the hail started to get bigger (maybe at most a few golf balls) and the winds were around 50-55mph, and it was pretty amazing. After a 5-10 minute stoppage, we carried on and re-entered the RFD but this one was a little different. It pulsed in severity, maybe getting up to 70 mph, with a few larger hail stones. We got hit with at least two rfd surges at this location maybe 4 miles east of Follet, perhaps a few miles from the border of OK. That was as intense as I have seen an RFD surge with nothing but north winds. We turned the car out of the wind, and eventually turned around to head further south since we couldn't very well keep putting ourselves into the RFD.

We made it south, finally got cell coverage and realized that our storm was a giant high precipitation supercell. We couldn't make around Higgins and get back on the storm so we stayed back and watched the next supercell to the west which was attempting to form a wall cloud, so we watched that storm for a while. The group collected lightning still shots from this storm. We attempted to follow it as night set in. As we drove North to the nearest east option we took out a ginormous raccoon, injuring my chase partners vehicle. We fishtailed, but through some superior driving, we recovered. The raccoon lost the battle but won the war (aka. a bit of car damage to the front fender (fender is a poor word for shitty fiberglass front panel attached by plastic that breaks easily). But then again it was probably a serious 30lb raccoon.

There were quite a few animals roaming around last night, including coyotes. Glad none of them decided to run across the road.

We also drove through quite a few towns without power. Shattuck being one of them. This was because our original storm produced a tornado around 830pm, while we were back in the western RFD surges. I will have to look over the storm merger process to see what exactly happened (lost iPhone coverage for about 30 minutes). I doubt we could have seen the tornado unless we were really up in the rain which would not have been a safe position. Either we waited too long after the failed tornadogenesis attempts, or we were already too late as the storm merger took over the evolution.

First  shitty cell phone picture is of the remnant left splits and the second, from the 2nd location (on 15 west of Follet but within ear shot of the sirens) is te first tornado genesis attempt. 



An arrival home at 130am made for a fantastic, classic storm chase. It was easy going with all the long stoppages. But rather complete with all types of lurking danger. I had a ton of fun reconnecting with mom nature, something every storm observer likes doing I think. It was quite a show and we were lucky enough to have good seats to this one. I don't think anyone was hurt in this storm so that is also good news considering this years events.