May 4-5 2006 West TX chases






May 4

4:43pm - departed KC at a quarter to five in the morning.  12 hours later i snapped this appropriate photo while passing thru Tahoka TX.  target was a frontal boundary progged to lift toward Lubbock by the NAM but to sag into the Edwards Plateau by the GFS.  a data stop in Lubbock had indicated the front wasn't lifting and I'd better head south toward Big Spring.

6:35pm - two areas of struggling high-based towers--one west of Lamesa and one near Big Spring--had me driving back and forth on Highway 87.  I finally gave up on the northern cells and went south to Big Spring.  While getting a refreshing Diet Coke at the Sonic there, a vigorous updraft was exploding over the hills southwest of town.  I headed southeast on 87 to stay ahead of this area, viewed here looking southwest.
6:49pm - the storm gradually intensified and lowered its base.  i ran into Jeff P here and we stayed northeast of the cell and watched it for a while due to the bad road network.  the LP nature of the storm allowed us to retain good visual despite our position.
7:24pm - the cell evolved into a gorgeous LP supercell as we moved toward Sterling City... reminiscient of the June 7 2005 Badlands LP.
7:25pm - another shot of this storm.  radar imagery at this time and thru the next 10 minutes showed this cell intensifying rapidly, developing cyclonic shear, and turning hard from ENE to SE.  remarkably there was a south option just ahead, out of Sterling City.  not wanting to get cut off on the north side of this beast and miss something, i tried hard to beat the hail core south on 163 and attain better position on the storm.  thus unfortunately I only have video of what transpired next.
7:45pm - as I moved briskly southward, the strong mesocyclone appeared to be hovering over Highway 163.  the increasingly scary/ragged/tiered northern wall of the updraft was colored a ghastly grayish-white by the setting sun, and the RFB had darkened and become more circular.  I encountered 1" hail for about 5 minutes.  the RFD was lofting dirt high into the air a few miles ahead of me.  cloud-base rotation increased overhead as I ducked beneath the meso.  then a fair number of golf ball and larger hailstones started coming down as i drove back into full sunshine.  it looked like snowballs were falling from the sky...against a nice rainbow to the east, no less (snapped a crappy photo, shown here).  Then two particularly large hailstones came in a 1-2 punch against my windshield, leaving large spiderweb cracks (but not imploding or shattering it, luckily).  The second stone may have been in excess of 3 inches, but broke apart upon impact.  I kept going south and got out of the hail without further incident.  A 50mph or better wet and dirty RFD came blasting across the road.
7:51pm - the terrain and road density only got worse as we headed south for the next viable east option.  a relatively large clear slot developed, shown here in another crappy over-the-shoulder photo.  this was a phenomenal storm and my video is better at showing that.
7:57pm radar grab from MAF showing sinking frontal boundary, my storm NW of SJT, and another tor-warned supercell north of MAF over the town of Seminole
8:03 - headed southeast on county road 411 in northern Irion county.  the downdraft had fairly rapidly filled with precip as this beast turned into an HP.
8:16pm - another view of the rain-filled meso.  darkness was coming in and i didn't want any more hail encounters with my already-damanged windshield, so i elected to let the storm move away from me.
8:19pm - sun sets on this lonely west TX road
8:20pm - one last shot of this vicious supercell, looking ENE.  the storm assaulted the town of Mertzon an hour later with lots and lots of baseball to softball hail
May 5

5:05pm - spent night in Big Spring and headed west to Midland to start getting data around noon.  slightly stronger mid-and high-level westerlies were progged to overspread the area today.  while stratus eroded, a fairly nice environment for tornadic supercells evolved in the Andrews-Seminole-Brownfield corridor as east to southeast surface to 850mb winds persisted and deep moisture was present.  this storm initiated across the border near Hobbs NM.

5:19pm - "scudnado" beneath the young storm's RFB
5:22pm radar grab showing my storm NNE of Hobbs/WNW of Seminole
5:30pm - more scud ingested into the updraft
5:48pm - inflow was respectable though the storm structure was not.  the scud cleared and an area of dust was generated near the ground that looked suspicious... perhaps a weak tornado but tough (and pointless) to try to say for sure
5:48pm - another photo as the dust sheath widened and appeared to try to extend up toward the cloud base.  not sure if any of the appendages from the cloud base above are related... and the dust's rotation was very weak.  i stayed with the storm for another 45 minutes, ducking west and south of Seminole as the storm turned ESE and assaulted the town with baseball hail.  the storm weakened and looked highly disorganized 620-640pm.  there was no easy way to get back into position at this point (though i could have easily taken farm roads), so I killed some time behind the slow-moving storm... a little surprised it was struggling so much to attain supercellular structure.  then i noticed a stronger cell maybe 50miles NNW of me again along the TX-NM border.  As the storm crossed into Yoakum county it was tor-warned.  It wasn't an easy decision, but my storm still looked very poopy so I went for the northern one, which if nothing else was likely in a strong low-level shear and low-LCL environment.
7:25pm radar grab... my target storm (which I began to get a good close view of by this time) is the westernmost.  the storm i let go is finally becoming a major supercell (storm to its southeast, in lower left hand portion of image)
7:28pm - intercepted the beautifully-structured supercell northwest of Wellman along the Yoakum-Terry county line.  public reported a brief tornado with this storm about 20 minutes prior.
7:30pm - same.  was chilly outside (i put on my fleece) so tornado threat appeared low.  (another supercell had tracked thru the same area about 1.5 hours before, probably acting to stabilize the boundary layer)
7:30pm - same.  was trying to beat it to Highway 82 on RR402 when this storm too did a turn from ENE to ESE.
7:36pm - downdraft filled with precip as I head southbound back to RR213 east.
7:57pm - storm weakened a bit and remained very wet, but was still a nasty tor-warned supercell.  i let the storm cross in front of me east of Wellman and watched significant cascading RFD motion on the backside of the storm as it moved ahead of me.
8:03pm - one last shot looking east at the non-descript updraft and flanking line.  the storm i had let go earlier was at this time in the process of producing a couple of low-contrast tors near Patricia.