Hereford to Lubbock and Littlefield, Texas HP Supercells

May 31 , 2005

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This day began in Clayton, New Mexico. Initial analysis pointed to the area from near Clovis, New Mexico, and southeast toward Lubbock, as the prime area for supercells and possible tornadoes during the afternoon. Again, I teamed up with Jimmy Duguara's crew, Bobby Eddins' crew, and Carson Eads. Carson had driven from the Dallas area the day before to be in position for today's chase.

We drove south from Clayton on highway 402, with the intention of having an enjoyable lunch at Del's Restaurant on Route 66 in Tucumcari. But, we decided to first stop at the library in Tucumcari to check current conditions. A quick check of current conditions showed that storm initiation was imminent . Actually, before we left the library, a small storm formed near Clovis.

As a result of what we saw, we decided to forgo lunch, and instead head directly for Clovis. It was slow going getting everyone out of the library. Carson became impatient and was already about 10 miles south of Tucumcari when the group finally departed.

About 20 miles south of Tucumcari, my onboard Mobile ThreatNet radar indicated that two small storms had formed near Hereford, Texas, a bit north of the target (Clovis), but apparently on or near an outflow boundary that had been left over from the previous day's storms. I had checked storm total precipitation and noted where rain had fallen the day before. The storms near Hereford had formed just north of the southern edge of where the heaviest rain had fallen. Given other conditions are right, storms will sometimes form near the southern edge of where heavy rain had fallen the day before.

Carson, who was still about ten miles ahead and nearing Brady, New Mexico, reported that he could see the developing storm towers off to his east. But, he was sticking to his initial target of Clovis, New Mexico.

As we passed the town of Brady, New Mexico, the towers came into view. By the time we reached the town of Bellview, New Mexico, I was so impressed with the rock hard appearance of the developing storm towers, and the increasing strength of the radar signatures, that I decided to head east and intercept the storm near Hereford. Jimmy and his crew agreed and we both went east. Bobby and his crew continued toward Clovis with Carson. As we approached the storms, we could see absolutely explosive development of the thunderheads, which were rising at an amazing rate.

The chase was on!

Tucumcari Mountain, New Mexico, located just south of town. The shape is reminiscent of the pyramids near Mexico City. This photo was shot looking east from highway 209.
The view from near Brady, New Mexico, looking east. The storm towers are visible to the left of the highway, behind the foreground cumulus.

We intercepted the storm north of Hereford. The storm appeared to be developing an updraft on the southeastern side of the precipitation area. This photo was shot looking east. Note the short inflow cloud down the road, just above the horizon. The inflow cloud was a clue, that indicated the development of a supercell updraft. However, we were west of the developing supercell, on the outflow side of the circulation. It appeared for a while that the storm would become outflow dominant.

Since the storm appeared to be outflow dominant, our interest waned. We had not had lunch, so I decided to drive back into Hereford to grab some fast food. However, as we drove into Hereford, the storm went through a sudden and unexpected transformation. As outflow from storms farther north pushed into the storm, a mesocyclone quickly developed and intensified. Simultaneously, an RFD clear slot developed, along with a large hail core just to the west and northwest of the mesocyclone. A ragged, medium size funnel was briefly observed just east of the wrapping precipitation curtains, but I am uncertain whether it became a tornado or not.

This photo was shot on the southeast side of Hereford, looking east at the partially obscured mesocyclone. The base of the mesocyclone was almost on the ground. Again, we could not confirm a tornado, but the mesocyclone was a large layered barrel that was rapidly rotating.

We left Hereford and drove south to the next east/west highway, where we turned east to Nazareth, Texas. We turned south at Nazareth and stopped south of town to photograph the structure of this amazing HP supercell.

This photo was shot looking due north at the steep outflow boundary / gust front of this storm.

Looking east-northeast toward the HP inflow notch, which was located to the left, around the corner where the distant inflow cloud intersected the primary updraft base.


This and the preceding photos were shot using the Nikon D70.

The next three photos were shot using a Nikon F100, Fuji Velvia ASA 100, and a Sigma 12 to 24 mm superwide zoom lens set to 12 mm.

These photos show the interesting storm structure that this HP supercell thunderstorm produced.

What a beast of a storm!

Back to the Nikon D70, with a Nikkor 12 to 24 mm zoom lens.

The storm was getting close and other chasers were moving away to avoid the hail. Note the greenish tint to the precipitation core.


And, one last look before a hasty exit.

Farther south, the storm became less organized. The grain silos in the distance are located on the south side of Hart, Texas.

While we were photographing this storm, another storm formed near our original target, Clovis, New Mexico. The Clovis storm was looking good on radar, and appeared to have a classic supercell configuration. The chance of seeing a tornado with our HP supercell was very low, and it was taking on an outflow dominant appearance. The chances of seeing a tornado were greater with the Clovis storm since it was in a "classic" supercell configuration. So we left the "Hereford" storm with the intention of intercepting the Clovis storm, which was now approaching Littlefield, Texas.

Looking west at the "Clovis" storm. It was now located about 15 miles northwest of Littlefield, and was about to go through an evolution from classic to HP, and do so very rapidly.

We suspect that when the outflow from the Hereford storm reached the Clovis storm, the change from classic to HP structure was initiated.

Eventually, the storms merged and turned into an outflow dominant HP supercell complex. The area around Lubbock had many freshly plowed fields, allowing the high winds to loft fop soil, creating localized dust storms.
Looking east toward Lubbock just before sunset as the storm continues to move southeast.

Copyright 2005 - Samuel D. Barricklow - All rights reserved.

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Last revised: January 11, 2007