Northwest Texas Supercells and Tornadoes

June 12 , 2005

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This was a tough chase that began in Amarillo. The RUC was forecasting the best combination of shear and instability to develop in the area between Lubbock, Abilene and Childress. Initially, Silverton was chosen as the target. Storms did form there, and they produced wall clouds and brief funnels, but the storms quickly dissipated.

A powerful negatively tilted upper trough was moving through the area. We had expected storms to form and move quickly northeast. However, the vertical structure of this system did not evolve as expected. When storms formed, the anvils streamed off to the southeast, instead of to the northeast as expected. It appeared that the trough at anvil level had already moved east of the area, but the system at the lower and mid levels was still west of the area. Very strange!

After watching the storms near Silverton, we noted that new storms were forming east and southeast of Lubbock. We abandoned the Silverton area and drove south down highway 207 toward the new activity. Additional funnels were observed north of Matador. A tornadic storm formed south of Matador, with a smaller, but intense storm just to its south.

As we drove south from Matador, radar indicated that two inch diameter hail was falling on the highway directly in our path. We decided to avoid the hail by flanking the storms to the east, which meant a big detour. When we began the detour, we had planned to intercept the tornadic storm south of Matador, but the smaller storm south of the tornadic storm was merging with the tornadic storm, which we felt would end its tornadic potential. Also while we were on the detour, another intense storm formed farther south. We expected that this more southern storm would also have the potential to produce tornadoes. So, the southern storm became the new target. Things don't always work out as planned during a chase, often requiring a change in plans.

The detour took us east to Paducah, south to Aspermont, and then west to Jayton. By the time we turned west at Aspermont, still another storm had formed at the south end of the line. It too was rapidly intensifying. By closely monitoring on-board radar (ThreatNet), we were able to "thread the needle" by driving between the two storms (i.e., the new southern storm, and the tornadic storm just to its north.

During the drive west from Aspermont, the NSSL Doppler on Wheels (DOW) armada came into radio range. They were observing two tornadoes simultaneously!!! We arrived as these tornadoes were dissipating, but there were more to come. See below.

This was our first clear view of the storm's updraft area. Two tornadoes were actually still occurring when this photograph was taken. One is just to the right of the road, barely visible embedded in rain, and dissipating. The second was a multiple vortex tornado visible under the lowest part of the updraft base. If you look closely, two funnels (suction vortices) can be seen in the image.
Within a few minutes, another large tornado formed northwest of Jayton, Texas. Many chasers were heard on 146.520 MHz as they left the storm, and missed this and the next tornado.

Close-up of tornado, with interesting inflow cloud to the right of the tornado. Motion from right to left into the tail cloud was extremely rapid.

Note the RFD clear area to the left (south) of the tornado.

Looking at a second tornado from the same viewing location. The DOW crew directed the Tornado Intercept Vehicle toward a successful intercept of this tornado.
Here is a wider view of the storm, with the tornado still in progress. Looking west-northwest.

This storm was south of Jayton, and northwest of Hamlin. A few minutes after the photo above was taken, this storm produced a 10 minute tornado that Al Moller observed from a point west of Jayton. The tornado was on an occluded western flank, and not visible east of the storm.


Here is the same storm over Hamlin, Texas just before sunset. Note the funnel above the horizon near the middle of the image, to the left of the setting sun.
Another shot of the setting sun through the rain and hail curtains falling in and around Hamlin, Texas. Note the grain silo extending above the horizon on the right side of the image. The silo is located in Hamlin.


TIV and DOW Tornado Intercept Communications
Mesocyclone Occlusions

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

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Last revised: January 31, 2009