The Broken Arc

26 May 2014

The 25th was essentially a bust. We started the day by chasing a supercell near the Mexican border which all looked good until we got really close when we found it (or failed to find it) totally hidden in fog. It couldn’t even find itself and quickly dissipated in the poor convective environment. This did mean that we could keep a nice steady pace along the road to the next gas station which we reached on a very empty fuel tank. In fact we were able to put a little over 2 litres more into the tank than its capacity, so it must have been exceptionally empty! We met a UK chaser friend at the gas station and caught up before heading north to wait around most of the day for storms to fire. Then, while everyone else went north to a rather good looking cell in the same place storms had been the last couple of days, we watched while some cumulus clouds failed to amount to more than just that. In a last ditch effort we got ourselves to the northern storms and at least saw some lightning before retiring to our motel from 2 nights previous. It was a bit surreal as they gave us the same room and by the time the car was unloaded there was a definite air of deja vu around.

We were more optimistic about the forecast for today. Whether that was because you have to be, I’m not sure, but the last few days had not been too successful and we felt like today’s setup was a good one. It was another complicated setup with day after day of weather in the same area meaning that the atmosphere was in something of a state of disarray. We decided to head to where the sunshine was breaking through to provide some heat to the equations, which also fitted in with the SPC’s rather specific guess that a “broken arc” of storms would develop between south west Oklahoma and central Texas. We started with a short trip east before heading south to where we could start to see both some sunshine and some early convection, pretty much on the arc the SPC had predicted. (Some days the SPC can be something of a mixed blessing, but today was another day where you couldn’t really fault them.)

The first storm we headed for turned out to be a good bet. It was intensifying as we arrived and we were immediately treated to some good structure along with a strongly rotating mesocyclone, close to the ground. Indeed there was rotation on the ground that, while poorly depicted here, could well have technically been a tornado.

Brief Spin Up

We played cat and mouse with the storm for a little while as it slowly transformed from a classic supercell into a high precipitation monster. Although you get less good structure on the underside of the storm there’s nothing quite like the green hue the core of an HP cell can bring.

Shelf Approaching On Road

After some messing around with the lack of roads along with the propagation of the storm we found our way out in front of it as it headed for Garden City. We didn’t have long before we had to backtrack along a road that would later have 3 tornadoes reported on it. Our last view on the storm was from a hill top overlooking Big Spring. It wasn’t likely to do any more than get it wet, but it always looks ominous when the shelf of one of these storms is bearing down on a city.

Shelf Over Big Spring

We left this storm at this point and headed for the next one that had developed behind it. The storms had started easterly and were now moving south east and propagating south. This left us essentially heading straight south as first one, then two more storms came our way. The road straight south gave us good options to let the weather get close, then move a little out of its way, and wait for the next one to roll past, with some great views of them.

Green hue and space ship cloud

Weather Photo Updraft Striations

During this final part of what had been a great chase day we were treated to an epic sunset through the rain shafts and bases of the next storms in the line.


As the light faded, and without much in the way of lightning photography options, we headed for San Angelo. We had to drive through some fairly heavy rain with enough lightning to entertain a dance floor, before finding ourselves at Walmart to settle down with beans, beers and a good lightshow to end the day.

SPC Day 1 Weather Outlook as at 06:00UTC (01:00 Central Time the night before)

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Mon May 2014

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Mon May 2014

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