Desert Storm Loop

18 May 2015

We woke at one of our now favourite motels in New Mexico. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as sweet as the mumsie lady on reception who was so entertainingly welcoming. She came complete with a South American drawl and hearty laugh and showed us around the motel facilities when we arrived yesterday with such pride. And facilities there were including swimming pool, whirlpool, gym and free cookies! And the laid-back midday checkout allowed us to make use of said facilities once again in the morning before we left. Defo coming here again.

It was so hot when we checked out. We literally packed up, got in the car, drove all of 5 mins to Walmart and we were already sweating buckets. It was a good sign – lots of heat and moisture – just what was needed to kick off the storms. Strong southerly flow in the area was to be thanked for this and the approach of a shortwave trough from the west together with an eastward progressing dryline was hopefully going to give us the required lift to get the storms going.

We headed a bit further south where the LCLs looked a little better – this is the forecast level of the cloud bases so the lower the better in terms of tornado potential. Whilst heading south across the New Mexican border and into Texas a couple of cells started to form but we were still about 40 miles north of them. With them being south of us it made positioning a little more complicated as it’s nearly always best to be viewing a storm the southeast looking northwest as this allows you to see into the heart of the storm where all the interesting stuff happens, otherwise it can just appear like a wall of rain. The lack of roads around the area also made things a little harder. But to counter these challenges the storms were very slow moving and it was soon clear that the southernmost storm was clearly the dominant, so we worked out a way to get into a good position.

To start with the storm didn’t look like much. It was very elevated and not at all foreboding. Some hail had been reported but it wasn’t even severe warned yet. It was growing though and soon some 1.5 inch hail was reported. Our position allowed us to watch as it moved east of where we were waiting and all the time it was starting to look more impressive.

Storm Texas Plains

Storm Photography

The rotation was becoming visible, especially as it ingested the moist air around it, which appeared to be condensing around the base of the storm in some horizontal manner before then being ingested into the updraft, which turned it into a vertical rotating column and helped the storm become what they call ‘surface based’. THEN a funnel formed from the rotating inflow! It was absolutely nuts! We got a few photos of what was clearly a tornado developing off this inflow feature. In fact, later we when we saw photos from other spotters in the area who were even closer, it was even more impressive!

Storm Inflow Landscape

Tornado Close

Some local workers stopped to admire the storm with us and one guy just appeared to be driving around trying to find people to talk to about it, yapping excitedly to whoever he could find from the wound down cab window of his truck. He was local too and asked if we had seen the tornado that had just formed. He was so excited and loving it and couldn’t talk enough about the crazy weather they get out in Texas.

We then realised that our radar data was half an hour out of date – a sign of just how slow this storm was moving but we realised by eye that we should probably get a little further south to get out of its path! It was a monster by this stage and we stopped in a couple of places along the road to get a few more pics. There were a fair few people out on the storm and we bumped into a couple of chase tour mates that we knew and all gazed at the beauty of the beast together!

Storm Shelf Tim

At one point we found an awesome place to stop where we witnessed a gustnado and threw our lucky but recently discovered ‘unlucky’ pants (due to always busting on tornados when we wear them) to the wind. Quite literally we did through our pants into the air and the inflow sucked them really high into the sky and across the farmer’s field. They weren’t the ones we were wearing at that point by the way; I had kept them ready in a plastic bag for a fitting opportunity. I wonder if we’ll ever see them again.


Storm Gas Works

Blowing In The Wind Storm In Texas

As it started to disorganise we headed east to get ahead of it again, the darkening skies marking the time for some lightning photography and this time Tim managed to get one of me with some coming out of my head!

Lightning Out Of The Head Weathering The Storm In Texas

Storm Lightning

We then had to make a decision whether to stay in the area or head back north to get into a better position for tomorrow’s forecast storms. We opted to do the latter which required negotiating our way up through the evolving line of storms, which Timbo did in style. In fact after a few hours’ drive our chosen place of rest was only about 20 miles east of where our day had begun and what a fantastic loop of storminess it had been.

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 2015

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Mon May 2015

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