Epic Weather

05 May 2015

Call it luck, and luck it may have been, but 4 days out we’d identified a target area for today, well before the SPC said anything about it, and that was now vindicated by the last few updates from their forecasters which more or less agreed with our forecast. On that basis we had hit the hay last night with high hopes. Unfortunately when we awoke it was raining fairly persistently and the forecasts were had become very complicated as the ongoing convection, though not much to write home about (yet here I am writing home about it), was going to play an important part in the day’s weather. This is rarely a good thing...often this means storms firing up which quickly become part of the ongoing system. Nevertheless there was some hope that some storms might be feasible away from the ongoing convection, and there were a few pockets of decent parameters around to support supercells, so we headed south to see what we might find.

After what felt like a pretty long drive, I think largely down to the dreary conditions and rampant rate of pro-life billboards eating our minds, we reached Lubbock, TX, with some decisions to make. There was a line of convection starting a little east of the dryline, and this looked like it might be the axis on which we could expect any further convection to occur. The forecasts indicated that there would be more happening west of this line, but  we felt this was probably indicative of the main area for convective initiation, even if it wasn’t the start of the main event.

We carried on south east in an effort to get in front of the line of developing storms. Once in front of them we noticed a couple of new, discrete, cells firing up to our south. These looked like textbook supercells and they were heading through an area of favourable shear which could mean tornadoes. We picked what we felt was the strongest target and headed for it.

As we approached, some new convection started popping up in our path, providing some interesting navigation versus driving through hectic weather options, but we managed to find a good balance. As we approached our primary target we could see its base and precip to the left of a storm that had popped up between us and it. At least we thought we could, as we got nearer we realised that there were, in fact, two storms between us and it. As we saw between them we caught a proper view of that main cell and we knew we needed to get there. It was exhibiting superb structure and had clearly already become surface-based, meaning that tornadoes were possible.

In quite a few parts of Texas the farm roads are so sandy that when they are wet they become impassable, particularly for the road tyres that hire cars come equipped with. The good thing about this, however, is that in some areas this lack of natural infrastructure has been overcome with lots of tarmac. We were chasing in one such area and so had lots of decent road options and managed to pick our way to an ideal spot to view what was now a strong supercell bearing all the hallmarks of one that’s about to put down a tornado. And so it did...

Tornado Weather In Texas 5Th May 2015

Tornado Near Big Spring 5 May 2015 5

Tornado Near Big Spring 5 May 2015 2

Tornado Near Big Spring 5 May 2015 10

We were lucky enough to watch this particularly photogenic tornado from a fairly close proximity while standing, largely in peace and sunshine.

Tornado Chasing In Sunny Weather

It raised and reformed a number of times in a number of shapes and sizes, before the storm began to disorganise and move away.

Tornado Near Big Spring 5 May 2015 7

We were both awestruck by what we’d just seen and as the storm moved on we followed it for a time. As we waited by a couple of roadsides a couple of cars stopped with their friendly local inhabitants wanting to talk. One particularly sweet local farmer was so excited that we were there all the way from England all he could do was bare a huge (largely toothless) grin and offer an awkward inter-car high-five.

As the storm that had been tornadic began to dissipate we elected to push south towards a couple more cells that had formed there. Again we were able to find good positioning and, while there were no more tornadoes to be seen, we finished our day with a beautiful low-precipitation supercell moving over the fields of wind turbines near Sweetwater.

Tornado Near Big Spring 5 May 2015 9

We watched it make its way northeast before decamping to a motel for a much needed clean-up, debrief and photo appraisal.

It was a classic day. Even down to an uninspiring start making the inspiring remainder of the day all the more special for being unexpected. More of the same please...

A little more from Cambo:

Hers'a my photo of tornado and flowers. Firstly I found the whole thing madly terrifying as I sat in the car hands trembling trying to change my lens, but after about 5 minutes of being out there I realised we were in no danger at all and I could just watch and enjoy. I was getting warmed with the sun behind me, hearing birdies chirping and the faint sounds of a Giles Peterson podcast playng from the car watching one of the most amazing and powerful things happen in front of me. Such a beautiful work of nature - and then I spotted these flowers, so I tried to ignore the millions of ants on the ground and got down on my hands and knees to get 'tornado and flowers'! You got to love this world!

Tornado Near Big Spring 5 May 2015 And Flowers 

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

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Tue May 2015

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Tue May 2015

< < Chaos on the Plains      :      Slight me > >

Weather Photography Blog