Somewhere in Texas... I think

17 May 2016

We knew Tuesday was going to provide the last bit of storminess we could hope to expect over the next few days. For this reason we decided to commit to the max. We set the alarm for 6:30am to ensure a prompt departure from Amarillo and arrival in South Texas - Hill Country specifically for potential afternoon storms. This was about 5 hours away excluding the necessary 'stop, plop, shop and swap' breaks. We made our target in time.

Storms were expected along the cold front as it pushed into the area from the north. We wanted to be the warm side of the front and monitored its progress during the day to ensure we were in the right place as the storms started to fire. It was also important to find clear skies as, quite simply, you want to find the area that will have benefited from the maximum amount of daytime heating as possible. The town of Barnhart in South Texas was our chosen place and we got there just in time to have a sandwich and get on a storm.

Two cells had fired in the area. One just to our south and one out to our west. We drove to the outskirts of the town and waited for the southern storm to approach. Yes, we just waited. Good positioning had allowed us the luxury to wait for it to come to us in its infancy. Our plan had worked a dream and it seemed as though we were in the right place at the right time. It had made the early start worth it. The storm approached and the lightning was impressive enough for me to move the laptop to the footwell from fear of being toasted.

small hail core

It looked great as it rolled past but unfortunately another cell had gone up nearby - the interaction hadn't gone well and they both congealed into a rainy mess. We ditched them and ploughed through the rain to get onto the cell out to the west which had just become tornado warned. However, yet another cell had been developing between us and the one out west and was now somewhat blocking our path. We probably would have pushed on through but this particular cell was starting to look quite tasty and a quick decision to head south and position on this one became the new plan. It was a good move and the storm provided some good sights, beautiful colours, some great lightning and some epic ground trembling thunder.

raggedy wall cloud

green afterglow

We kept on the south road for the much of the day, playing cat and mouse with the storm. Taking photos and legging it as the winds picked up and hail started. Although none of the storms in the area were tornado warned at this time, the shear in the area was noticeable and we caught this very brief funnel spin up from the base of a cloud.

warm front funnel

We stopped to chat with another group of friendly chasers from Mississippi State university who were out doing field research - one of whom we'd crossed paths with in a busy gas station previous, unaware we'd be meeting again out in the middle of nowhere a few hours later. What a small chaser world this is. Well it is out in Texas Hill Country on a Tuesday afternoon it seems!

As most people tracked east with the cluster of storms, we decided to let them go and instead headed to a new cell that had gone up near a place called McCamey - given the name, how could we not? How excited we became when 60 or so miles out it became tornado warned and was heading straight in our direction. The discovery of unexpected paved roads helped us in our mission and hail cores from lingering storms edged just enough off our path to let us through. It was all going so well but then the storm started to appear to be losing it. Maybe the surrounding environment was too cold in the wake of the previous storms, maybe the winds weren't quite as strong as they needed to be, for whatever reason the storm just died on us. It was a shame but it does just happen like this sometimes.

There was little left in the area and so this marked the end of the chase for us. It had been a classic but after an extremely long day of much driving and excitement we were about ready for a beer and a debrief. Sleep deprivation had kicked in for both of us a number of hours previous making the hour or so journey to a nearby motel in the fading light somewhat surreal. We turned the music up full blast and headed to Fort Stockton. On arrival, I was so tired, that when asked where we'd been by a couple of guys we got talking to in the carpark, I totally forgot where we had driven from. To top this, I then couldn't work out where we now were, not being able to even think what State we were in! 

We predictably cooked up some beans and unpredictably experimented by microwaving some quinoa balls we'd picked up in Walmart the day before. And wow what a great find. It was like our very own veggie albondigas, which being so close to the Mexican border seemed a pretty fitting way 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 Tue May 2016

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Tue May 2016

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