Day 11 - Rain, rain go away

14 June 2010

Woke up today to the little voice of the cleaner outside our motel door wanting to come in. Oops, forgot to set the alarm and it was dead on check out time. We got our stuff together as quick as possible but were safe in the knowledge that we'd paid with cash, so we weren't going to just have another night's stay wacked on the credit card. Besides, the lady who ran the motel had been so moody the night before, that we didn't feel too bad for it, or for the fact that we were about to permanently borrow all the coat hangers to hang our wet clothes up in the back of the Explorer. Today's plan was to head south, into the SPC's target area of severe weather. It was about 3 hours south of where we were. We made good time and it was an awesome drive. We drove through the Texas Caprock, which is an area where a more durable rock 'caps' a softer rock below, reducing the effects of erosion and what you get are big pillars and areas of a dusty bright red soft rock topped with lighter craggy features. The route through this area varied in altitude with beautiful scenery. We stopped to get a photo at height.

As it happened, we had picked exactly the right town within the much larger target area and as we approached the town of Dickens, the skies were becoming darker and we could see the lightning in the distance. We positioned ourselves to the south east of the first cell just as it became tornado warned! We were pretty proud of ourselves. This was the first tornado warning of the day and we were right in the middle of the warned area. We judged the speed of the storm, anticipated its direction and planned our tracking route. We always stayed slightly ahead of the area of rotation, driving for a few miles, stopping and waiting for it to catch us, then driving on again. Looking to our left as we drove, we watched it churn its way across in the plains and managed to stay with it for a number of miles, but eventually had to let it go as it pushed on north east, away from any roads available to us.

By now there were many other cells starting to form behind it. This often happens and the storms in essence 'back build' with new cells initiating at the source and following in line. One problem with this though, is that the cells start merging and feeding off each other, with the outflow of one being the inflow of another and the line becomes very messy and precip heavy. Precipitation being the term used for either rain or hail, and often these lines can be big hailers. We stopped in one spot, and for a couple of minutes the precip line held steady about 100 meters away (see the line on the road where the rain is hitting it hard).

We tried to seek out these embedded supercells and we actually did pretty well. We got onto a cell whose structure was still intact. It had formed a huge shelf cloud on the leading edge and lightning was all around.

We were on a good road to stay with it during its existence but we knew the precip was on our tails. We were once again in a tornado warned area with a storm in our view that had suddenly started rotating in 3 areas. We stopped and demanded it put a tornado down. We used all our will power but it didn't obey!

As it crossed the road behind us, it became so heavily wrapped in rain that any rotation was masked and all we saw was darkness. We drove on and out of it, stopping a little further up the road. It was only here, as we looked far to our left, we saw dust swirling on the horizon underneath a lowering from the cloud.

If you see a funnel coming out of the base of a storm, you can be pretty certain there is a vortex swirling on the ground underneath. It just might not yet be strong enough to show. If the funnel is at least half way down to the ground, there are probably tornadic winds on the ground. A tornado doesn't really touch down it actually spins up. The vortex on the ground starts to spin up and then it starts to pick up sand, dirt, leaves and debris that rise up and meets the funnel. Unfortunately, in this instance, it didn't last long and the familiar looking tornado never appeared, but we were pleased with our efforts nonetheless. We had battled against a building line and reaped what we could.

We decided to call it a day at this point. The outflow winds from the approaching line were driving the rain horizontally across the road whilst picking up the sand from the red surrounding Texas farmlands, obscuring all visibility. We reached a little town called Sweetwater and treated ourselves to a posh hotel for the night. Posh meaning it had shampoo and served breakfast! We drank beer, chilled out and were treated by that line of electric storms finally catching us up and passing directly overhead, whilst we were safe and dry in our hotel, with our noses to the window!

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

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Mon June 2010

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Mon June 2010

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