Day 17 - A Classical Chase in the Panhandles

03 June 2013

Our nights sleep had been somewhat hampered by being hit during the middle of the night by a gust front that had effectively detached from its parent storms - those we had left the night before. The main reason thunderstorms get so windy is that as the rain and hail falls through them it drags air down with it. This air is cooler, and there's a lot of it, which is then all pushed away from the storm. As a storm, or set of storms, becomes a line this can lead to a number of different scenarios right up to some really significant straight line winds, in extreme cases gusting up to 100mph. In our case we were hit by something of a death throw of the storms, and as they weakened the gust front went on ahead. It's a bit confusing when you awake to find the car leaning and shaking but not really any rain or thunder to go with it. But other than that we'd slept well enough and the forecast for today was, in most respects, our favourite sort. The storms didn't look like they would be too far away and while they would be too high based for the most dramatic conditions, they nevertheless had good potential.

After a couple of hours drive we found ourselves in the town of Perryton in the far north of the Texas panhandle. There was a nice park there so we made a picnic lunch and chilled out for a little while. For some reason whenever we are making lunch in a place like this we find ourselves in high winds. Something or other to do with bad weather, some would say things about cake and eating it, but we mostly just want to eat a sandwich. Anyway it does make lunch a little bit of a game, trying to hold various items down while trying to get others from a bag, or catch others as they decide to fly off.

Next up we repositioned a little north to a crossroads with a gas station and a good view. We would be here for the next three hours meanwhile other chasers appeared, including our friends Steve, Pete and Nathan. We all caught up for a while, exchanging stories from the last few days, and talking more about some of the darker days preceding this one. We also spent some time sorting out the new laptop as the standard one had chosen today to retire from 4 years of solid storm chasing service.

A few hours and a lot of cold drinks later we picked our storm, one that had been growing for quite some time up to our north, about 25 miles away. We hadn't been convinced by it, but it seemed to be the best around. As we neared it, we pulled over to find our other nearby UK storm chasing friends, Paul and Helen, already here and enjoying the lightning. The others joined us soon after, and it was great fun to catch up with everyone, trying to get shots of the lightning and getting pretty dusty in the strong southerly winds.

Meetup part 1

Meetup part 2 - lightning photography

Half an hour later the storm's rain started to hit us and it was time to move on. We all went our separate ways for now, and got the chase. The storm was as high based as expected, but had some good structure and had become a prolific lightning producer, much of it cloud to ground.

DSC 0890

Lightning photograph from northern storm cell

DSC 0964As the structure started to get a little weaker on our part of the storm we could see on radar it was exhibiting some excellent structure further south, where all our friends now were! So we made tracks to the south of the storm as quickly as we could. The main precipitation of the storm was bearing down on us from the north we made it to our road south just as it reached us. Those sorts of drives are always exciting, with the real danger being getting stuck in a "washing machine" type environment, it's still pretty edgy. Today our random radio station of choice was a classical one, and there was something very fitting about the amazing scenes of storms and structure with the easy going tones of Vivaldi in the background. On reaching our new target, although the light was fading, we got some great views of the curves and striations of the clouds, along with the ongoing lightning and rain shafts that make up some really great sites and sounds.

Structure South

As the light faded the storm's rains started to fall harder, and in turn the winds started to get stronger, blowing up a massive cloud of dust. We drove out and south, enjoying a spectacular lightning display as we headed away from it. One of those many moments you can't really photograph, but nonetheless makes for an amazing atmosphere.
We finished up in Canadia, a small town still in the Texas panhandle. It was small but we found a motel, but no beer. Not anywhere in Canadia. Sorry times indeed we shared a single small can, but yet another (that's 3 so far) round of hot beans on a roll. Bit of a luxury, but hey, you only live once!

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 2013

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Mon June 2013

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