Day 4 - A Rewarding Storm

21 May 2013

We left the rancid hovel that was Crossorads Inn in Sherman. It was refreshing to step outside the room and breathe in some fresh air. I’m sure the mustiness of the room must have taken a year off our lives! It was our 4th day chasing and we were faced with yet another moderate risk of storms. However, it was soon clear that the majority of the severe weather was to be attributed to an MCS that was already established on a trailing cold front stretching from south eastern Kansas through to western central Texas. A mesoscale convective system is a long line of congealed storms with primary threats of damaging winds, large hail and potentially hidden rain wrapped tornadoes. Not particularly appealing.

Our usual play on such systems is to head to the tail end and hope that a cell can remain discrete and provide some good photo opportunities. So we headed south and west a bit, occasionally being caught up in massive amounts of rain. As it happened the cold front, and hence MCS was moving eastward at quite a speed so we adjusted our destination to even further south. We didn’t have the same excited anticipation of seeing anything stunning and structured that can often be the case in a moderate risk but kept faith that we’d be rewarded with something worth photographing.

Indeed a cell did seem to be developing at the tail end of the system and we aimed for that. We first thought we may be able to intercept it at a place called Temple in Texas but it soon became clear that the storm was going to get there before us, not giving us any opportunity to photograph its approach and instead just get caught up in a load more rain. So instead we went up and around it, got in front of it and found a great little farm road in Rosebud to watch it approach.

Initially it just looked like a dark wall of rain coming towards us and we were a little disappointed as we’d put in maximum effort and about 4 hours driving to get in front of this storm. However, as it neared us, the thunder grew louder, rumbles were felt through our feet and more distinctive features of a shelf cloud were visible. It wasn’t long before we had to jump back into the car and drive further to get in front of it again.

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In fact it was quite an adrenaline fuelled chase. Although it hadn’t been tornado warned, the cloud was very low to the ground and very ominous out of the car window. We chose roads that kept us on a knife’s edge of the core of the storm and it certainly was beautiful and a bit scary! Even through a storm doesn’t have an official tornado warning, there are often areas where rotation aloft are clear and of course, a storm can become tornado warned at any point and it’s the anticipation of this that is often the scariest part for me.

However, no tornadoes from this one today, but it was a great storm with amazing structure; better than either of us had anticipated and a great drive through some beautiful Texas Plains countryside. I love it out here.

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As the light faded and the storm appeared to weaken, we headed to a nearby Walmart, grabbed some beers and looked though the models for tomorrow. It appeared as though it was going to be a quite day on the Southern Plains with the development of a more ridging pattern (sinking air and little chance of storms). We were however set up to be in the firing line of some more smaller cells that were back building. Timing was perfect and and we managed to position ourselves, ready in the car, pointed in the direction of the approaching storms, beer in hand for another 2 hour light show 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 2013

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Tue May 2013

< < Day 5 – A day off in Texas      :      Day 3 - Southern Chase > >

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