May 17, 2001

Major Hail Storm in West Texas

Chase Account by: Scott Blair

Chase Team: Scott Blair, Eric Nguyen.
First half of chase met up with: Amos Magliocco, Jeff Lawson, Jeff Gammons, David Cornwell.
After a short lull in the storm season due to a pesky cut off low in the east, Thursday, May 17, brought me out of Little Rock at 5am. I met Eric Nguyen around 11am and we discussed the setup for the day. It appeared the best chance of supercells would be located across Western Oklahoma. We waited near Cordell, OK for a couple hours and was joined by Amos, Jeff, and David. By 5pm, it appeared the day would be a bust. The cu was soft and it was getting late. As luck would have it, a nice LP supercell developed shortly after. We observed the supercell for a good hour or so before it began to weaken. Several new storms developed nearby, some turning severe. With sunset about an hour away, we all decided to end the chase early and eat dinner at Dennys in Elk City, OK. I ate just a few bites as my attention was centered on the window watching a new severe storm. As darkness set in, Eric and I decided to stay in Amarillo, TX to get into position for the next day that looked to be centered around upslope flow.

After just a few miles west of Elk City, we encountered a severe storm that dropped quarter size hail on us. We luckily avoided the larger hail that was reported with the storm. After crossing into Texas on I-40, most of the drive was rather smooth. We knew of a few earlier supercells that developed across far West Texas, so Eric loaded up a quick radar. The supercells were still alive and quite strong. The storms were scattered about.

About 40 miles east of AMA, we became intrigued with the frequent distant lightning flashes off to the northwest. With the average movement, the distant storm would come close to crossing our path on the way to AMA. Since it was dark, the only way to really judge the storm's strength was by the frequent lightning flashes, which were quite impressive. As we passed Groom, TX, the beginning of outflow winds increased. The supercell was much closer and a good amount of dust was being blown across the road. We quickly stopped for a gas stop and jumped back onto I-40.

The supercell was now very close. Winds briskly increased and a large shelf cloud was visible. The lightning was a true strobe light as the frequency was amazing. We both knew this was not a minor storm and we would soon be entering it. I quickly called Jason Politte for a brief nowcast update. The following is from our radio contact between Eric and me in text form as we enter the storm.

Major hail storm pounds us near Conway, TX for ten minutes solid.

(Scott is leading the way with Eric right behind. Driving westbound on I-40. Shelf cloud is almost overhead with very frequent lightning.)
Scott- "Unbelievable, I got a few drops of rain so we'll be in the core real soon. It's a 73dbz storm."
Eric- "That should be a little to our west, well I don't know that's getting real close. Huh, that should be really close. I guess this is it right in front of us here."
Eric- "Here is the shelf. We're just about to cross no mans land. Wow, I bet we could get some shear funnels on this thing."
Scott- "Yeah, no kidding. This is a big ole storm. Lets take it real real slow and easy. Oh man we're getting dust. Real real slow and easy when we go through this ok."
Eric- "QSL, I might pull over and do some wind readings."
Scott- "Ok, just keep me updated on your location. Don't get too near me in case something happens. This is strong wind and an unbelievable storm right now."
Eric- "Yeah, maybe we should find an overpass just in case something crazy happens, like grapefruit sized hail or something, we can get underneath it."
(Now approaching the Conway, TX 1 mile exit sign. One mile to the next overpass.)
Scott- "Ok, get ready to slowly creep under this overpass. I can't take it too fast, well if we have an overpass. I don't know where it is. But if we have one, we will pull under that or something."
Eric- "Yeah, there's going to be some really intense wind right now."
Scott- "Huge hail, I just got hit by hail. Big hail."
Eric- "Overpass, lets get to the overpass."
Scott- "Go to the overpass, unbelievable."
(All communication ended due to the deafening roar of hail. Visibility immediately dropped to near zero. Liquid precip was very little, instead intense hail storm.)

Chase partner Eric Nguyen surveys hail damage and his anemometer.

Hail survey is conducted in Conway, TX about twenty minutes after the event.