May 23, 2002

Lipscomb & Spearman, TX Tornadoes - Awesome Structure

Chase Account by: Scott Blair

Chase Team: Scott Blair, Eric Nguyen, Scott Currens, Jeff Gammons, Chris Collora, Amos Magliocco, Jason Foster

We started forecasting early morning in Hays, KS. By mid morning, a cold front was located from Salina to Dodge City to Amarillo, TX. The front was expected to shift slightly south before stalling. A dryline was forming across West Texas and was likely to sharpen throughout the day. By 00z, 30 degree Td difference existed along the dryline. A triple point developed near the intersection of both boundaries. The potential for severe storms and supercells existed generally along a southward moving cold front and dryline.

Cloudy and somewhat cool temperatures in the mid 50's were experienced along the drive south on Hwy183 towards the target area. Around 2pm, conditions slightly improved as we stopped in Ashland, KS. We filled up with gas, applied another coat of rain-x to the windows, and downloaded some data off the laptop. We were quite impressed with the conditions across the Texas Panhandle. Clearing skies, a sharpening dryline, and decent moisture advection all caught our attention.

We continued dropping south on Hwy183 to Buffalo, OK. Around 3pm, we started some intense forecasting and reviewed surface observations. Satellite revealed some cumulus lines in the northern TX Panhandle. The level of confidence was very high that the target would be NE of the Amarillo area.

We took Hwy64 west and then south on Hwy283. Shortly after we switched to Hwy15 west and observed the first significant tower to the west. SPC issued a severe t-storm watch for a large area of the OK/TX Panhandles around 5pm. As we entered the extreme NE Texas Panhandle near Follett, TX, the updraft exploded and the first supercell of the day was well underway. Blasting south on Hwy305, we pulled over on a side dirt road about 3 miles NNW of Lipscomb, TX. The cell continued to organize with a fair-sized core and developing wall cloud. It was clear the supercell was near-surface based. The wall cloud showed improved organization as tight rotation developed about a half-mile away from our location. Around 5:50pm, a well-formed dust whirl tornado touched down in the field next to our location. The multi-vortex circulation was a fairly intense and lasted for about three minutes. Towards the end of the life cycle, a nice RFD punched to the SW of the tornado and sent a jet of dust blasting around the meso. A few other dusty spinups later occurred, but none as impressive as the first one.

We followed the supercell eastward through assorted dirt roads. The cell held strength and attempted to hold a nice wall cloud, complete with a long inflow tail. However, within ten minutes it lost overall organization. We watched the cell, but gave up after thrity minutes once the storm appeared outflow dominated. Time was 6:50pm and we explored other options.

Hearing reports of two supercells in Hutchinson County, we blasted west. Mammatus clouds and beautiful long inflow tails gave positive hints of the storm to the west just out of view. Finally arriving on Hwy281, a classic supercell became visible. This storm was an incredible sight! A blocky wall cloud virtually hovered just above the ground. A long, slender beaver tail pointed north towards the precip shaft. Awesome banding and a fantastic vault greeted us directly in front of the road. The storm took on a golden color with excellent backlight as the sun lowered. We pulled off Hwy281, 7 miles SE of Spearman, TX near the border of Hutchinson and Roberts County. The storm was sucking inflow from all directions, ENE 25mph at our location. After a few stills and video, we jogged back east to the intersection of Hwy281 and Hwy70. Around 8pm, the RFD was clearly wrapping around and was close to occluding the wall cloud. The wall cloud developed a pointy shape and shortly after a tornado condensed downward. The tornado was nice as sheets of rain rotated around the wall cloud. The tornado lifted after about two minutes.

I decided to get closer once the tornado lifted, so I dropped south on Hwy70. Shortly after, the storm fully occluded and showed signs of weakening. Hearing reports of a monster supercell NW of Pampa, TX or about 40 miles to my southwest, I decided to blast south on Hwy70 towards Pampa. At 8:45pm, the we broke through the precip blowoff and the cell became visible. This was a true monster supercell! Once completely rain free, I pulled over about eight miles north of Pampa, near the intersection of Hwy70 and Hwy282. I was directly east of the vault, a large blocky wall cloud, and a huge beaver tail. All these features were constantly illuminated thanks to the continuos lightning. The structure was breathtaking, likely in my Top 10 storm structures of all time. The storm had sustained inflow winds close to 50mph. The feeling and sight are impossible to translate into words. Simply, this is what chasing is all about.

We followed the storm along Hwy282 watching amazing structure. Once nearing Miami shortly after 10pm, my gas situation became very critical. I was very low on gas and luckily one station was open. Quickly filling up, I was able to briefly reflect on the chase day with chasers Val Castor, Blake Michaleski, and Derek Deroche. Once the gas stop was complete, I briefly followed the supercell up Hwy60 before giving up on the cell. Just after the gas stop, a confirmed F1 tornado caused damage eight miles NW of Miami.

Hearing of another developing supercell NNW of Pampa, I decided not to end the chase day and return west on Hwy282. Once hitting Hwy70, nowcast reports hinted at very large hail about five miles to the north of the Hwy70/282 intersection. Loving hail as much as I do, I decided to go ahead with hail verification. Chris Collora jumped into my vehicle while Eric Nguyen and Scott Currens followed in behind. Others decided to watch from a distance. As we approached the storm, it was obvious it packed a punch. We immediately slammed into the RFD as strong sheets of rain and severe wind blasted us. Visibility was very limited, but we finally made out way north into the hail shaft and parked. The majority of the hail was two inches in diameter, although the strong winds magnified the affects as the hail slammed into the car. After two minutes, the hail size increased to isolated baseball size hail which echoed throughout the car. Without warning, larger stones crashed onto the car as four stones immediately shattered the windshield. To avoid further damage to the windshield, I turned around allowing the hail grill to deflect other damaging stones. Shortly after, Eric came into the radio alerting us he was losing his front windshield. We shifted south towards Eric's location watching golfball size hail bounce as high as the car. After ten minutes, we were south of the core and took Hwy282 were we all pulled off. Significant damage was the result to my windshield, along with Eric's and Scott's. Other damage to my vehicle consisted of chunks of trim missing from the trunk lid and large deep dents into the body. A few grills were even dented on my hail grill, which clearly portrayed the power of the stones.

We ended the day in Elk City, OK at a local hotel. In the parking lot was a strange research truck supported by Los Alamos, NM and some other government involvement. "High Energy Beam Pulse Magnetic Radar" was being used with warning signs of uranium radiation risks! I still haven't heard anything about this! Big thanks to nowcaster Jason Politte with excellent updates. We ate at Dennys and reflected on the long and incredible chase day. Four supercells and two tornadoes easily made 5/23 a classic chase!


Our Report In Storm Data...
Event: Hail
Location: 20 Miles North West of Miami
Magnitude: 3.00 inches
Fatalities: 0 Injuries: 0
Property Damage: $ 40.0K
State: Texas County: Roberts
Description: Golfball to tea cup size hail caused considerable damage to vehicles...windows and roofs. Numerous severe thunderstorms containing destructive large hail...damaging winds and tornadoes struck much of the central and northern Texas panhandle during the evening and into the overnight hours.

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