Andy Cole's Stormchase blog

Back on the plains in 2019 to share in nature's spectacle

Chris’ blog: Day 4 – De Ja Vu, the mountains win again

Fortunately, I will never know if missing breakfast for a 9am lie in will be a mistake or not. Rather we ventured to the local corner shop called Walmart – with ham, egg and lettuce rolls to accompany the preventative paracetamol stirring away inside we were on the road to ‘Pecos’ just an hour North West of Fort Stockton. We were torn between a juicy looking storm in deep SW Texas and a serious of storm on the SE tip of New Mexico – the former had a restrictive road network that we fell victim to yesterday and the latter didn’t have as promising Dew Points and CAPE.

We sat and considered options in a ‘Love’ service station waiting for radar updates. Neither jumped out the screen in Tornado clad clothes but the mountainous region storm in SW Texas had more promising characteristics; moving into air with a higher Dew Points, higher levels of CAPE and the potential to develop into a Severe Thunderstorm. We get into the mountains and flirt with danger as we near the core of the storm to get a better vantage point…

Something is brewing in the mountain pot..

Something is brewing in the mountain pot..

We saw a white land rover meandering down the side of a mountain and joked about going up. A joke, a seed that came into fruition. Sitting at the bottom looking up at what looked like a sheer cliff from my drivers view I was amazed how calm and collected Andy was and even more amazed at the trust and confidence he had in getting up! With foot on the floor, the grunt of our two wheel car screaming into the Texan plains, we climbed up the gravel and sand path at a slugs pace hoping not to get a sudden bout of traction that would propel us over the 100 foot drop – seatbelts on. But, when we got to the top we were rewarded with a stunning view stretching over multiple valleys to the next mountain and encapsulating the full structure of two thunderstorms. We met another chaser who had the same ludicrous idea as us to sheer a climb on a dirt track with impeding hail and thunderous rain: Mike Olbinski (http://www.mikeolbinski.com/).

Off-piste

The near death ascent..

Andy overlooking hils

Andy overlooking the stunning scenery

Had to look out for these in the Off-Piste..

Had to look out for these in the Off-Piste..

View from the top of the top of the ascent

View from the top of the top of the ascent

 

Leaving this picturesque scenery we accepted that the lack of civilised roads had most probably defeated us from reaching the base of this storm. We checked the radar for tomorrow and everything points North to the Texas panhandle border with New Mexico and Oklahoma – a ‘PDS TOR’ warning, ‘Potentially Dangerous Storm Tornado’ which is the highest warning before emergency. We decided to eat into the journey via a route that may coincide with the storm in front of us if conditions went our way. We headed south, then east, then north to get around the storm and quickly north of their paths. We avoided a blue/green wall of hail by the skin of our teeth, took a thorough saturating of precipitation that took the escape to 10mph and gusts of wind that really strained the trusty Dodge’s suspension. We would have done this ten times over for the ‘PDS TOR’ potential tomorrow..

Lesson for the day – learn the lessons from previous days!

 

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