Andy Cole's Stormchase blog

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

Day 5 – Wind, rain, hail and tornadoes

Today was one of those oh so nearly days. I mean we saw one, possibly 2 tornadoes, but there were a couple of occasions when we were in absolutely perfect position and the storm just didn’t perform, waiting until we had to take our escape route before putting on a show.

The morning started in Lubbock, Texas and it was pretty clear that there was going to be only one game in town. The aim was to head for The tip of the Oklahoma panhandle and intercept a storm as it came out of New Mexico into the juicy surface moisture. It turns out that is exactly what happened. We were in perfect position as it formed, tracking it through the hills and high ground up in far Northwest Oklahoma.

Storm forming over the mountains again

Storm forming over the mountains again

As it moved Southeast away from the hills and into better roads, we set up a position east of it and watched the rotation tighten up. The wall cloud formed, which is the cloud that often precedes a tornado. The rotation became more rapid and I was convinced that Chris would bag his first tornado in full HD. Unfortunately the storm became wrapped in rain and we had to reposition to the east.

The telltale supercell 'horseshoe'

The telltale supercell ‘horseshoe’

We chanced it down a dirt track, which was closed so had to backtrack and head further east. On the next north-south road we went south. Big mistake! As we drove south we lost visibility, and those further north caught a glimpse of a rope tornado dissipating against a backdrop of hail.

We repositioned and saw the rotation emerge from the rain, even faster (And closer this time). When it was less than half a mile away, a big rear flank downdraft appeared to the south. The rear flank downdraft (or RFD) is usually associated with the formation of a tornado and it was going to cut off our south escape, so we had to go again and leave the amazing rotation behind.

Hail in the core

Hail in the core

We didn’t beat the RFD to our escape, and Chris was treated to rain and wind gusting to 60mph as we drove through it. We had to keep going though as there was likely a tornado forming behind us.

Suddenly, as we were driving south, amazingly there was another tornado forming, about 6 miles to our southwest. I captured a couple of shots of it touching down as we sped towards it.

Tornado dropping down in the distance

Tornado dropping down in the distance

By the time we arrived though, it had disappeared but treated us to a great display of hail in the updraft. As we waited there, I bumped into a fellow UK chaser, Cammie Czuchnicki, who I’d met a few weeks prior at the UK Torro conference. She captured some cracking shots of the storm this day (a league above my amateurish efforts) including one with me in it, and you can see them on her site at Weather Studios

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It was time to bail south-east, through some horrific traffic to get set up for the next day in Texas. On our way we were pursued by the now mammoth storm stretching from New Mexico across the whole Texas Panhandle. It made for some great sunset footage. We also were assaulted by a barrage of tumbleweeds.

Chris dodges the tumbleweeds

Chris dodges the tumbleweeds

Sunset storms

Sunset storms

Fantastic day

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