May 13th brought a good set up with strong convergence, good instability and moisture, but weak shear. This would result in high precipitation storms nearly anchoring across the Texas panhandle into south central Kansas. These storms would produce copious amounts of huge hail, high winds and especially flash flooding. Due to weak low level shear, they would not produce tornadoes. One particular supercell grew to a very large storm. A second storm was south of it and the inflow was so strong from the main supercell it pulled to southern storm into it and completely destroyed it! Crazy to see this happen! The large storm became a formidable high precipitation supercell as it slowly moved east towards the Oklahoma border. Lightning was also intense in many of the storms and we were treated to quite a light show as we drove back to Oklahoma City.
May 11th brought about one of the most unusual events we’ve ever witnessed! A massive grass fire in the Texas Panhandle southeast of Amarillo generated a pyrocumulus cloud. This cloud forms due to intense heat causing the air to rise and condense into a cumulus cloud. What we had never seen before was one of the pyrocumulus cloud grow to such enormous proportions that it was able to move away from it’s heat source and continue to grow, eventually turning into a supercell! Amazing! This storm would move all the way to the Oklahoma border before dying. It produced enormous amounts of cloud to ground lightning, which in turn sparked over a dozen new fires! It also produced hail the size of golfballs! Strange, beautiful and bizarre!!!!
The end of April took us to the Texas panhandle for storms. The season has not even started yet due to persistent continental polar airmass intrusions, pushing surface moisture into the gulf of Mexico. Finally, we have a few days where moisture is returning, albeit slowly! With dew points in the 40s and 50s, storms during this two day period were high based, but marginally severe, producing large hail and high winds. Storms clustered along the dry line occasionally having supercellular appearances, however due to limited moisture, the tornado threat was zero. Enjoy the pics!
June 8th on paper didn’t look that great. Limited moisture would be the biggest factor in getting tornadic storms. However, decent shear, CAPE, and a sharp dryline would provide the necessary ingredients to sustain severe storms. By mid afternoon a couple of storms formed on the dryline near Dumas. They quickly went severe due to very steep lapse rates which enhanced hail size. It took awhile for the tail end storm to take over the show, but it did, and it gave us quite the view from our position. The storm spun hard and produced copious amounts of hail to baseball size. It also produced a couple of funnels that never had the appearance of touching down. For several hours the supercell persisted while slowly drifting south. Well south of Amarillo it eventually dissipated in the night sky after a gorgeous sunset. It was a treat to watch this storm for hours!
May 20th took Tour 4 and Photo Tour #1 to far south Texas. This is an area we don’t frequent too often due to usually poor results. Murky skies, little shear and messy storms are what often occur here. Today would be different though! Abundant moisture, high instability and moderate wind shear would kick off storms off a cold front and push them southeast. We arrived near George West, Texas to be treated with a very pretty supercell!! This storm had classic supercell structure and was a lightning/hail machine! We stayed with the storm for a few hours till it dissipated south of town. One of the prettiest supercells of the season to date!
May 16th was advertised as a great potential day. The dryline in the Texas panhandle would be the focus for supercell development. It did not disappoint! Mid afternoon brought several supercells to the area, with one in particular near McLean. Strong shear, deep moisture, great instability and lift would set the stage for several tornadoes to form this day. Most tornadoes occurred over open countryside, however one strong EF3 tornado did strike the Elk City, Oklahoma area causing significant damage. We witnessed the McLean tornado from it’s birth to death, then followed the Elk City storm from the TX/OK border to Elk City, where we chose to let it go. The tornado was completely rain wrapped and not visible. Storm structure was also fantastic this day, and the hail was huge, up to softball sized. Great first day for Tour 4!
May 15th was the arrival day for Tour 4. We did our usual arrival day chase and headed to the panhandle. Moisture wasn’t optimum, but was sufficient for severe storms. Shear was great, and most storms that developed spun quite nicely. We caught one storm near 4 Way and followed it to Stinnett, where we were able to watch it roll across the countryside. This supercell would produce hail baseball size and had nice structure. A great way to start Tour 4!
May 9th was a wild day in Texas and New Mexico. A large closed low over the desert southwest would slowly approach the region. Strong deep layer shear, however with fairly weak surface winds, would overspread the area by late afternoon. Decent moisture and instability would contribute to a very unstable airmass. Storms exploded in the higher terrain of northeast New Mexico first, then later developed over southeast New Mexico and eventually spread into southwest Texas. We intercepted a tornado warned storm near Clovis, New Mexico which didn’t have the appearance of becoming tornadic. Then another supercell developed in southwest Texas and moved towards Enochs. Just northeast of Enochs it produced two tornadoes. We would continue following it northeast until it weakened near dark. At that time another supercell formed near Hobbs, New Mexico and quickly raced northeast towards Whiteface, Texas. This storm spun hard, but never could produce a tornado. Overall, the weak low level shear would result in only brief tornadoes this day, but it was still a great chase event.
April 29th was the inbetween day from Tour 1 and 2. However, we also ran an on call tour this day. Many guests from Tour 2, and the On Call tour, went to northeast Texas to chase. As things started to become clear, we blasted south towards the Canton, Texas area. Strong southeast surface winds, extreme instability, high dewpoints in the mid 70s and strong shear set the stage for supercell storms to form and intensify as they moved northeast. Several tornadoes formed as storms matured, with one tornado in particular staying on the ground for 50 miles and over 2.5 hours, getting a rating of EF4! Unfortunately this storm caused significant damage and fatalities in Canton, Texas as well as Fruitvale, Texas. Our hearts go out to those who suffered this day and we hope for a speedy recovery.
April 21st had high potential. Strong shear, high CAPE and deep moisture would provide the ingredients for intense supercell storms. One storm formed over southeast Oklahoma. We decided to wait it out for later storms to form over northern Texas. A cluster did form with the tail end storm becoming a beautiful HP supercell. It produced a tornado north of Pilot Point, which was mostly rain wrapped. It tried again later in its cycle as you can see from the photos below. Finally, at dusk, another supercell formed and tracked over the region in the dark. Amazingly eery sight watching a storm spin in the dark. Enjoy the pics!