May 13, 2005

The past seven days had been some of the most frustrating I've experienced as a chaser - enduring three lackluster chases in the Texas panhandle on the 7th, 10th, and 11th, then watching from my computer at home when things finally went nuts over the panhandle on the 12th. But there was another chase opportunity to be had today, so it was time to quickly forget about all that.

Today looked as if it would be a promising day in southwestern Oklahoma and northern Texas. An outflow boundary from the previous night's storms was draped across the Red River area, with a surface low forming in the southern Texas panhandle and a dryline extending southward from the surface low. The thinking today would be that storms would initiate near the dryline/outflow boundary intersection and ride the boundary eastward. After getting off work, I briefly checked data, then headed southwest on the Bailey Turnpike towards the Lawton area.

From Lawton I went west on US 62. Not far west of the city I could make out a large anvil from a storm which had fired to my distant southwest. I began hearing several warnings for the storms - two in southwestern Oklahoma, and one in northern Texas. I decided to go after the northern Texas cell as reports indicated it threw off a left split into southwestern Oklahoma and was becoming a right mover. So I took US 183 south into Texas to go after the storm, and as I got closer, it was quite apparent this storm was a right mover - it was moving south-southeast. This was well to the right of the westerly flow that was over the area today. Unfortunately this was putting it into an area with limited road options, so the plan was to carefully maneuver east of the precip core until I could get a good view of the updraft base.

From Oklaunion TX I went west on US 287 to Vernon, then went west on US 70 to get a little closer to the storm. In the process I got to the eastern fringe of the precip core, but was still far enough away to avoid getting into the big hail. Around this time I began noticing large CG lightning strikes coming down from the anvil. I took US 70 to Farm Road 267, then took Farm Road 267 to Farm Road 1919, which I took southeast to Seymour. This road for the most part kept me just east of the core, although I did get a few pea sized hailstones along the way. By the time I got Seymour, I was out of the precip, and finally got a view of the updraft base to my distant west. By now it was 7:06pm CDT, and I could make a wall cloud hanging down from the rain free base. The supercell was classic in nature at first, but then I began to see signs of it being undercut by cold outflow and transitioning into more of an HP. The storm was heading towards the Munday area, but with limited road options south between Seymour and Munday, I decided to play it safe and continue to stay well southeast of the storm, opting to head south on US 183/283 to Throckmorton.

As I approached Throckmorton, I could see the cell I had been watching earlier had turned completely outflow dominant, although new cells were backbuilding towards its west. I had wanted to go west from Throckmorton towards Haskell to get closer to the cell, but again, limited south escape routes made me apprehensive so I continued to decide to play it safe and head south down US 183/283. Around this time the cell began to look increasingly linear, with a nice laminar shelf cloud emerging from the haze. Frequent cloud to ground lightning was still shooting down from the anvil. Although contrast and lighting were less than ideal, I pulled over southeast of the US 183/283 split to watch the storm and get some pictures and video. I then went east all the way to Fort Worth to avoid the complex of severe storms, then headed back north up to Norman.

The storm in north Texas generated several reports of tornadoes, with a rather large one occurring near Truscott and Benjamin. For the most part this storm was an HP hailer that north Texas seems to be famous for. One highlight on the way back was going through a town that was severely damaged by one of these HP hailers on April 5, 2003 - Woodson TX. It was very interesting seeing the same buildings and terrain I had seen in pictures and video of that event, including the very same location where some chasers bailed from their vehicle while it was getting destroyed by softball sized hail. Limited escape routes from such destructive hailstorms is one reason why I chase that area more cautiously than I would other areas.

Digital images

Total Mileage: 629 miles
Total Driving Time: 11 hours, 24 minutes

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