Sunday 25 May 2014

2014 Chase Day 13 - Bust in TX!

Day 13 - an unlucky number? Well today it certainly was. Similar to yesterday, there was a tornado risk along a slow-moving frontal boundary draped across the Big Bend into the Hill Country. We'd chased in the area yesterday, so I wasn't that keen to do it again given very little internet signal and hills everywhere. We ate lunch in Fort Stockton (TX) while a supercell rapidly fired up northeast of Marathon (TX) and in no time had 3 reported landspouts. Naturally we drove quickly south to the cell, but by the time we got there the cell had completely died - most unusual for it to die so quickly. Furthermore, there was a lot of stratus, fog and drizzle.

We wandered eastwards to get to the other side of the frontal boundary (the more favourable side for seeing any tornado development) but throughout the 90 minute drive it was just full on stratus, with one 10min window where we drove through a very heavy shower with a lot of surface water on the road, about halfway between Marathon (TX) and Sanderson (TX). We knew realistically that the only way we'd get any internet signal was to head towards the nearest interstate (I-10) near Sheffield, because we couldn't see anything would be developing with this extensive stratus cover down in southwest Texas.

Driving northeast from Dryden (TX) to Sheffield (TX) we soon saw the effects of the 5 inches of rain that had fallen in the area yesterday - lots of sediment and rocks deposited on the road in places where running water had temporarily flooded the road, plus a bridge that was on the verge of collapse. A civil engineer parked next to the bridge informed us that it was 'officially' closed but since no-one had cordoned it off yet he let us pass through - it would've been a very long drive back round since there are very few roads in this area.

Finally on arriving in Sheffield (TX) we received some 3G signal and had a quick look at the radar - and it was still looking dead, nothing going on whatsoever - apart from a very nice-looking supercell over Mexico that would be moving into the far southwest of Texas, some 3 hour drive away, which looked like it could be producing a tornado. A quick scan of the high-res models, and I decided to nudge north to Midland (TX) in the hope that something may drift out of New Mexico later this evening, and also placing us in a good starting position for tomorrow.

A really nice supercell had fired over southeastern New Mexico, near Carlsbad (NM) and the temptation to drive a further 110 miles towards it was incredibly great. Photos were being posted on social media of this storm, and it did look pretty darn impressive - I can't think of any other occasion where I've felt so torn to really want to chase a storm, but knowing sunset was in 30mins and it'd definitely be dark by the time we got there. Eventually I gave in, booked a hotel in Midland and watched it on radar, eventually dying. Shame, else it was a stormless day, the first in 7 days!
The supercell over New Mexico as the sun set in Midland (TX)

STORM CHASE 2014 STATS thus far
McDonald's tally: 16
States visited: 9
Distance driven: 4,942 miles

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