Tuesday 24 May 2016

TX Panhandle - again!


Our initial target was Woodward (OK) so from Amarillo (TX) we drove east on I-40, had lunch in Shamrock (TX) and parked up in Elk City (OK) to give us options to head north, south or west. One lone storm fired up near Memphis (TX) so we nudged southeast to chase it, along with so many other chasers as well - the roads became very busy around Hedley (TX). Here we bumped into fellow UK-chasers Paul Knightley and Helen Rossington! A select few chasers clearly have a lack of respect for other road users, but thankfully most other chasers know how to drive safely.

This storm more-or-less died in-situ, so we headed south towards Turkey (TX) to see another cluster of thunderstorms that had developed. These were messy in organisation at first, but the southern cell became a much more organised supercell as the evening wore on - even developed a wall cloud for a short time. We waited until the sun had set, and then, as is often the case, thunderstorms spring up along the axis of instability and it becomes a race to get out of them and find a hotel. Annoyingly our supercell near Turkey produced a wedge tornado around 21:45-22:00, only made visible by lightning lighting up its silhouette, but by this point we were well on our way to our already-booked hotel in Clarendon (TX). Annoyingly there were also a couple of tornadoes near Woodward - our initial chase target!

It was always going to be a close call as to whether we would make it to the hotel before a big thunderstorm approached us from the west, we got there just in time and parked the car under the hotel awning. As the thunderstorm arrived, it produced a lot of heavy rain, and hail around 1-1.5cm in diameter. The storm also exhibited, on radar, some rotation, enough to prompt the NWS guys in Amarillo to issue a tornado warning! This was unusual for us - we usually chase the tornado, not the other way round!

Tornado warning was issued 5 mins after we arrived at our hotel for the night

Thankfully, to my knowledge, there was no tornado and the storm eventually passed - but a lot of hotel guests were standing outside with us watching it, and one family from Tennessee asked to have a photo taken with us, with a lizard on my shoulder! First time for everything…

Lightning north of Clarendon (TX)

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