Friday 31 May 2019

Day 8 - SW Texas

SPC Convective Outlook
SPC Tornado Risk
Morning surface analysis
At last, a decent chase day! Two areas at play today - around the Davis Mountains in SW Texas where road options are few and far between, and hills/mounts a-plenty, or just south of Lubbock (TX) where the terrain is much flatter. To get us in a reasonable place between the 2 targets, we left our hotel in Alpine (TX) and headed towards Monahans (TX), grabbing some lunch.

It became clear by early afternoon that the Lubbock target probably wouldn't come to very much, so we ditched the idea and dropped southwest to Pecos (TX), then south to Balmorhea (TX). We parked up mid-afternoon to watch the convection firing over the Davis Mountains to our west - Paul Knightley and Helen Rossington joined us once again.

Eventually thunderstorms began to fire, but the one closest to us looked very LP (low precipitation) and disintegrated. We decided to drop south to Fort Davis (TX) and then east back to Alpine (TX) to follow a now severe-warned storm just to the north. This thing was crawling at 10-15mph, and from a distance looked very pretty with lots of bubbling convection but lacked any decent structure or anvil so we were a little sceptical.
Looking east from Fort Davis (TX)
Nonetheless, we stuck with this storm, parked north of Marathon (TX) to let it get closer to us, and then dropped south and east to parallel it. It was very cyclical, a few minutes it would be producing multiple powerful CGs then would go very quiet. It had strong SE inflow winds, and eventually ramped up enough to produce a couple of very brief spin-ups, with dust rotating on the ground in the fields to our north, before a landspout formed with rotating dust stretching upwards with a small white funnel visible at the cloud base. This lasted about a minute, and was our first tornado of this year's chase!

East of Marathon (TX)
East of Marathon (TX)
Dusty landspout (tornado) over open fields east of Marathon (TX) 
Severe thunderstorm east of Marathon (TX)
Our GPS location (blue circle) in relation to the storm
This radar grab is a classic example of why forecasting thunderstorms is difficult. The mean steering flow aloft was generally westerly, yet these clusters of storms are moving SE or straight N (the white lines are storm tracks). Thunderstorms, especially severe (rotating) storms, create their own environment and can deviate from the mean steering flow
By now we were starting to lose daylight and so soon after decided to leave the storm and head north for our hotel in Pecos (TX).

GPS Tracker

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