Tuesday 21 May 2013

2013 Chase Day 14 - Ardmore (OK) to Terrell (TX) via DFW (TX), then Wichita Falls (TX)

It was a tricky start to the day - the SPC had issued a fairly large MDT area across north/northeast Texas and into neighbouring Lousiana and Arkansas. A casual look at the various model output first thing in the morning caused some confusion - there would be a squall line on the cold front, that was a-given, as it continued to accelerate southeastwards across the area through the day. Some forecast output was suggesting the potential for isolated tornadic supercells ahead of the front in the MDT area, so we drove south to Denton (TX) where we had to make a decision as to head either southeast or southwest, preferably avoiding the DFW metroplex.
It was annoyingly cloudy, and none of the models that I had looked at were producing anything east of Dallas - it was all further west, as per the existing radar returns. So we decided to head west via Decatur (TX) to Bridgeport (TX), where we had a quick lunch stop, swapped drivers and reassessed the situation.

Amongst the squall line/cold front over NW Texas was an embedded 'severe thunderstorm' warned cell. I thought it might be worth a try to play with this so we continued to head west to Jacksboro (TX), and then south towards Mineral Wells (TX) to get a closer look. However, it soon became apparent that this squall line was accelerating eastwards, and if we wanted to stay in the dry, warm air ahead of it for any potential discrete supercells then we needed to head east - and quickly!

We did generally quite well, passing through Weatherford (TX) with the squall line not too far behind us, but as expected the traffic in the DFW metroplex slowed us down such that it began to rain from the leading edge of the squall. We persevered through Dallas (TX) and down Highway 80 where I decided to call the chase off given how close the squall was, and how disappointingly cloudy (i.e. lack of insolation) it was ahead of the front - nothing was going to develop ahead of this fast-moving beast of a squall line.

Instead, we continued driving until we reached Terrell (TX) to get far enough ahead of the line of storms to park up in a hotel car park and let the squall pass over us. I knew we needed to be in the Texas Panhandle for Thursday's storm potential, so it made sense to give up chasing early today (2pm) to head towards the Panhandle for more discrete supercells on Thursday, rather than playing with this mess. By now there were reports of 80+mph winds in parts of this squall line, and some sizeable hail with powercuts and fallen trees in northern parts of the DFW metroplex. Thankfully the part of the squall that was to pass over Terrell (TX) wasn't warned, so I felt reasonably happy with parking the car in the open car park and letting the QLCS (quasi-linear convective system) pass over.
QLCS moving over us (blue circle). White crosses are lightning strikes, red circles are other spotters/chasers GPS locations

It actually took quite a while to catch up with us, so we must've made some good ground driving since we were sitting in the Terrell (TX) car park for about 20-30mins before any rain arrived. Winds picked up in advance of the rain, and a nice outflow boundary gust front passed overhead. Then we had to endure about 45 mins of very heavy rain, very strong winds and frequent (occasionally very close) lightning, before it eventually cleared to our southeast, with quite a few CGs noted on the back edge. Behind the front it was beautifully calm and sunny, with a flicker of CGs on the back edge of the QLCS as it continued to move away. Admittedly it was great fun, but I was still rather disappointed at the major hype of the MDT risk area, having still felt a little down following the previous day's events in Moore. Part of me wanted to go back home to the U.K., we'd had several days chasing tornado-warned supercells but had so far not seen any tornadoes, nor had very much sleep.

Nonetheless, I knew we were flying back on Sunday and that our last chance for chasing would be Thursday, so we drove the 200-odd miles to Wichita Falls (TX) back through the DFW metroplex, and along Highway 287 past the likes of Bowie (TX) and Henrietta (TX), the latter reminding me of a chase we had last year where we let a supercell pass overhead. We checked-in to a hotel early, which apparently already had British storm chasers staying (never found out who they were), and enjoyed an early evening and a longer sleep.

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