April 28th 2016 Photogenic Texas Supercell and Hail

May 01, 2016

Summary:

Tracked high based, but photogenic sueprcell across the lower Texas panhandle. Sample hail core a couple times with hail 1.00-1.50″ in diameter. Called chase at sunset as storm weakened.

Stats:

Tornadoes: 0
Hail: 1.50″ (Ping Pong Ball)
Wind: n/a

The Forecast:

Retreating dryline with marginal moisture across the panhandle region. Weak surface low would provide enough convergence to initiate storms in moderately unstable atmosphere. Directional and speed shear profiles favorable for supercells, but lack of quality moisture meant they would likely be high based, unless caprock terrain could compensate. SPC had minimal tornado probs out to start the day, but did up them to 5% in a later outlook.

Detailed Account:

Wednesday was a down day, which should have been a chase day because photogenic tornadoes occurred in NE, IA, IL, MO and KY. That was a pretty big forecast flop that left many of us irked. Today was obviously extremely marginal, supercells appeared likely but the tornado threat was laughable at best. We were out here and I decided to join Alec, Alex and Stephen for the chase. I probably would have not made the venture on my own due to such marginal probabilities and feeling a little loopy from the previous nights festivities. They woke me up at ben’s place and we were on the road by 130pm.

Two isolated storms initiated as expected around 4pm, and we opted to play for the southern one since dewpoints were a couple degrees higher, but still not ideal for tornadoes. We got our first look at the storm west of Matador, TX as it ramped up to our south. Parking in the path of the hail core we let it roll us, hoping for some tennis ball or larger hail, but were dealt mostly quarters.
20160428164532 (1)

The storm moved east, and so did we. It was having trouble lowering as expected. The base itself was quite large, and very cottony looking.
Matador Texas Supercell

Roads are non existent in this part of TX, so we were basically stuck to main highways few and far between. This took us back to Matador and north, where we once again positioned to let the hail core roll us. This time the hail was a little bit bigger, with some definitely ping pong balls and maybe a random golfball or two.
20160428173457 (1)

As we turned south to move with the storm once again, some dust began rapidly rising off the ground. It was an indication our storm was drawing surface based parcels, it was trying to lower its base. Lesser experienced chasers and super spotters are quick to call these dusty tornadoes, but the lack of rotation, and pure rising motion witnessed here is proof that it was not a tornado.
20160428174358 (1)

A wall cloud with some rotation did emerge from the base, and this was probably the storms best attempt at lowering. It quickly fanned out though. The storm’s base would remain high, but the structure itself was improving and we pulled over for some shots. An ongoing wildfire (started by lightning perhaps) was ongoing under the base and provided some neat contrast as we approached Paducah.
two

Moving once again, the structure continued to improve, but despite that it was due to the storm beginning to collapse. The updraft tower began being tilted far away from the struggling base. A visual indicator our storm was beginning a slow death. Stunning to view in person though.
three

As this occurred the mesocyclone flattened itself, but was still spinning away, as evident by the spiraling clouds and pancake tier structure. its kind of weird to see that structure with nothing above it, but the decaying updraft tower is still there to the right, being tilted and pushed away by the stronger mid level flow. The cap was strengthening and choking the storm off, leaving just the meso left in the low levels to spin itself out.
one

Darkness was approaching and it appeared the chase day was over. We bumped into Marcus Diaz and the 5 of us mulled around for a bit trying to find somewhere to eat. Things close early in the tiny panhandle towns and options were limited, so we decided to press on towards Norman, stopping at Dennys in Sayre, OK – the same place Alec and I ate after our awesome chase on November 16th of last year. Arriving back in Norman roughly around 1am. Tomorrow has some pretty big potential, but like Tuesday, there were problems. Some loud storms woke me up at 3am, but I slept sound.

Conclusion:

A very enjoyable chase. I got what I expected out of the day. Even though my “style” is of the aggressive hook slicing, up close to tornadoes type – I really do enjoy and appreciate these scenic, artsy, slower paced chases. To get out and give the DSLR some exercise, and just take in the beautiful scenery of nature is just as enjoyable to me. I hope for more days like this in the future. The marginal nature of the setup is tough to bite on when the target is 15 hours away from home, but days like this are PERFECT when they fall in between bigger setups.

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