May 16th 2016 Amazing Structure Near Stratford Texas

Jun 05, 2016


Tracked intense HP supercell across the northeast Texas panhandle, documenting incredible structure, golfball size hail and winds up to 7omph.


Tornadoes: 0
Hail. 1.75″ (Golf ball)
Wind: 70mph


The Forecast:

Slow, southeast moving surface low in the panhandle region. Plenty of moisture and instability to work with given proper amount of clearing. Favorable speed and directional shear early on, but with southeast moving surface low dragging a cold front with it, storms were expected to be undercut and quickly transition to linear modes. Still, tornadoes were possible early on when supercell structures were most probable, and would exist as long as storms could remain discrete before being undercut. SPC went with 5% tornado, but Enhanced for hail and wind.

Detailed Account:

Remember at the end of my last chase log where I mentioned I hoped the next day didn’t go big? Well, I chose to go home for my obligation and wouldn’t you know it…a storm goes up on a boundary just south of Norman and produces a beautifully photogenic, long lived, violent pair of tornadoes. I had to watch it all unfold while driving home and avoid the temptation to drive off a cliff. Missing that one hurt, up until now my season has been pretty good, but knowing I’ve now missed 2 of what could be the year’s potential top days has me feeling somewhat desperate for my “year making” catch. I am not a fan of southeast moving surface lows, and on paper this is a setup I loathe, but hey, all these other marginal days are pulling out hat tricks so why not. Off I went, again, on a marathon drive to the TX panhandle. At least this time I would be meeting up with Chelsea Stewart again, who is quickly becoming a favorite chase partner of mine.

Perhaps a good sign, I won over 300 dollars on a gas station slot machine on my way down, which is basically what a 1 day trip to the Texas panhandle would cost when you factor in gas, food, hotel, snacks etc etc…so at least it was now a FREE trip. Our original plan was to meet in Woodward, OK and then blast west towards storms that were forecast to go up near the NM/OK/CO border and move into the TX panhandle by 4pm. Once we met up and were on our way we took a scenic drive through the TX panhandle as there was really no direct route to get me where I needed to be, on the way we stumbled upon a small state park/campground literally in the middle of nowhere. Might be a fun place to visit in the future.

Anyways, supercells had indeed fired near the NM border but were not moving. The storms actually managed to squeeze out a couple brief low contrast tornadoes. They were staying discrete longer than expected, and we were gaining ground. I saw the moving cold front on radar though, and knew time was running out. Still, we pressed on. Finally getting a look at the storm in the distance. Approaching, it started to look like it would come with amazing HP structure.

If we weren’t going to get a tornado, and it appeared the tornado threat was over, this is the next best thing. I crept a little closer as we approached the city of Stratford and found a dirt road to pull over as the structure improved with the storm’s approach.

We were both in awe as this beautifully colored monster began approaching, stretching across the entire horizon. I snapped a bunch of photos with the DSLR, as well as a couple easy panos on the cell phone. We stood there for a good 15 minutes watching the storm approach.
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The good DSLR picture is posted below (and its a beauty, trust me!)

The storms base was rising as the cold front had indeed undercut it. The structure eventually became less photogenic so it appeared our timing was perfect to witness it at that current state.

So what does a big beastly green storm have to offer? I decided to let it roll us and find out. The answer: Golfball size hail and winds approaching 70mph.

(Photo by Chelsea)

We cat-n-moused the core a couple times, enduring this assault as we approached Spearman. There appeared to be two main barrages of hail, one with the initial gust front, and then the RFD core itself. The hail covered the road and looked like snow.

At one point I lost control and started sliding sideways, but was able to regain traction. Slowing down, we entered Spearman along with the storm and dipped south for a bit for one last gasp at any cool structure but none was to be had. Heading back north into town we came across some damage in the form of snapped power poles, downed trees and a large rafter structure on a building under construction that had collapsed.

We documented the damage and I sent in some reports to the NWS. After hanging around for a bit we called the chase and decided to make our way back. Perryton appeared to be the largest city in the region so we decided to room up there at a rather cozy Super 8. A steakhouse was next door and we were excited for a nice meal until

Damn, weather sucks sometimes. So, like many other days, Pizza Hut it was (it amazes me how every town out there has a pizza hut, which I can certainly live with!) I also discovered the tank received a bit of hail damage.


This was actually a good chase that far exceeded my expectations. The structure was breathtaking and some of the best I have witnessed. I wasn’t even upset about missing a brief low contrast tornado early on. Still, as good as this chase was, I hate going into mid May without a really amazing tornado catch. Its been a really good year in every other sense, but I need that icing on the cake to really seal the deal, especially since they have occurred on days I wasn’t chasing. it’s one thing to be chasing in a year that doesn’t produce them, its another to miss them because you chose not to chase those days. The good news though, the models are showing a very favorable pattern ahead, and Im already excited for next weeks potential.

Oh, and here is the DSLR shot I promised. Click for full res.
Stratford TX Supercell WM


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