May 23rd 2016 Texas Supercells

Aug 14, 2016


Played secondary target and intercepted a couple supercells documenting par structure, large hail and severe RFD winds.


Tornadoes: 0
Hail: 2.00″
Wind: 65-70mph RFD

The Forecast:

Mid level trough and moisture in place, but stronger cap than the previous day.  Outflow boundaries from previous days storms would serve as potential trigger points for new storms in multiple areas. A shortwave ejecting over a dryline bulge in NW Oklahoma painted a pretty obvious target near Woodward. A secondary target presented itself further south in the TX panhandle where deeper moisture and larger CAPE was in place. Stronger nature of the cap meant storms would likely be more isolated and form farther apart from one another. SPC went with a 5% tornado probabilities due to marginal speed shear and isolated nature of storms with no large scale forcing present.

Detailed Account:

Its always nice to snag tornadoes on the first day in a trip – it eases the pressure a bit the following day. It was a tough time deciding between the two targets, the Woodward target was the obvious target that was talked about for days, and the TX target presented more of a high risk high reward scenario. After nabbing tornadoes yesterday I decided to go for the high risk high reward, in hopes chaser crowds would be less. I also like catching rarer prizes not seen by hundreds of other chasers that are out now in what is currently the peak of the season.

We made our way back to the TX panhandle, stopping once again at Shamrock, still unsure about going north or south from there. It wasn’t long until a storm began firing in the same general area we chased the day before. Given the environment and potential we made a quick departure for it….as did everyone else in the area.

The presentation on radar was good, and excitement was building. We made a good approach on the storm and were greeted with some nice LP supercell structure.
Texas LP Supercell

The rotation was obvious, but LPs are always concerning to me as they rarely produce tornadoes. The storm was barely moving, and we sat watching it for a good 20 minutes as it never really appeared to strengthen. Eventually the base began to shrink and I knew its demise would be soon. Son of a…what happened? Apparently the cap was still too strong this early and the storm couldn’t hang on. It died after about an hour. I stepped outside to relieve myself and someone flew a drone overhead…I still never found out who.

New storms began firing to the west, but none of them looked terribly impressive so I slowly drove that way, tacking the same route as the previous day and seeing the damage to the road left behind by the flash flooding we drove through. Stopped at an intersection to see which storm would take off – there was an abandoned structure nearby so I snapped a photo – its always sad to see the remnants of someones failed aspirations. Photographers love these structures though as they make dramatic subject material. Indeed there is something alluring about the structured chaos of a crumbling structure, left to die naturally.

Monitoring the forecast it looked like a better target was shaping up further south, but it was now nearing 7pm which meant by the time I arrived it would be after dark, and put me further out of position for where it looked like tomorrow was setting up. I wasn’t too motivated to chase after dark tornadoes in an area with so-so terrain and road network while being further out of position so I opted to for a different storm to the north by Alanreed which looked visually appealing to my north.

It too was struggling, but as we made our approach it provided some beautiful structure amid clear skies. No HP messes today.
Alanreed Texas

The storm appeared to be slowly organizing so I opted to punch it from behind to get ahead of it. At this time a tornado warning was issued. We began to encounter quarter size hail on I-40 and then suddenly a dramatic increase of what I believed was RFD winds. Alec Scholten of Twisted Sky Tours was only a mile or so behind us and managed to capture some swirling motions in the base, they concluded it to be a tornado but from our position it was much harder to tell.

We got ahead of the storm but it appeared that was its only real burst at life, and another slow weakening trend was beginning. We were now in caprock canyon country where roads are scarce so that became a problem. I found the best road I could to move in for a view but the hills made it difficult. Retracing my steps it was apparent all the base features were gone. The storm was slowly weakening, and began dumping its hail core on it as the updraft could no longer support them. Hail size steadily increased to mostly golfballs, with a few stones reaching the 2″ mark.

Large hail is always a treat, so we just sat there and let it rain down, collecting a few stones and filming some informational pieces about hail once they stopped falling. I dropped an SN report for the hail.
Despite still being tornado warned, the storm continued to slowly fade, but it was the only game in town. Storms were ongoing well to the south that I did not feel like going after, and also by now the Woodward target was verifying with a lone supercell that dropped a pair of tornadoes for those who chose that target. Roads must have been terrible up there cause all the shots were far away. I wasn’t too upset about abandoning that target given the previous day, but its still an eye roller when your storms croak out on you. We decided to stay back in Elk City at the same motel 6 as the previous night, since our experience there was pleasant. Tomorrow has big potential, and we wanted to rest up.


Overall this was a decent chase, with some good structure and some large hail. Its a little disappointing when your storms fail to produce and other targets end up verifying, but that comes with the territory of choosing the secondary target. I know this when making the decision, so there is really no reason to sit here and ponder why it didn’t happen. Its the secondary target for a reason.

Map not available.

SPC Storm Reports:

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