May 21, 2016 Texas Panhandle Chase

by John Farley

On what was mainly a pre-positioning day for today's chase, I was able to intercept a couple LP supercells which eventually merged southwest of Vega/northwest of Hereford, TX. They produced copious amounts of 1-2 inch hail in the vicinity of Simms, TX. Never saw another chaser on this storm, though apparently there were others, as one seemed to stay in the hail core even until after dark, making numerous reports to NWS AMA on the hail size. I preferred to stay out of the hail, and managed to do so.

My plan had been to head to Amarillo (from Santa Fe) to be pre-positioned for chases the next 3 days. I planned to leave around 3:00 MDT in hopes of perhaps catching some sunset storms in the Panhandle. But I ended up leaving a little earlier, around 2:15 MDT, after reading an updated discussion from the Amarillo National Weather Service. Issued around 1:30 CDT, it indicated the likelihood of storms rapidly developing on the dryline and going severe within the next couple hours. Before I even got to I-40, I could see the storms off to my east. By the time I got to the TX state line, I could see the string of supercells up and down the dryline, and, among others, storms in extreme east-central NM northeastward to west of Hereford, TX were getting SVR warnings. I figured that I could go to Vega and cut south, and thereby get ahead of the slow-moving storms for a good view.

Here is a view from the north, from somewhere along I-40 close to the NM/TX state line, of the two supercells I was targeting:

By a little after 7:00 CDT, I was due east of the lead storm, which at this time was the stronger of the two, at the intersection of U.S. 385 and TX Farm Road 1062, between Vega and Hereford. The lead storm had formed a small wall cloud; here is how it looked as it dropped 2-inch hail just east of Simms, a few miles to my WNW:

A wider-angle picture showing both the lead and trailing storms at this time can be seen here. After a while the lead storm weakened, the trailing storm strenghtened, and the two gradually merged into one. The storms had been rather LP all along, but after the merger this became more clearly the case, and the lowering sun gave the storm more and more color. As this LP supercell moved over the Simms, TX area as the earlier one had done, it really looked more pretty than menacing. However, it continued to drop hail of gradually increasing size. It was dropping 1-inch hail when I took this picture around 8:20 p.m. from along route 1062 between route 385 and Canyon, looking west:

Within a few minutes after I took that picture, the hail reports grew to golfball size, around the time I got this picture:

Fortunately, I easily managed to stay ahead of the slow-moving storm, and stayed entirely out of the hail. I gradually drifted east toward Canyon ahead of the storm, stopping again where 1062 runs into U.S. 60 for some final pictures at sunset of the storm (which was now beginning to weaken) along with another more distant one to its south, and also some beautiful, partially sunlit mammatus in the anvil of the storm I had been chasing, which now extended across the sky to the eastern horizon:

As I headed toward Amarillo to find lodging for the night, I stopped for gas and encountered very strong, cold outflow from the now-collapsing storm, which by this time had no updraft and very little remaining precipitation. But the wind was probably at least 50 mph, and sent a lot of small debris flying through the area of the gas station. All in all not a bad chase for a day in which I was mainly pre-positioning for subsequent days' chases, and another in a string of chases in which I have seen very pretty LP storms.

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