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May 1, 2009 Storm Chase Log

Great Plains Chase Expedition 2009

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Plains 2009, Day 8: Friday, May 1, 2009

The target for Friday was Seymour, Texas, just south of the Oklahoma border. This was yet another 'sleeper' day, but this time for different reasons. We were going to have the strong instability, the boundaries and the dryline, and unlike Thursday, storm initiation looked more likely this day. The main problem with the setup was the very weak mid and upper level winds. Anvil level wind flow was actually doable, providing enough to push some of the precip away from the updraft. However, with weak midlevel winds, the updrafts would still have trouble with precip falling too close to them. The other issue was a cold front that was plowing southward a little too fast for our liking. Cold fronts are usually not friendly to supercells - they either cause a huge linear squall line to form, or they undercut and cut off storms in progress.

Greg and I left Tulsa just after 10AM and arrived in Wichita Falls, where we met up with Keith Minor (another chaser friend from the 'early years' of the Plains trips). We would caravan for the rest of the day.

The first storm of the day quickly went up near Seymour, and we headed west to catch it. We barely missed the brief tornado that occured during the storm's initial stages. The following images show our initial views of the storm near Munday:

We were pleasantly surprised at the nice road network present in this part of Texas. This allowed us, once we caught up to the storm south of Munday, to stay directly underneath or just to the south-southwest/southeast of the updraft and attendant areas of circulation for the rest of the storm's life (or at least during the time it exhibited organized supercell characteristics).

The first attempt at organized circulation we witnessed was just west of Weinert:

This was quickly cut off by the punching RFD and dissipated, a pattern we'd see over and over again. We stayed just ahead of this area of the storm, stopping in Rule to watch it approach. At this point the tornado sirens were activated in Rule and large hail began to fall. The strongest area of rotation observed was in this feature nearly directly overhead:

The hail became quite large while we were in Rule, with a few stones topping out from golf ball to tennis ball sized. I watched several tennis-ball sized stones hit the pavement, shattering into several quarter-sized fragments. The sights and sounds of large hail impacting the ground and structures in town was incredible - I quickly set up my video camera to capture the scene:

HD CHASE VIDEO 1: Hail in Rule, TX

We later learned that softball-sized hail was reported just to the south of this location!

We continued to follow the base of the storm southward to Stamford, observing several more wall cloud attempts which again succumbed to RFD. At one point, we stopped to pick up a few hailstones - though none were as large as what we'd seen in Rule.

North of Stamford, the storm exhibited its best structure yet and closest to producing that we'd seen all day. The storm's radar presentation exhibited a classic hook at this time. A large wall cloud lowered, and strong RFD/outflow winds kicked up numerous, widespread gustnadoes and walls of blowing dust/dirt. Some of the 'dirt walls' extended very high into the air to our south and southwest.

HD CHASE VIDEO 2: Strong winds and blowing dust near Stamford, TX

At this point, we were approximately four miles northwest of Stamford, just north of Highway 6. I'm estimating that we were about a mile southwest of this feature, looking to the north-northeast at it. Despite the 'look' of the wall cloud, I could not identify any persistent areas of strong rotation. The ominous 'funnel' shape in the sixth image above was not rotating strongly, if at all.

The storm's radar presentation quickly looked worse at this point, and the cloud feature gradually elongated and disorganized as we continued southeast with it:

We ended up in Stamford a few minutes later, as the storm continued to wither both visually and on radar just to the north of town. One final attempt at a lowering was noted as we drove through Stamford:

We decided to bail on our storm in favor of a new supercell exploding up near Seymour. As we drove north on 277 out of Stamford, we had a nice view of the old storm, now to our east and fizzling fast:

The Seymour storm looked like a nuclear bomb as we approached it from the southwest.

It was also taking on a classic hook echo on radar, though no tornado reports were coming in from it. We concluded that this meant the storm was having the same problems as our first one was. With a spectacular view of the storm now to our south, we decided to abandon efforts to get to the updraft and just get some nice front-lit cumulonimbus shots.

At this point, the cold front finally reached the storm - and we watched the fascinating process of the convection getting cut off at the base by the front!

I shot an HD timelapse of this entire process:

HD CHASE VIDEO 3: Cumulonimbus and frontal undercut near Seymour, TX

In less than 15 minutes after the front hit it, the storm was completely gone:

After the storm's demise, we headed to Wichita Falls for a steak dinner among a huge chaser convergence. We made it back to Tulsa just before 2AM, wrapping up the last chase of my first 2009 chase expedition. I was on the road heading east toward Charleston by noon the next day.

NEXT CHASE: Still to come!

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