Home CHASE REPORTS 2011 2011.03.20 Texas South Plains
Jun 25
2011.03.20 Texas South Plains  E-mail
Sunday, 20 March 2011 15:23

I wasn't really planning on chasing today.  Earlier in the week, the forecast models had painted a decent chase day for today, but as often happens early in the season, things change quite a bit by the time we get to "day 1", and it hadn't looked very promising at all.  Combining in the fact that I had to work on my side job part of the day, I had pretty much written off any chasing...until my friend Steve Miller from Amarillo called!

As he often does in the spring, he had a keen eye on the subtle details that can often make the difference out here in West Texas, and he was pretty excited about the possibilities.  The was a warm front moving north out of the Permian Basin, which would be in the Lubbock area by late afternoon. Moisture wasn't too bad by our high plains standards, with mid to upper 50s dewpoints already in place. Heating south of the warm front was approaching 80 getting some instability going, and there was just enough directional and speed shear with height to get the storms rotating a little bit.  We both agreed there could be an isolated tornado potential in the vicinity of the warm front.

Steve was already in postition by the time I got off work around 4 p.m., and I was scrambling to gather up my gear and get on the road.  By the time I did, storm towers were already forming at the intersection of that warm front and a north/south boundary west of Lubbock.  It wasn't long before the first signs showed up on radar in far NE Hockey County.  I knew Steve was on it, but as I headed up toward Levelland, which is in Hockley County, I was seeing new towers going up southward along that north/south boundary.  I was concerned the storm already forming up north would soon cross the warm front and rain itself out like they do sometimes, and before I could get to it. Therefore, I decided to stay south and pick up any new development. 

I did have to wait a while, but as it often does in storm chasing, patience paid off.  It was hard watching the other storm go tornado warned, and seeing funnel cloud reports and thinking maybe I made a poor decision to stay south, but I stuck to my plan. Today was also the first field test of the new remote controlled camera I'll be using for the LIVE! ChaseCam this year. This will let me pan a full 360 degrees and tilt 60 degrees.  Should make for a more interesting live video stream, and make it easier on myself as well.

You can click on any of the images for a larger view.

New for 2011!  Remote LIVE! ChaseCam
2011.03.19 Storm Towers in West Texas

Eventually, a small cluster of cells popped up southwest of Levelland, and began to merge into one pretty stout cell that then became severe.  I got south of Levelland to where I could see the rain free base, and could hear a loud hail roar back in the vicinity of the city, just as the reports of gold balls were coming in.  The base itself was a bit high, but already had some pretty rapid rotation.  Given the high nature of the base, I didn't have any feeling this was about to produce a tornado, even if it was dramatic.  I stayed with this storm as it turned right and moved east toward Lubbock.  It paralled Hwy 114 nicely so I could stay really close to the updraft base, which was taking on the flying saucer shape.  I did manage to get in the edge of some 2" hail, northwest of Lubbock.

2011.03.19 Flying Saucer over West Texas 2011.03.19 Large Hail near Lubbock, Texas

Of course it was getting dark now, and lightning was sporadic making it hard to see, but as it came closer to Lubbock, the city lights combined with the light of the well advertised "super" moon we were having, I could still see most of the storm features.


2011.03.19 Super Moon Highlights Thunderstorm near Lubbock, Texas 2011.03.19 City Lights Highlight Thunderstorm near Lubbock, Texas

Ended up just northeast of Lubbock before I decided to let the storm go, as lightning was dying off and the storm weakening.  Another cell popped up to it's immediate northwest, which I checked out for about an hour, and also let it go as it moved east off the caprock and died a slow death. 

The above shots, I was out there all alone shooting when some guy rolls up in a white truck with no lights on. Turned out to be Clinton Thetford, the Lubbock County Emergency Management Coordinator. He had cut his lights off so as not to spoil my photography!  Very thoughtful!  I love these shots because they are illuminated from 3 light sources.  The main one being the very bright full "super" moon that everyone has been talking about, then lit from below by city lights, and finally, lit from within by cloud-to-cloud lightning.  I wish my night photography skills were more developed, as these could have been more stunning!

Not too bad of a chase considering I wasn't even expecting to chase. Some decent storm structure, saw some nice hail and picked up a new dent or two, and had a very good field test of the new roof mounted, LIVE! ChaseCam.  Only problem noted, which I already expected, was rain on the lens, since I had not put any Aquapel on it yet.  That should be remedied by next chase.

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 March 2011 18:57
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