May 25, 1999: Lubbock & Abilene area
|Web Posted 1:00 AM June 4, 1999.
by Amos A. Magliocco
Here's another example of why every chaser should bring a mini-recorder to make periodic voice entries, and review maps immediately after a chase. I'm not sure what I was thinking--perhaps that my famous memory (which my friends will testify is slightly better than that of a brick wall) would faithfully recount every detail or that perhaps this would be the last chase of the year and I would have nothing else to think about. Neither of those happened.
Were it not for the recollections of my chase partner Clinton Norwood, I would remember next to nothing about this chase, except that there were many supercells in several directions and we saw several interesting lowerings. Clint did a great job a few days later of remembering our roads, and so at least I can tell you where we were.
friend Jeff Gammons from Florida was in town on
his chase vacation and joined Clinton Norwood and I in Denton as we headed out early in
the day with a target of Lubbock, Texas in our sights. Along the way, Glenn Dixon caught up with us and we chatted about the
setup and our target area via two meter radio. At Abilene, we stopped at the Flying
J truck stop for additional data and a glance at the latest satellite imagery. I am
now convinced that a laptop on a two day chase is a very valuable piece of gear. I
am aware of the legions of chasers who did quite well without them for so long, but they
continue to impress me as the best way to fine tune a forecast for changing conditions
later in the afternoon.
We continued towards Lubbock when we saw the first tower going up to our north near Post. We exited from State Road 84 and the chase was on. We took 651 northeast out of Post and, at the intersection of 651 & 70, heard the first severe warning of the day for a cell near Plainview. We sped west on 70 through the picturesque village of Floydada when another cell caught our attention to the north of Littlefield. We went east on 37, south on 62, and east again on 193, attempting to keep a good position on the storm, which we did. We turned south on 28 and then east on State Road 82 and finally southeast on on 836 towards Spur where we caught up with another gaggle of chasers including two DOW trucks, Charles Doswell and Roger Edward's Meatwagon among other luminaries.
By this time the storm was at maturity, and exhibited several fascinating lowerings. One of the DOW (Doppler on Wheels) crew said aloud that we were "in the hook" and it quickly became apparent that this was indeed the case. We snapped several pictures of a very persistent rotating wall cloud and continued to move SE in mile by mile jumps. I felt several times that we were too close and made the rare decision to defer my judgement in light of the chasers present, including Dr. Bluestein from OU, who I knew was averse to placing himself or his students in harm's way. I would not recommend this as a viable decision-making methodology however. Fear is a primal instinct refined over thousands of years of evolution and it when it tells you to move your ass, the best choice is typically to do so. Don't rely on the judgement of others when your gut tells you otherwise.
At Jayton, we caught 380 Eastbound into Aspermont and went south on 83 from there into the small town of Hamlin, where the sirens work just fine but the townsfolk seem to have an inappropriate reaction. Rather than hiding in the bathtub, the claxon wail only drew them from their shelters out into the yard, straining for a glimpse of what was on the way. I took this opportunity to tell a group gathered outside a church that they should take cover now. They looked at me like I was a space alien.
South of Hamlin there was another chaser convergence, and supercells in three directions, including one very close to Hamlin and another developing storm to our east. We decided to move on the storm closer to town, as we seemed to be in a great intercept position. As we drew closer, however, we soon realized that there was an unpleasant hailshaft between us and the updraft. The sun was setting, and we turned back. The developing storm to our east became tornadic after dark just north of Anson, but we kept our distance, quite exhausted from the chase and not anxious to tangle with the convection after sundown.
We went south on 277 at Anson and headed back to Abilene, firing up the laptop at the same Flying J's we used earlier. We spent the night in Abilene again.
The next day's chase was very uneventful, with a target area of Lampassas. We drove by a severe storm early in the day, quite surprised to see it there before noon. It was an HP beast with little movement. We watched for awhile then continued west towards 35, trying to flank the tail-end of a squall line moving from west Texas. We accomplished this, however, we did so in Northwest Austin, where the traffic at 5:00 PM was unspeakable. Needless to say, the line of storms passed us, and we continued home to Dallas watching a beautiful sunset in the western sky.
Clint and I took several photographs of this remarkable exhibition of what photographer's call "godlight" and I will post my shots here soon.