2004 JUNE 1: WINDTHORST, TEXAS SUPERCELL & HAIL
 
BEFORE 6:00 PM east of Windthorst, Texas


IMPACT 6:00 PM east of Windthorst, Texas


Big Hail 6:00 PM east of Windthorst, Texas


Possible tornado near Brazos, Texas 9:30 PM
I observed a possible tornado near Brazos, Texas around 9:30 PM on a small supercell that trailed behind the line of much larger and more menacing storms, one of which had earlier smashed my windshield and moonroof with baseball and softball sized hailstones.

I started the day in Denton intending to pay visits and conduct some business when I ran into Neal Rasmussen at an intersection. As I'd written in my web log, I felt like my chase season was over and it was time to get serious about work and my move from Indiana. But the combination of Neal and the Tornado Watch convinced me that there would be little harm in roaming out west for a brief 'gentleman's chase.' I was wrong.

Neal and I targetted a supercell that formed in Archer County and quickly dominated the other small cells around it. Neal was convinced these storms would be more isolated than the southern activity and best utilize the strong southeasterly surface flow and developing low level jet. He stopped for timelapse and I continued toward the base, turning east at Windthorst at the same time as the net controller for Wichita County mentioned the storm rapidly intensifying with a 71 VIL. This should have been sufficient warning, but I wanted to flank the storm.

I pressed on, thinking the storm was still moving due east as it had been moments before. But the rapid intensification coincided--as it often does--with a right turn, and this storm turned hard. I would estimate a 60 degree turn to the south-southeast was how the storm caught me in the worst hail core of my life, with large stones battering the windshield, pounding craters into the glass and spraying shards over the inside of the truck and me. At the same time, stones that sounded like bricks dropped from an overpass slammed into the moonroof glass, shattering it completely then grinding the pieces to dust with repeated hits. Of all the unsettling sounds, the continual sound of shattering glass inches from my head was the most chilling. I've chased with moonroofs on vehicles for several years and never taken a scratch. The glass is very strong, but nothing on my truck was strong enough tonight.

At last I escaped the hail core from hell by diving west then south, and when I recovered my wits and downloaded another radar image, it seemed the only sensible choice was to keep chasing. I headed for Jacksboro and observed several large wall clouds on the southern side of the storm. I was amazed that no tornado warnings had been issued by that point as storm had an obvious hook on radar, strong velocity values, according to my friends with radar access, and wall clouds that nearly scraped the ground. I tried unsuccessfully to find the Jack County Skywarn.

I took shelter under a fast food restaurant's awning in Mineral Wells around 8:45 PM, then raced south of town to stay out of the precip and hail of another storm coming from the northwest. I looked in the rearview mirror and was amazed to find a large cone hanging from this updraft---the night's smallest supercell----which had a flying eagle radar signature while it produced the funnel. I'm anxious to see if damage surveys demonstrate if this feature was on the ground. It took me a few minutes to pull over and set up my camera, and in the thirty seconds before I started filming, the lowering had lifted.