2005 MAY 13: CHILDRESS TO THROCKMORTON SUPERCELLS AND
Chasers gathered like horses at the starting gate in the parking lot behind the Childress Kettle yesterday around 20z. They were drinking free cokes from the movie theater and using the Kettle wifi signal, waiting until a tower exploded south of town. Most of my friends chose a direct route south on 83, under the young core, but I thought it would be clever to move east then dive in front of the storm, but FM 1033 southbound out of Kirkland curved back to the southwest too much, and the storm intensified rapidly—spewing mushy hail well downstream—and I had made a critical error right out of the gate.
Mercifully, the storm remained non-tornadic long enough for me to gain a great view into the notch from north of Crowell on State Road 6, and I maintained a more or less favorable viewing position all day. However, as we moved into north central Texas from northwest, into Cottle, Ford, and Knox counties, the sight lines worsened from occasional trees and hills. We saw the upper half of the white cone tornado Blake posted, but I have no imagery since I was driving like crazy at the time to escape the core. We were never able to stop for more than five minutes before this deviant mover was on us again. I’m certain this was the tornado, however, because Scott Eubanks called out over the radio, “There’s a cone—folks, that might be a tornado on the ground.” I hope somebody in our caravan had the presence of mind to aim their cameras in that direction at the time Scott made that transmission. Or if anyone was recording at all, we can check the time and see if his report came at the time of Blake’s tornado. Steve Miller, Jeff Gammons, Chris Collura, and Kersten McClung saw a separate tornado west of Benjamin which was on the backside of the storm complex. I did not see this feature.
The storm transitioned from a classic to a more disorganized HP, with several areas of strong rotation and multiple notches along the southeastern flank. It was hard to know which one to monitor, and impossible to see them all. The road network was no help, and dirt roads were mostly impassable from the earlier MCS rains. I tried one, early in the chase after my maneuvering mistake, and rolled about thirty feet into deepening mud before backing out very slowly and without breathing.
As the storm moved from Ford to Knox counties, the front cell tightened into a gorgeous mothership with several layers—my second amazingly picturesque storm within a week. This shelf cloud reminded me again of that derecho in south Kansas and northern Oklahoma on May 27, 2001, an awesome sight to behold.
I’m not sure why this storm failed to produce a more significant or long lasting tornado, though Blake’s image is certainly an excellent tornado. The midlevel winds were more than sufficient and the last time I checked storm relative anvil level flow, it was around forty knots. This storm rode the boundary for a while but may have slipped off as it turned right into hotter air and higher LCLs. There was plenty of instability and shear. Anyway, congrats to those who had photogenic images from favorable angles. I’ve missed those for two days in a row, but both storms were magnificent enough that it’s hard to feel sorry for myself. You just don’t see these kinds of storms too often.