30 MAY 2006: BACA COUNTY, COLORADO SUPERCELL & POSSIBLE TORNADO

 
~ 0040z near Boise City, OK

Todayís chase had many features that 2006 has been missing: slow-moving, long-lived supercells with very modest tornado prospects early and great structure late, crazy winding cavernous roads, unintentional core beatings, and stunning views of stacked plates near sunset. When we finished in Stratford, Texas tonight at 9:00 PM, we stumbled into the Dairy Queen tired, hungry, dirty, and very happy.

I chased with Jason Foster, Scott Currens, and Scottís brother Mike Currens. We headed for Lamar, Colorado because we didnít imagine instability recovery behind the front as shown on the 12z RUC was either likely or possible (it was) and because we believed the post-frontal environment on the Front Range offered the best chance for supercells. Best midlevel support seemed confined to southeast CO and smaller portions of ne NM and the OK panhandle. We liked the moisture advecting into the Lamar and La Junta areas and stopped in LAA to see whether the Raton or Palmer Divide areas would produce. We picked the southern storm and headed for Springfield in extreme southeastern Colorado when the storm was still 20 miles east of Raton and sliding along the NM/CO border.

From Campo we headed west and then south where we paused on County Road 21 just north of the CO/OK border and watched a mesocyclone just north of Kenton about 2320z. The storm attempted a split but the southern updraft became dominant quickly and the cores re-merged to create a larger, more powerful cell. Our meso produced a fair wall cloud and a funnel that extended quite far to the ground. This was very difficult to see with the rain behind it and by the time it emerged from in front of the core, was no longer suspicious. At this time, the storm was not yet outflow dominated and the meso sustained itself for nearly ten minutes. The storm would never have that long again during the time we observed it. Cool outflow became the order of the day soon after the occlusion of this meso.  We fled on the road we knew would make our reposition difficult and time consuming.

Anyone who knows the path from Kenton to Castaneda in extreme northern Cimarron County, Oklahoma knows how much fun the winding, cow-strewn trail can be as it dips and straddles rivers and ridges. Now imagine that road with a core bearing down and finally catching you with sixty mile per hour gusts and twenty straight minutes of horizontal pea to marble sized hail. Yeah, it was pretty fun. We made it out and turned south on 287 for Boise City. The storm showed a few more interesting lowerings but each was quickly undercut, so we turned south to catch a new, smaller storm northeast of Felt. This one produced a long, laminar inflow tail and sculpted striations into and around the main storm tower. Lots of detail on the underside of the shelf with perfect glancing twilight for articulation.

A great chase to close May for me.


end of the day north of Stratford, Texas


about 2330z ~10 miles east of Little Black Mesa viewed from southwest of Campo, Colorado

Following is a series of video grabs taken between ~2320z and 2325z.  The wall cloud and funnel begin with the rain behind them, obscuring our view, then emerging into brighter backlighting.  Our best estimate is that this funnel was located approximately ten miles due east of Little Black Mesa, only a mile or so north of the CO/OK border.  We had focused our attention on a developing wall cloud under the rain free base when we noticed this low-hanging feature in front of the rain,  difficult to view because of the poor contrast.  What we could perceive was a funnel and clear slot.  We could not discern rotation or debris at the ground because of the lack of contrast.  When the wall cloud moved  into better back-lightning (see the last two grabs below), the funnel had lifted, but we were then able to observe weak rotation.


 

 


                        A possible tornado in Baca County, Colorado on May 30, 2006.
                        A low hanging funnel may indicate the presence of a tornado
                        (somewhere between the 38 and 45 second markers on this clip),
                        but the rainy background ruins the contrast. Unfortunately, the
                        compression necessary to upload to YouTube.com and the unadjusted
                        contrast make the funnel very difficult to see in the above clip. 
                        More detail is shown in the grabs below.