Tornado southwest of Snyder, Texas around 1935z on April 23, 2008


Like most who left early for west Texas, Bob Fritchie, Scott Currens, and I were happy to see the limited coverage and impressive character of the early convection, including a morning supercell. When the skies cleared sooner than we expected, an outflow boundary emerged in the growing sunlight. This looked like our play as the dryline was as sluggish as advertised in prior GFS runs and the morning RUC. Down with the WRF! But with sun on a boundary early in the afternoon, we didn't complain.

We stopped to examine the first storm east of Snyder, in the wind farm about ten miles from town. The new cell was disorganized and scuddish, but the bases scraped the ground and an inflow tail formed as we continued west toward a more impressive storm and better clearing. We were comfortable letting the first cell pass; the inflow was "cold-core chase" cool and we didn't want to be distracted so easily.

We stopped again ten miles west of Snyder. Our second storm of the day looked young but certainly more potent than the last. I stepped outside my truck without my camera as a man driving a long pickup and hauling a horse trailer stopped behind us. He asked about his prospects on 180 westbound. I told him a tornado watch extended to the New Mexico border, but as I added how the storm near us was probably no immediate threat, Scott Currens yelled: "Look!"

To our southwest by about three miles, a small elephant trunk tornado extended to the ground. This touchdown occurred at 1935z. As quickly as it appeared, it was gone, but the circulation remained. I retrieved my camera and raised it before the second funnel condensed only to find I was still on "BULB" setting from the lightning shots I took on April 17th in Dallas. Oops.

The condensed iterations were painfully brief, a trend I expected to continue given the poorly-structured wall cloud. Instead of spinning the dial to Av, I went fully automatic. Now the shutter was too slow to hand-hold because I was on ISO 100--but I shot anyway. Shoot now and sharpen later. The results are about what I deserved.

At the next intermission, I switched to full manual and raised the ISO, but too late for that one.

The meso surged toward Snyder. Bob filed a report on Spotter Network after finding his AT&T cell signal absent. But our SN report was noted only by those monitoring the placefile or the website, I'm afraid. It's my understanding that Midland doesn't recognize SN reports yet. It's a sign of the strange techno-times we live in that not one of us could make a call from west of Snyder, while our Sprint cards stayed connected all the while.

So we hurried back east. From immediately west of Snyder, we observed a large circulation carrying debris high in the air, about 1950z, a strange and impressive sight given the lack of condensation. This appeared to be in the southeastern quadrant of the city. I shot stills but haven't examined those yet. With his cell signal recovered, Scott called Midland NWS directly.

We encountered moderate damage on the eastern side of Snyder, including downed power lines at the 180/84 intersection. We circumvented these and continued east. When we caught up to the storm again we met one of the most powerful RFD blasts I've ever experienced. A power pole north of highway 180 was snapped in half at the intersection of CR 481. Not blown over--snapped in two--with the upper half tilted over and hanging, by all appearances, from the wire still attached. This cable and the other lines shook violently. Fearing power lines coming into the road and what storm features might reside to our east, we pulled over. With the storm moving quickly and appearing more HP-ish on radar, we turned around for the "Lamesa" storm back west.

At Snyder we dropped south for Vincent. From there we snaked to SR 1584 where we turned north and witnessed the rope-out of the Lamesa stovepipe. We u-turned east again to keep ahead of the impressive structure and follow a parade of organized gustnadoes. At one point in the adventure, someone reported an "extremely large and dangerous" tornado on the ground, probably the grossest misrepresentation I've seen make its way into warning text. This was well after the documented stovepipe; I have no doubt it came from the large and continuous gustnadoes, especially from Ackerly to Big Spring. They [i]were [/i]large, that much was true.

With some distance, we were treated once again to a deeply-grooved, stacked plate structure, oddly common this year. As Roger mentioned, the inflow tail was insanely long, stretching over the horizon.

At last we raced to intercept the kitchen at Farolito's Mexican restaurant in ABI, where the green enchiladas are well worth the trouble.