April 21, 2007 Chase

Chad, Mick, and I targeted the Amarillo area this day. Not wanting to deal with city traffic and construction, we held up at a truck stop south of the metro area to wait for initiation. The storms all went up at once, which concerned us. Three individual cells fired to our west and southwest, and we took off after them, using a network of farm roads. We had to choose between three storms; one which was due west of us, one just southeast of us, and a third south of that one. We had perfect position on the west storm, but storm motions were very rapid to the north-northeast, and it looked as if it might run away from us before we could get another north road. The one immediately southeast of us was the closest, but we were on the wrong side of the storm and would have to negotiate the entire core to get into view of the updraft base. The furthest south storm was our best option as far as positioning for, because we had the most time/room to get ahead of it. However we couldn't justify leaving either of the other two which were right next to us. We decided to try and stay with the storm west of us.

By the time we could see the base, we had finally reached our north option, which was US385. We jumped on that and flew north, pacing the fast-moving storm as it raced off to the north-northeast. The storm had already produced a few wall clouds, and was now in the process of a significant RFD cut. We pulled over, thinking tornadogenesis was imminent, but none happened. After just a few minutes, we had to get moving again or risk losing the storm altogether. We raced north across the interstate and through the town of Vega, continuing on US385. A few miles north of there, the storm began to cycle again, developing multiple lowerings and wall clouds. After a while of watching a lowering try repeatedly to produce a tornado, Mickey noticed a distant tornado from an old occlusion to the west. It was already fully in progress by the time we noticed it, and gradually narrowed and dissipated over the next minute or so. However we never stopped, because the storm was still moving at around 45mph.

We kept on to the north, coming upon a transformer that had been hit by lightning and was arching wildly. We called it in to 911 as we kept moving to stay with the storm. A few minutes later, while still racing north, the second tornado of the day appeared, near Boys Town. We just kept driving north, as the tornado was already well to our northwest. It began to tilt back towards the vertical as we finally found a spot with a good view to stop and shoot video. By the time we were stopped and outside the car shooting video, the tornado began to get wrapped in rain, and was difficult to see. It dissipated shortly afterwards, and we got back on the road, headed to the town of Channing.

Just south of town, I saw a large teardrop tornado for a split-second during a lightning flash, but failed to get it on video. We drove through town, turning east onto TX354. A few miles east of town, to the north, the teardrop tornado reappeared, except now it had transformed into a large white wedge. Like before, we were struggling to keep up with the storm, so we kept driving east while we watched the tornado. As it moved away rapidly, it narrowed and became much more difficult to see, eventually disappearing altogether. We continued to fly east, until we found the next decent-looking north road.

We flew north in an effort to catch back up to the storm, and within a few miles, a slender white tornado appeared, in the same area of the storm where we'd last seen the wedge minutes before. We found a place to stop, got out, and rolled video. This was the same tornado, only now it was beginning to dissipate. We watched as the tornado slowly, gracefully roped out, getting our last look at it as rain began to fall heavily on our location, forcing us to move.

We worked our way north and east to Dumas, where after negotiating the entire north-south length of town, found ourselves stopped by a roadblock on the north side of town along US287. The same storm we'd been chasing had moved on to our north and produced a large tornado that had significantly damaged portions of the town of Cactus, which is why they were blocking the road. These deputies weren't messing around, as we saw them race across the median a few times to block people trying to go around them. Mickey pulled up a radar and all three of us saw what was coming at us: another supercell to our south was racing straight towards town. We called one of the deputies over to tell him what was happening. At first he kept arguing, saying that they had spotters south of town and they would know if a tornado was coming. But then we told him whether he knew it was coming or not, he still had about fifty cars and trucks jammed up on the highway right in the path. he told us he'd lose his job if his boss found out he let us go, but he did just that, making us promise to turn around up the road and not follow the north storm to Cactus. Before he let us go, he asked us what he should do. We told him to let the locals turn around and drive to their homes, that they had about twenty minutes. then we drove on through the roadblock and, honoring our word, made a uie and headed south back towards Dumas.

We decided to just drive straight south on 287 and meet the storm head-on. It had a slight eastward component to its track, and looked to miss us just to the east. The problem now was, it was near dusk. We continued south into the growing darkness, as a lowering came into view south of us, rolling right up the highway on a collision course. Because it was moving around 45mph and we were driving right at it, the closure rate was incredible. Wild lightning strikes, which seemed to be from ground to cloud, struck as we moved ever closer to this ominous lowering in the growing dark. After a few miles, we finally pulled over as the lowering moved nearly overhead. We'd been parked a few minutes when suddenly Mickey said "what is that?"

Chad saw it next, and shouted "that's a tornado!!". I still couldn't see it from the back seat, so I jumped out, looked southeast, and saw this. A skinny tornado had developed from the lowering we'd been watching, nearly on top of us, just a quarter mile or so to our southeast. The funnel became better-defined, as we all just stood there, Mick laughing, and Chad and I just staring in amazement at what we were seeing. After a minute or so, it became stretched across the sky horizontally, as a brief debris cloud kicked up just to our east. Not long afterwards, it vanished. I'm fairly certain we were the only chasers to witness this tornado. After it was over, we continued south on US287.

After waiting around a bit further south for something else to happen, we decided the show was basically over, and started the long journey home. We took 287 south all the way to the outskirts of Amarillo, where we bypassed the heart of town to the northeast, hooking up with I-40 eastbound, headed back to Oklahoma. New storms were moving in from the south as we continued to drive east, now just trying to get home. The storm motions were so fast, that by the time the leading edge hit us, the rain slowed us just enough to keep us more or less inside the severe storms for several miles. The wind and rain kicked up really bad west of Groom, and then a minute or so later, I saw Mickey look out his window. Something caught his eye in the darkness, and he said "oh shit."  I asked him what he was seeing, and he told me it looked like a stovepipe tornado out his window to our south. I strained my eyes into the darkness, and there it was...what looked like a stovepipe tornado, about a mile south or less, coming right at us. I rolled my window down as far as it would go (halfway, child-proof), and pointed my vidcam directly south and rolled video. At this point, Chad was starting to ask what was going on, and I just told him "Just keep your eye on the road and drive Chad, don't stop." We kept driving, and eventually the tornado or whatever it was disappeared. We stopped at an all-night truck stop for food after we crossed back into Oklahoma, and then continued home.

When I reviewed the video I'd taken out the window, I found this.