April 22, 2010 Chase

This day started on the east side of Amarillo, where we'd ended up alongside Mickey after a successful chase the previous day. We'd bagged a fantastic supercell that provided great structure, wall clouds and a funnel...but no tornado. This day looked even better, and with yesterday's tornado tease, we were practically salivating. Confidence was high in the motel lobby, where we sat and fine-tuned our plan before departing. While there, Mickey and I ran into a man known as "Tank" from the Stormtrack forum years ago. We had a nice conversation, albeit short, then headed out.

Our route was simple, US287 southeast through Claude, Goodnight and eventually Clarendon, which was our target town. Once there, we grabbed some lunch, then set up shop in a hotel parking lot on the north side of town along TX70. The plan was to sit and wait for storms to fire off the caprock and  gradually move towards us. As we waited, Chad, the third and previously-missing Amigo rolled up. Not long after, Mark McGowen showed up. I hadn't seen or talked to him in almost nine years. We all hung out, shot the bull, and waited. Eventually a couple of blips appeared on radar. We decided to roll north on TX70 to find a clear spot for viewing.

We found a place with a forever view looking down on the caprock. There was a ton of haze, so visibility was pretty much limited to the clear air space between the cloud base and the ground. Gradually, the nearest radar blip began to show itself, as a storm slowly emerged from the murkiness. It had a classic look, and was becoming supercellular quickly. Despite the amazing structure, we were still being hampered by low clouds, which were forming in the juicy inflow air. After enough time passed, the storm got close enough that the low clouds no longer mattered. We had a nice view of the now-rotating base. The storm had been severe, and was continuing to ramp up. It was time to move north again.

We moved a few more miles north, as an RFD began to slice in to the rapidly-spinning wall cloud. We found a spot just as that happened, and as we slowed to a stop, a brief tornado formed. It lasted just seconds that we could see, and was gone by the time we were out of the car and setup. However the rotation continued, and was off the charts. We set up on tripods, and started at the spectacle in awe. Motions were incredible, and it looked as if another tornado could form at any second, anywhere within this violent rotation. After what felt like an eternity, a second tornado finally formed. Considering the parent rotation's violence, the tornado itself seemed almost lethargic, a slow, lazy descent as a wide cone, and then a gradual shift to an almost horizontal axis. I called the Amarillo NWS, and as I was reporting the tornado, it tilted back to the vertical, and regained a classic look. I hung up the phone and as I did, the rope phase started.

A new rotation had developed to the north-northwest of the ongoing tornado, rather unusual in that normally hand offs happen in the opposite direction, with the newer circulation/tornado developing southeast of the previous one. At any rate, this new rotation was quickly ramping up. I began to focus my attention there, ignoring the slowly roping tornado to my due west. As if it were competing for my attention, suddenly the ongoing tornado began to look more dramatic in its death, fully-condensing as it twisted and thinned out to almost invisibility at the bottom. After a few more moments, it was gone for good. I turned my attention back to the new rotation, which looked ready to produce at any second.

Just moments after the first tornado vanished, a second one developed rapidly from the new circulation. I grabbed my phone and dialed the NWS once again, and as I did, the new tornado began to intensify rapidly and grow into a large stovepipe. After I made my report, I focused o my video, as the tornado continued to grow into a large v-shaped cone. It persisted for several minutes, and after a while we decided we needed to move north again to keep pace with the storm. We moved north a few more miles, as the tornado began to narrow and enter the rope stage. We found a spot to pull over, but we stayed in the car. Shooting out my window, we watched as the tornado slowly roped out into nothingness. We had been so focused on this storm and its tornadoes, we never looked at radar again, and were unaware of the second storm behind this one, which was already producing a distant tornado behind us we never saw.

 

We continued north on TX70 all the way to I-40, where we ran into a huge chaser convergence. Apparently the majority of chasers had approached the storm from the north side along the interstate, and were now clogging the roads along it. After a few minutes of trying to see what was happening with the storm while negotiating horrible chaser traffic, we finally decided to just bust out of there and head east on I-40. We drove east to near Alanreed, where we exited and drove north about a mile. The storm was still to our northwest, but was becoming very high-precipitation. I decided to drive north, in an attempt to beat the storm to our next east road, and also to try and get a view down inside the forward flank, where the best visibility now was. It would be the decision that ruined the rest of the day.

We basically drove in a huge northwest arc around the storm, cutting through blinding rain with little visibility. My plan had backfired, so now I was simply trying to back track west and get out of the storm, and hope for something new to come up behind it in the area we'd previously been. We ended up out of position on everything, with no clear views of any storm for safe intercepts on the roads we had to choose from. I became aggravated and decided to just throw in the towel and start heading towards home. We made our way back to Clarendon, where we took US287 all the way to Childress. A storm had developed and was producing tornadoes near Cee Vee, and was tracking right over US287 ahead of our route. Because it was now dark and a high-precipitation storm was producing confirmed tornadoes ahead of us, we decided to sit in Childress and wait it out. While there, we logged into Spotter Chat and chewed the fat, and I found out my Steelers had drafted Florida center Maurkice Pouncey in the first round of the NFL draft. After about an hour, we continued home. It was somewhat bittersweet because I screwed up the latter half of the chase, but the first half was well worth the trip, one of my all-time favorite tornado intercepts.