April 9, 2008 Chase

In the days leading up to this event, many people were skeptical of its chase potential, owing to the fact they felt it would be a significant precipitation event, creating messy storms that would not be easy to observe. We however looked at it as a great early season opportunity, that would just have to be fine-tuned as the day went on. There would be an obvious warm sector south of the boundary, and all we had to do was find that magic spot.

Chad, Mickey, and I targeted west Texas along the I-20 corridor. We encountered a massive area of rain on our way to the target, which we of course anticipated along with the several doubters. However once we broke through to the other side of the boundary, just outside of Abilene, we found a very humid, sunlit air mass that was already brewing towers. Within minutes two cells developed west of us, and we moved west on I-20 through Abilene to meet them.

Chasing in a metropolitan area is never easy, so our first plan was to move north of the city, to try and find an open area for viewing, and out of the way of city traffic. We found one spot initially, but decided it was too far away from the storm and the storm wasn't moving fast enough to get there soon (it had been tornado-warned while we were positioned there). We back-tracked into the city and chose to go on through to the west side, eventually coming out of Abilene proper and into the town of Tye. Just west of there, the storm's base came into full view. We exited the interstate, quickly, and found a road going north. We went about a mile and then pulled over.

The storm's base looked rather ragged by this time, despite the fact it continued to carry a tornado warning. There was definitely rotation, but it seemed rather disorganized. However, we decided the storm was still worth watching, so we jumped back in the car and headed back south to the interstate. Not thirty seconds later Mickey shouted "Tornado!!" as I scrambled to get out of the car and look down the road. I saw a quick vortex spinning rapidly, but it looked to be on the gustfront and disappeared quickly. In the chaos of trying to get out of the car, I missed getting it on video. We continued south to I-20, and then headed back east.

We had gone a mile or two when a new area of dust kicked up just to our northwest, right where we'd been. At first we thought this was a tornado, but then we realized it was merely pushing out, not rotating. Just as I had dismissed this, Chad started talking about something to the north. I looked out the window and saw a weak ground circulation under what appeared to be a brief condensation funnel. We quickly pulled over to a stop, jumped out, and rolled tape. As I zoomed in on the tornado, it briefly intensified and became a concentrated dust whirl, before gradually fading away. I picked up my phone, reported the tornado, and we took off east again to resume the chase.

We made the mistake of choosing bad roads and letting the storm get ahead of us, thinking it had run its course. But when the storm re-intensified later, we were too far behind it and couldn't find a safe route to get around it again. This forced us to follow the damage path through the town of Breckenridge, where we had come in just minutes behind a tornado that had done considerable damage to parts of the town. At one point, we were blocked in three directions by debris, and were forced to turn back and find an alternate route around town. Mickey was brilliant with the GPS, finding a short cut made up of various "Bob's road" type roads, that cut about twenty minutes off our trip had we been forced to take main highways. But it wasn't meant to be this day, as we finally caught back up to it well after dark, and saw nothing. A long chase, but trusting in our forecast paid off, and we were rewarded with another early season tornado.