June 11, 2005 Chase

Chad, Mickey, and myself rode in Chad's car, with Chad's friend Debbie following in her van. Debbie had been asking Chad to take her on a chase and today was the day. We targeted the I-27 corridor between Plainview and Lubbock, and our little convoy set out from Norman on a southwesterly course, deep into the heart of the Texas panhandle.

After a long drive, we finally got a visual on a storm as we headed west on US62 near Floydada. We shifted course to the northwest onto US70 through Lockney and Plainview, then jumped onto I-27 northbound and roared towards Tulia. The storm base was starting to come into view, and we stopped alongside the interstate. The storm's base was now in full view, with a nice RFD slot, but it was too high for our liking. Despite this, the storm continued to show great overall structure, and we held our ground and watched as it slowly moved east. After a while, it was decision time: stay with this storm and plot a course east, or let it go and hope something happened further west, later in the day. The gamble with this storm was twofold; the storm looked rather spent already like it might not produce at all, and our only east road took us into the caprock, which, despite its world-renowned storms, has one of the worst road networks in all of chase alley. Even if it did regenerate, we'd have a narrow window of opportunity for it to do its thing, before our roads ended up killing us. After a few minutes, we decided to let this storm go.

We took off again northbound on I-27, and as we drove, new storms fired west of Amarillo. Our plan seemed to be working, so we targeted the one furthest-west of the city. We negotiated the southwest side of Amarillo on our way to the storm, utilizing a nice grid of unmarked but paved roads. The storm slowly came into view, and by the time we got to RR809, we could tell it was severe and rotating. We turned south on 809 and continued towards the storm, which was looking intense but lacked a classic tornadic structure. We found a road west, and drove down it a few miles. We stopped to watch the storm, but it still didn't quite have the look of a storm that was ready to produce a tornado. Determined, we back tracked east to 809, then turned south again. We stopped a second time just north of the intersection of RR809/2587.

The storm's structure was amazing, despite the fact it still didn't have a classic type of look. Instead, the intense rotation was on the leading edge of the storm, with an inflow feeder wrapping into it from the northwest, while the precip wrapped around the west side of the rotation center...similar to what we saw with the May 12 storm. We knew we needed to stay ahead of the storm, to avoid being thrashed by hail and to keep the rotation in sight. A few minutes went by, and suddenly a small tornado formed under the center of the rotation. It was a weak dust whirl with occasional multiple vortices, which spun harmlessly across a field for less than a minute. There was no condensation funnel, but towards the end of its life the dust whirl did stretch towards the base. The tornado dissipated shortly afterwards, and it was time to roll.

We moved back east and eventually found ourselves back on I-27, heading south to the area we'd started at. While we were having our little adventure with the brief tornado, the original storm we chose to leave had become the main attraction, producing several tornadoes...all of which happened before the caprock cutoff. Though this news stung a bit, I was still happy with our exclusive little tornado out west. However, since we were now gaining on the storm which was basically just hovering near the caprock only ten miles ahead of us, we decided to try and catch up to get in on some of the action before dark.

This plan was literally washed away, as we encountered incredible flooding along our road, east of I-27. Because of the narrow road, we had no choice but to keep driving and hope the water would become more shallow. It came over the wheel wells before we finally started seeing the levels recede. Once we were clear of the standing water, we stopped to access the situation. There wasn't much daylight left, we'd been lucky enough to have gotten through the first area of deep water, and we had no idea how much worse it might get if we pressed on. It was decided that we would turn around and go back, and call it a day.

Debbie was too nervous to drive back through the deep water, so I jumped into her van and lead Chad, Mick, and Debbie back through the sea. I had to use what was left of the fence posts sticking out of the water to know where the road was, because it was completely underwater. A few times in the deepest water, I could feel the van try to drift off the road and float. Not the most comfortable sensation I've experienced while chasing. We trudged on, and eventually made it back out of the flooded areas and onto paved roads again. We headed east on I-40 to Sweetwater, where we found a cheap motel for the night, to prepare for another Texas chase the next day.