This was a bit of a different chase for me, as I had been on my road trip in Arizona, and wasn’t really planning on chasing. However, I decided to leave Monument Valley a day early and head toward Amarillo, where I was already planning on spending the following night. I did not get a chance to look at too many models, but I saw enough that I figured it would be worth the trip. Since I hadn’t planned on chasing, I didn’t have my normal equipment. More specifically, I was missing my Verizon Mifi and my camcorder. So my phone would have to do for radar & data, and my Nikon for any video.
I didn’t really have much of a target, I just went east through New Mexico on I-40. I knew storms would fire off the dryline near the New Mexico/Texas border. The first storm went up when I was still well to the west, and I tried to chase it down, as it looked pretty good initially. I took 54 northeast to try to catch it. Unfortunately about the time I hit the Texas state line, my phone signal disappeared! More on that later, but I would never get it back, and had to complete the entire chase from pure visuals!
By the time I reached Dalhart, TX, I was beginning to think I couldn’t catch that initial cell. At that point I saw two other chaser vehicles heading back the other way. I had passed a developing storm back there, which didn’t look like much, but I figured they probably had data, and were going for that storm instead of the one to the north, so I turned around. From there I dropped south on 998, and ended up finding a large group of chasers, so I stopped there and was at least able to see the storm on radar courtesy of a fellow chaser. It did have a nice shape to it, and it began developing a beautiful flat, pancake base.
I stayed in that spot for quite a while as the storm developed, moving fairly slowly to the north/northeast. I gradually followed it north, sure to stay out of the hail core, as I did come across some decent hail stones along the side of the road.
Just southwest of Dalhart, the storm had a nice wall cloud on it that exhibited some decent rotation. I thought it might be close to producing at this point, which was unfortunate for the people of Dalhart, but also problematic from a chasing standpoint, as other chasers were saying there was construction through the main street, and it would take a while to get through the town.
It did take quite a bit of time to get through town, plus I absolutely had to stop and use the bathroom at that point! Bad timing, I know, but the storm was moving slow enough I wasn’t afraid of falling behind. As I cleared town, the storm didn’t look as good. The wall cloud had dissipated.
Continuing northeast on 54, this storm started to pick up some intensity. Inflow winds started screaming out of the south, blowing tumbleweeds across the road, and stirring up a lot of dust. At one point I couldn’t even see the storm anymore due to all the dust!
Just after going through Stratford, TX this storm exhibited some AMAZING structure! The whole thing was spinning, and I thought if that storm were going to drop a tornado, it would be doing it right then, but I wouldn’t be able to see it due to the HP nature, and I was south of it.
If you look just above the ground in the above photo, you’ll see some of the dust that was being picked up. It was difficult to stand steady and take this photo, and the dust blowing into my eyes certainly didn’t help, either! One of the more powerful storms I’ve been on, and probably the best structure I’ve seen yet. I stayed there for a while and watched the structure evolve.
At this point just looking at the storm, it appeared to be stretching out. I figured outflow had taken over, and chances were diminishing of it producing a tornado. I still had no radar, so I did not know what it looked like on radar. If I had, I probably would have continued chasing. But I was also hungry and tired. I was already sleep-deprived from my whirlwind of a road trip. So with all of that in mind, I decided to start toward Amarillo to check in to the hotel and get something to eat.
As I was on the way to Amarillo, and still had no signal, I decided to restart my phone. Immediately I had 4G! Ugh! Should have restarted it long ago! Much to my dismay, I pull up Instagram and see a picture of a tornado from the storm I had let go! Dang it! If I just would have stayed with it a little longer! Oh well, I was certainly not the only chaser who had given up on it at that point. Those who had data stated dewpoints were only in the upper-40’s in the Oklahoma panhandle where it dropped a tornado! Unbelievable, and goes to show you that tornadoes really can happen when you least expect them, and when the conditions are not ideal at all.