Wild Chase Day in Texas

150426_wall

Low, rotating wall cloud. Near Cross Plains, TX. April 26, 2015.

Sunday had potential and although no significant tornadoes were reported, there were at least a dozen tornadoes in total across north-central Texas.

funnel

A funnel cloud near Cross Plains, TX.

As for my chase, I left Oklahoma City in the morning and got down to Big Country by early afternoon. I closed in on a developing supercell, which was producing a prominent wall cloud. This was in the vicinity of Cross Plains. I re-positioned myself a few times and caught a short glimpse of a tornado dropping shortly before 3 p.m. It went out of sight relatively quickly, but the National Weather Service and local police also reported the tornado. Based on the storm reports, the tornado caused little to no damage.

What made this chase especially challenging was that I lost cell service right after seeing the tornado and cell data only came back briefly a couple of times over the next four hours. This meant virtually no radar updates and little to no information to work with. This spring, I have the luxury of tying in weather radio to my car stereo, so I heavily relied on that and my own two eyes.

I eventually found myself catching up with a developing supercell near Dublin and Stephenville. I heard a PDS Tornado Warning go up and got smacked around by large hail at one point. Without radar data and a possible rain-wrapped tornado and hail larger than baseballs in the area, this wasn’t a situation to play around with. It turns out there were plenty of reports of softball and larger sized hail, so it’s a good thing I stayed south.

I honestly had doubts of seeing anything as the night went on, but shortly before sunset, a new supercell was forming and it was displaying a prominent hook on radar. Shortly before I had radar data, I was just about directly underneath this storm and saw a lowering wall cloud try to drop a funnel. The funnel never reached the ground and it lifted back up.

While continuing east, the storm became tornado-warned and there were numerous reports of a large tornado on the ground. I never saw this and was very skeptical. As I got a last look before the sky went dark, I saw an expansive rain shaft and a partially obscured wall cloud. At least two funnel clouds briefly reached down, but never touched the ground. Moments later, I did catch a glimpse of a brief cone tornado near Blum, but even that tornado was not on the ground for very long.

The “chase” continued for a couple of more hours, as I was both intrigued by and skeptical of the reports coming out of the area of a large and/or violent tornado. To make a long story short, even though radar looked impressive, the only confirmed reports were of multiple EF-0 (weak) tornadoes. It’s likely that the most extensive damage was due to straight line winds and not even the tornadoes. It goes to show you that reporting and chasing tornadoes at night is not easy. Some well-respected storm chasers ended up having reports that had been proven wrong. I think for the most part, the majority of chasers were fooled by darkness and an often obscured skyline.

comanche

Sunshine breaks through the clouds between multiple rounds of thunderstorms in the vicinity of Comanche, TX.

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Quincy

Quincy is a meteorologist and storm chaser who travels around the country documenting and researching severe weather. He has on-air experience with stations such as WTNH-TV in New Haven, CT and WREX-TV in Rockford, IL. He was most recently a digital meteorologist for weather.com. After achieving his B.S. degree in Meteorology at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) in 2009, he returned as a University Assistant to help produce weather broadcasts. He also gave guest lectures and worked on website design. He has over nine years of professional weather forecasting experience and his forecasts have been featured in newspapers and on radio stations in multiple states.

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