On The Road Again
A late arrival back in Dodge City following a day at Pike's Peak had the chase team returning to the hunt with a second Pioneer Productions crew. After the morning briefing, the target area was initially from the Oklahoma panhandle to the northern parts of the Texas panhandle. We loaded the vehicle with baggage, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and set off to the panhandles. Our initial target area was Guymon, Oklahoma. Upon arrival, we stopped at a convenience store to find a three car chase team from Valparaiso University.
After grabbing some chaser junk food, we drove just outside of town to perch atop a hill so that we might view any developing thunderstorms. Thirty minutes into our viewing, another chase vehicle drove up to join us. It was a meteorologist from the National Weather Service out of Dodge City, Kansas. He had recognized Mike Ridgeway (Idaho) and myself from several years of chasing in the area. We discussed the current conditions and decided to trek further south into the northeastern Texas panhandle near Perryton.
Perryton was not helpful in delivering storms. In fact, a quick call to the National Weather Service back in Shreveport informed us that the storms were beginning to fire along the Texas and New Mexico border well back to our west and a tornado watch had just been issued for the panhandles. We were closer to the storms from our original vantage point in Guymon - last time we listen to the professionals!!!
At any rate, we raced southwest toward the developing storms. Our first intercept was north of Amarillo; however, the lack of east-west roads prevented us from an ideal location west of the developing line. This forced us to trek south toward Amarillo while the line to our west continued to intensify increasing the likelihood of "punching" through in Amarillo to get on the back side.
A tornado warning was issued for a storm south of Amarillo, well within intercept range. The problem was getting around to the back side. The lack of a strong cap allowed the storms to quickly evolve into a squall line which then diminished the chances of tornadoes. As fate would have it, a small window or break in the line was centered over Interstate 40 just west of town. We quickly headed for the sunlight and made it through to reveal a spectacular view of a sunlit intensifying squall line. Numerous hail shafts could be seen reflecting in the sunlight. In addition, a fantastic, complete 180 degree rainbow could be seen from ground to ground (no golden pot though!).
We turned south onto Interstate 27 and finally stopped at the community of Happy where we witnessed a quickly developing storm to our south. The storm made a quick jog to the north northeast and began to pound us with small hail; however, a northerly escape put us in a more favorable viewing position. Then came the "rear-flank downdraft." The rear-flank downdraft is a downward rush of air found on the back side of severe thunderstorms. The chase team experienced, and enjoyed, sustained winds of 35-45 mph with several gusts in excess of 50 mph.
Darkness soon encroached the team bringing an end to the chase day and the chase week. We retreated back to Amarillo where we enjoyed a very nice western style meal ribs and fajitas. With homesickness setting in and the severe weather ending, we decided to call it a week and return home.
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3|
|Day 4||Day 5||Day 6|