Finally the moment we had been waiting for! Just 2 miles to the north of Canadian, TX an EF2 stovepipe tornado less than a mile from our position. It was a surreal experience to be so close to one of natures most violent forces
Chase Reports from USA 2015 Chase

TARGET: DODGE CITY, KS

Once again SPC had issued a slight risk for our target area. We had some time to kill so we maximised our 11am checkout time at the motel. Computer modelling suggested the target to be anywhere around the Dodge City area, so we headed that way. We observed the sky for a while and it begun to look moisture starved. Meanwhile further south just over the border in Oklahoma massive storms had begun to erupt. One lone cell boiled up and we watched this for about 45mins. Still further south the storms in OK were beginning too look unbelievable. You could see the updrafts smashing up into the atmosphere after tapping into 3500 j/kg of CAPE. Even from 70 miles away you could see the rapid growth. The lone cell we were watching started to look weak so we decided to bolt south to have a look at the cells in OK. As we begun to get closer the sheer size and power of the updrafts was astonishing. Tops were approaching and exceeding 50,000ft. I've never seen anything like it!! It had become one line of storms however one cell had a tornado warning on it. Light was failing but we were being treated to an awesome display of sunset colours on the updrafts and anvil. Lightning was only apparent in the anvil so we decided to call it a day. As we were moving towards our accomodation for the evening Michael spotted some CGs to our south so we pulled to try and bag some. As per usual once we pulled out the cameras and set up all visible CGs ceased. Some howling from the nearby fields put an end to photography and we all legged it to the car. The hair on the back of my neck was standing upright!! Very eerie and scary sound. Preliminary target tomorrow Shattuck, OK.

 

The scene was so breathtaking that I just had to do a Panorama

TARGET: ABILENE, TX

SPC had issued its first moderate risk for our trip so with this in mind we headed for the Western OK and Eastern OK Panhandle region. Loading the vis sat revealed a massive MCS already underway with a bowing segment which resembled a huge squall line. We soon discovered this wasn't going to be ideal as it was moving too quick and resembled mush! We reassessed our options and decided heading northback into Kansas would be a smarter play so we begun the journey back up there. Weak storms had formed so we headed towards that and hoped we'd see something nice. Unfortunately storms had weakened by the time we arrived and we could only observe some weak high based cells. A small cell formed just east of our location which was displaying a hail marker so we decided to core punch that. It dropped 1-2cm hailstones so Michael was happy, he had got a a hail fix. We met up with Jane and Clyve again and enjoyed the remnants of the storm. Target the next day would be Dodge City, KS.

 

One of the few rare CGs

TARGET: LAMAR, CO

Our target for today would be the vast expanses of the Eastern Colorado region around Lamar. SPC had a slight risk for the region and computer modelling suggested storms would fire through the SE of Colorado before becoming a linear line later in the day. Started out from Hobbs around 830am for the 6.5 hr journey to the target. At this stage our chase would take us through 4 states! Imagine trying to do that in Australia! After about 4.5hrs into the journey the first signs of activity became evident on the distant horizon. Towering cumulus had erupted in the target area and we realised we may have left about 30-60mins too late. We finally arrived in the area where the storms were active and chose a western option to try and get closer. We passed by a feedlot (cattle farm) which had possibly the most horrendous and disgusting odour I have ever had the misfortune of smelling. We quickly discovered that the road we were on would take us too close to the line so we turned around and headed back east to get photos of what would now be a linear line of storms. After numerous jaunts east we decided let to target the southern end of the line however it became apparent the energy had been used up and we were left with lingering showers. The next days target was a tricky one with a few areas of interest. Preliminary thoughts were the Eastern Texas Panhandle, with SE Colorado an area of interest too. We booked a motel in Dumas, TX for the night.

 

The line starts to become a large Mesoscale Convective Complex (MCS). There was some turbulent motion under the lead edge

TARGET: PAMPA, TX

After much deliberation we decided on a target of Pampa, TX. SPC had a slight risk through the area which stretched up into SE Colorado (more on that later). Forecast modelling had the dryline through western Texas which coincided with a cold front. Seeing as though we didn't have far to travel we checked out of the motel at 11am and proceeded to find a vantage point to watch development. Arriving at a spot around 3pm we observed the sky for awhile and noticed that all the development in our vicinity was looking moisture starved. Meanwhile the other area of interest in SE Colorado had fired which was extremely frustrating as we would have only needed to move 2hrs north of our overnight location to be in position. Towers continually were going up only to evaporate in the increasingly dry air. Eventually a cell looked like it had begun to get its act together north of our location in the Oklahoma Panhandle. From a distance it looked like it was struggling like all the other cells. We decided that in light of positioning ourselves for the next day we would let it go, despite it only being 60miles north of us. We had almost made it back to Pampa when we noticed the cell had strengthened on radar. A look in the rear vision mirror backed that up with the cell absolutely exploding. We were berating ourselves for not having the confidence to follow the initial development. The cell was now tornado warned!! We turned around and decided to try and get closer. Meanwhile a cell had developed a bit closer so we targeted that. It developed into a LP type structure with boiling updrafts on its SE flank. We found a location to take some photos of the cell in the dying light hoping for some lightning but unfortunately the cell weakened. We moved north to find a location to stay the night and settled on Perryton in the far northern reaches of the Texas Panhandle. En route to our overnight location we learned that the cell we had let go had developed a mile wide wedge tornado, although it was in the evening so chasing would have been very dangerous. Again we were kicking ourselves as we could have easily made it to the storm during the early stages of its development. Arriving in Perryton we booked in to our motel and went to find some dinner. During dinner we saw lightning to our north so we scoffed down our food and went north to check it out. We found a spot and began to take photos. The cell we let go had an incredible bellshape structure illuminated by frequent lightning. Another cell closer to us was nicely structured as well but the lack of visible CGs didn't make it worthwhile as well as it was freezing cold. We called it a night and went back to Perryton. Indecision really cost us today, we had an opportunity and let it go. We regret our decision but we will learn from it. Preliminary target for tomorrow will be Abilene, TX.

 

Closer look at the updraft in the sunset

TARGET: ALPINE-KERMIT

After spending the night in Alpine, TX our target wasn't too far away. SPC had forecast storms to initiate off the Davis Mountains west of Alpine so we headed in that direction. En route we tied in a side trip to the McDonald Observatory. The observatory was at a height of 6700ft/2200m which is one of the highest points you can drive to in Texas. After wandering around having a look we decided to start turning our attention to where storms would form. We headed back slightly east of the Davis mountains to wait for initiation. The sky didn't look too encouraging so we headed a bit further NE towards Fort Stockton. A few congestus towers begun to spring up but looked like they were lacking moisture. Bases were almost non existent with just about every tower that went up evaporating. Eventually one cell got organised and begun to exhibit some decent features. We had moved a bit further east and we could see the cell had base features. We spotted a spinup but we were too far away to confirm if there was a funnel, however one had been reported by spotters in the field. We moved ourselves into a position that would intercept the cell on its NE track however it decided to root itself on the spot and rain itself to pieces. We decided to give it up and chose our next location to stay the night to position ourselves for the next days target. We decided Hobbs, NM would be the choice and as it turned out the place of choice for a large portion of the Aussie chase contingent. We met up for dinner, at 1030pm mind you, and discussed the outcomes of chase experiences so far. Target for the next day would be Lamar, CO.

 

Congestus field underway, viewed from 6700ft