Sunday, November 22, 2015

Nov 16, 2015 Pampa tornado (#2 analysis)

I talked with Amarillo NWS throughout the week, while they tried to figure out what all exactly happened.  The overlapping paths caused all sorts of problems in determining which tornado did what damage and the correct times for each. I was sitting about 2 miles south of Miami for 7:05pm to 8pm. From there I saw the end of Pampa wedge #1 from 7:08 to 7:18. Next I thought I saw one continuous wedge from 7:23pm (on going before this, but I couldn't see it) to 7:53pm from storm #2. Through what the NWS saw in the archived radar and my pictures, we determined that storm # 2 actually created 2 wedges within 10 minutes of each other. Around 7:28 wedge number 2 (on storm #2) faded fast with a new wedge forming in close proximity. My view was slightly obstructed from 7:30 to 7:34, but as the area emerged from behind the radio tower that blinded my view the new wedge was on going. That bumped my total for the evening to 6 tornadoes (3 different wedges), from 3 different storms. All that with me ending my chase at 8 and being home by 9:30 on only 1 tank of gas ($22).

Here is a photo analysis of the "wedge hand off" NE of Pampa at ~7:25pm to 7:35.

My first view of Pampa storm number 2 to my SW as the wedge leaves the SE part of town near the Halliburton plant at 7:23pm. First few of these shots are out of focus. The orange glow is from a nearby prison. All pictures are clickable for larger size.
7:24pm the wedge is quickly moving away from the city. Looking WSW.
7:25pm. Looking WSW at the wedge and a possible satellite tornado.
7:28pm the size is shrinking fast as it moves NE.
7:29pm. Still looking WSW, tornado losing ground connection
7:29pm looking WSW still. Size decreasing even more and wrapping rain more present.
7:29pm even further disconnect with the ground.
7:30pm hard to tell if it is even still on the ground. Though not evident from this photo another tornado is forming to the right.
7:34pm Looking west (powerlines run due west). Hard to see, but the original wedge is gone and a new one has formed behind the radio tower (the 2 lights, which are located here:
7:35 pm looking west. Though blurry, something large is evident behind the tower. The old tornado vanished into the rain blob to its left.
7:35pm looking west. Something large still hiding behind the tower.
7:36pm Large wedge has emerged from behind the radio tower moving in the same path as the previous tornado. Tracking NE, missing Miami by 4 miles to the NW.
7:37 looking WNW at the new wedge.
7:39pm. Looking WNW. Wedge is slowly losing its size.
7:39 still looking WNW. My clearest view of my 3rd wedge of the evening.
7:40 Looking NW by this point. One of my best shots of the evening. Large tornado with a huge rfd cut. Possible satellite can be seen right of the main tornado. Tornado still has 12 minutes of life at this point.
7:50pm Looking north. Tornado has shrank drastically but still stout. My last shot of the tornado comes a 7:52, but it likely lasted a few minutes after that due to its size in that picture.

I am hoping to add some corresponding radar data to this analysis at some point.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nov 16, 2015 TX Panhandle Tornado Outbreak - Chase Recap

Almost waited for storms to go up from Amarillo, but decided to venture out east and wait at Claude around 2pm. I decided against crossing the canyon to catch the storms that fired down by Tulia, as I didn’t want to be out of cell service that long. With Rhonda pregnant and about 10 days from her due date, that wouldnt be a smart move. Was also set on not venturing too far from Amarillo, for that reason. It took a while for storms to take off. If it looked good on radar, it looked bad visually. If it looked good visually, it looked horrible on radar. Met up with Blake and Chris (other Amarillo chasers) at Claude and tried to figure out if to stay with the northern storm, or wait on the Tulia storm to cross the canyon. The northern storm finally started to organize after it passed us moving +50mph. It was at White Deer before we left I-40. We got fortunate, because as it began to spin, it slowed to 35kts. As it passed between Skellytown and Pampa, it dropped a large bowl that I thought was a wall cloud. Only realized it was a funnel after it began to rope out. By this point I was west of Pampa and the southern storm was just getting north of the Canyon.

We continued north of Pampa as the storm dropped another funnel that would last ~20 minutes. We got all the way up to the Canadian River and watched it rope out slowly. After giving that storm one more chance and no new lowering we finally bailed back south using the FM283 that cuts off Highway 70 to Miami, TX. It was a gamble to beat the fast moving storm that was bearing down on Pampa by that point with multiple reports of tornadoes. Clipping through the outer edges of the core the reports of “wedge” start getting through. Hearing “wedge” makes you want to get out of there faster, but being on that winding 2 lane road in the core at night made that not an option. I was able to clear the core a few miles before Miami while the tornado was still close to Pampa. It was an eerie feeling entering Miami that had already lost power and the only lights were emergency vehicles running around town probably trying to warn as many as they could. With the direction the storm was going I wondered if the town would still be there in 15 minutes as I blasted south out of town to get out of the canyon and try and see the “wedge”.

I got to the ridge where I had set on chases before with Marcus and Steve back in 2010, only difference this time was a huge wedge in the darkness coming my way. I could see the large tornado right as I stopped being lit up by the lightning. I got out and set up the tripod, but every shot kept getting blown out by close CGs. On top of the lightning barrage, the inflow winds were enough to blow the tripod over even without a camera on it so I couldnt even leave it out there. I scampered back in the car and used my window mount to take pictures. Not the steadiest shots as the vehicle was being rocked by the winds. I only got a couple shots of the wedge, before it occluded into the rain and disappeared into the darkness. The next cycled tried to produce just a few miles to my north but couldn’t do it.
It was at this time I noticed another wedge with the storm that was behind the first wedge producing storm. The tornado was illuminated, not by lightning, but by a prison that was nearly hit by the tornado. It is very freaky to be able to see a tornado at night by lights on the ground. I lost visual of that tornado till it got closer to Miami. It was still going strong but had shrunk down to an elephant trunk in size. I viewed it for another 5 minutes till it vanished. At that point I called the chase off and began to try and figure out how to get home as I was not sure if I could drive home through Pampa or not. Only encountered some power line and tree damage along the highway, but was able to get through town and back to Amarillo using only 1 tank of gas on the entire chase. $22 for 5 tornadoes and 2 wedges is a great deal in any month, but insane for November. If this is a taste of what this El Nino winter has in store, hold onto your butts.