Chuck Doswell's

Storm Chasing Highlights - 1996


All the images contained herein are copyrighted. Any use of them in any medium without Chuck Doswell's expressed permission is a copyright violation. Please respect that and ask first! E-mail him at cdoswell@earthlink.net.

Route notation: "USXX" denotes US highway XX, "I-xx" denotes Interstate highway xx, "SSxxx" denotes state (SS) highway xxx, "FMXX" in TX denotes farm-to-market highway XX. Wherever possible, cities having National Weather Service offices are identified with the appropriate 3-letter identifier.

NOTICE: Except for video frame captures, these images have been scanned from original slides, with some digital enhancement (touch-ups of dirt on the slides when scanned, and some enhancement of the original scanned images to make them look more like the original slides). I do not alter my images digitally to put in things that were not originally in the image or remove things that were originally in the image, and I do not make digital composites. I am personally opposed to such image manipulations unless they are admitted to clearly and obviously.

Updated: 26 March 1998 (above notice added)


1. 24 May 1996

Route: Left Norman ... west on I-40 to AMA ... northeast on US60 to FM282, north to TX70 (~10 mi), then south on TX 70 to Pampa to US60 to AMA.

Description: Storms were developing to the east ... left AMA and chased the closest strong looking updraft. 1" hail on US60 leading into Pampa. High-based LP-type supercell overhead, with occasional cloud base rotation. Chased north of Pampa for awhile as the storm intensified and developed a lowering, but it rapidly gusted out ... storms clearly outflow dominated. Heard a report of a tornado near Skellytown but it looked to us to be behind the outflow, so it seems unlikely.

2. 25 May 1996

Route: AMA southwest on US60 to CVS, back on US60 to US84 to Lariat, TX, north on FM1731 to Bovina, east on TX 86 to TX214 north to Friona ... briefly east on US60 then a U-turn back to TX214 north, then west (~3 mi), then east on 214 to FM2298, north to FM 1058, east to FM1057, north and then east to US385, north to FM1412, west and then north on TX214 to FM2587, east to US385 north to Vega and beyond (~5 mi), then south on US385 to Littlefield, then southeast to LBB.


NOTE: I have added some video frame captures to this summary for the 25 May 1996 event. (14 September 1997) and one more (24 July 2000)

Description: We were part of a large convergence of chasers in the western TX panhandle. After seeing several storms developing around CVS, it looked like the storm to the southeast had the best road network into which to move, so we went after it. Slow to develop, it produced a substantial downburst and then began to take on a front-feeding linear structure, but with very strong, dusty inflow. Almost gave up on it, and then heard some reports from other chasers on the 2-m radio and so took off after it. By the time we got through the outflow dust, it had been transformed from its earlier, quasilinear look into an obvious supercell, with a big rotating wall cloud from the back side. The flank also had some wild spin-ups, including a couple of funnels (not to the ground) like this or this, with dust whirls beneath. Made a navigation error in Friona and then saw a smooth white funnel against a dark background to the west, but we were still in town and couldn't get a clear view. When we finally got north of Friona (seeing folks diving for their shelters in town), the funnel had evolved into a very chaotic structure, with no clear tornado. Following the storm north, drove west into a wild, developing occlusion. A tornado developed to our southwest, and was apparently moving toward us as we backed out of there, dissipating before it got even close. A strong rotation continued at the end of the occlusion, but produced no obvious tornado. After backing away to the east, a new updraft and apparent mesocyclone developed nearly overhead, so we got out of there! Navigation was tough, with few roads and the storm moving northward between the limited north-south roads, so we had to zig-zag to stay with the storm. After dashing west on a "zig" we saw a smooth elephant trunk tornado in the occluded area, against a grey background ... the most stable tornado we saw, but very little contrast! Arrgghh! I have video but no slides ... sorry.

3. 26 May 1996

Route: LBB east on US82 to Dickens to TX70, north to Matador, east then north on FM94 to Tell to US82 to CDS, east-southeast on US287 to Quanah, north on TX6 to OK6 northeast to Eldorado, OK north to US62, east to LTS to US183, south to US287 to SPS, north on US277 to US70 to OK5B, north to OK5A to OK5 to Temple to OK65, north to OK53 to Comanche, north on US81 (~2 mi), then south on US81 to Comanche.

Description: We participated in the major "chaser convergence" ahead of the dryline bulge into southwestern OK and north TX, thereby missing the beautiful tornadic events in southwestern KS (but had the"joy" of seeing them on the Weather Channel, later ... Congratulations to Craig Setzer and his partner, though!). The storms in southwestern OK were undercut with cool west winds. We could see storms developing strongly further north into OK but the radio-reported movements were all on the order of 45 mph to the north. We bailed out on them as unchase-able, and had supper in SPS ... when we got out of the restaurant, new convection was redeveloping to the west-northwest of SPS, so we filmed it for awhile at sunset, then chased it back into OK, but it had gotten too far ahead of us and was moving northward smartly. When we quit, it was late! Next day, we followed a damage path from north of Comanche a long way towards Chickasha ... straightline wind damage, occasionally substantial.

4. 29 May 1996

Route: ABI west on I-20 to MAF southwest to FM 1788, south-southeast to FM1787, west-southwest to FM1492, south-southeast then west-southwest to TX329 to Crane, south on US385 (~6 mi), then north on US385 to I-20 east, to TX158, southeast to FM1379, south-southeast to FM2401, east-northeast to St. Lawrence to FM33, south to FM2600, east to the end of the road, then back west to FM33, then N to Garden City to BGS to US87, northwest to LBB.

Description: We drove from ABI to MAF and then watched the radar until storms began to pop. We took off after a left-mover aimed at us, but it crapped out and was pretty sorry when we got to it. Saw other storms developing to the northwest and in the vicinity of MAF ... both looked pretty good, but the MAF stuff was closer and an easier intercept ... it was moving into a poor road network, though. It was gorgeous from the backside, and went through several updraft cycles (with rock-hard towers blowing into a smooth-edged, difluent anvil!). By the time we got under it, it was pretty clear that it had an undercut mesoscylone that was unlikely to be tornadic. After following it until the roads gave out, we then returned to an intersection south of Garden City and were treated to a wild show. Wild irisation over the sun to the west, our old storm still with hard towers and a difluent anvil to the east, new storms blowing up on its flanks illuminated with setting sunlight. New storms to the north, also with nice warm evening light. The show went on til dark, and then we had some fairly interesting lightning but nothing very photogenic.

5. 31 May 1996

Route: MAF north-northwest, then northeast on FM 349 to La Mesa, northeast on US87 to LBB, I-27 to AMA, north and then west on Loop 335 to FM1719, Loop 335 east and then south to I-40, east-southeast on US287 to Goodnight, north on FM294 (`1 mi), then south to US287, east-southeast to Clarendon to TX70, north (~8 mi), then south to US287, east-southeast (~2 mi), then west-northwest to Clarendon, south on TX70 (~8 mi), north to US287, west-northwest to AMA.

Description: A long, hard drive north to AMA from MAF, thanks to the overnight mesoscale convective system messing up the situation around MAF. A tough choice to make: storms with mesocyclones developing to the southwest of AMA and one isolated storm along the KS-OK panhandle border with a mesocyclone. We chose the TX panhandle (it was reachable!) ... as the storm approached, it exhibited a rotating wall cloud and almost no precipitation ... the anvil looked like a high plains anvil, and microbursts were happening all over under it. These began to dump so much outflow ahead of the mesocyclone that it got undercut and crapped out. New cells were developing along the outflow boundary so we roared off to the southeast. Watched a storm rotate pretty vigorously north of Clarendon, but no tornado that we could see. We gave up on it and saw new storms developng to the south, so we went after them. Got south of Clarendon and were treated to a beautiful wall cloud over the Palo Duro Canyon, with the setting sun below and hard sunlit towers above. New storms with wall clouds kept developing on the outflow laid down by the previous storms ... saw this cycle at least 4 times! After a gorgeous sunset, had a wild lightning show (but without many CGs), and a full moonrise over convective towers. A great show, overall!

6. 01 June 1996

Route: AMA north on US87/US385 to Dumas, DHT, northwest on US 87 to Perico, south on FM3110 to FM1727 to DHT.

Description: Pretty low expectations. Drove to see a line of relatively weak convection in the DHT vicinity. Gave up on it and did artsy-craftsy stuff northwest of DHT. Noticed more convection to the north but paid it no mind. Late in the evening, we began to realize that the northern convection was pretty stout, and when we got closer to it, saw it was supercellular! Some wild lightning in the anvil at sunset was a great show and then it began to toss out a gust front toward us, so we gave up and went back to DHT. Found a GREAT restaurant in Dalhart, of all places ... the Sands Motel Restaurant on Highway 54 just northeast of the Highway 87 intersection ... great homestyle food at a ridiculously low price!! If you chase near DHT, by all means eat there, if possible!!

7. 02 June 1996

Route: DHT south on US87/385 to FM281, east to Etter, south on US287 to FM119, east to FM1284, south to TX152, east to FM1913, south to FM1319, southeast to FM687, to Stinnett to TX136/207, north (~8 mi) on TX207, then south to TX152/207/136 to Borger, southeast on TX152 to Skellytown, south on FM294 to US287, east-southeast to Clarendon, south on TX70 to TX256 to Silverton, west on TX86 to Tulia, I-27 to AMA.

Description: More HP supercells!. A very nice storm developed near DHT, which we chased to just north of Lake Meredith. It apparently was rotating hard at cloud base and then weakened as it crossed the lake. We had road problems, and had heard of a tornado report on a storm to the north, so we took off to intercept that storm as it came south. By the time we saw it, the mesocyclone had apparently occluded. As we watched, its base gradually shrank and it died as a rotating LP storm. Meanwhile, our old storm seemingly had been reinvigorated and we dived south after it again, intercepting it south of Clarendon, but it was playing out. Got some nice photographs of the storm as it moved off and dissipated. Had a great photographic evening at a favorite old abandoned house east of Silverton ... a very nice sunset and a classic "big sky" after sunset, with storm anvils to the west. Big storms developed near dusk well to our south, apparently near LBB, with distant lightning. These were apparently supercells.

8. 03 June 1996

Route: AMA north on US87/287 to Stratford, southwest on US54 to Conlen, north on FM807 (~6 mi), then south to US54 to DHT, north on US385 (~15 mi), then south to US54, southwest to ~7 mi southwest of Nara Vista, NM, northeast on US54 to DHT to Mineola, KS, US283 north to DDC.

Description: Still more HP supercells! Big storms had blown up out of the banded overnight convection once again. Ran into big, nasty, green HP storms near Stratford, with another more organized mesocyclone to the southwest, which we looked at for awhile but kissed off as having been undercut with little photogenic tornado potential. Saw a really fierce-looking storm to the west-northwest, with no good direct path to it. By the time we zig-zagged around into position, it had been swallowing outflow from the storms to its east and it had gusted out; it may or may not have done anything tornadic in eastern NM or extreme western TX. Saw a straight-edged anvil off in NM so we took off after it. By the time we got under it, we saw it had no organization at cloud base, despite its good appearance at anvil level ... watched it for awhile and then kissed it off and tried to get into position for what promised to be a good day in KS.

9. 04 June 1996

Route: DDC west on US50 to GCK, US83 north (~2 mi), then south to US50, east to Cimarron, KS, south on KS23 to OK23 to nr Forgan, OK, south to OK3, east to US283, north to US64, east to OK60 to I-35, north to ICT.

Description: A day with great upslopeflow, high instability, and 60F dewpoints into eastern CO ... but apparently capped off. Cells developed first in the OK panhandle and eventually we had to go for what we could get, even though we suspected the best shear enviroment (a great hodograph on the DDC VAD winds at 18Z!) was lacking further south. We got onto an LP storm in Beaver County, OK just south of the KS border. It went through some interesting evolutions, including something that could be considered a tornado look-alike (at least as a snapshot), and at one point showing counter-rotating convective towers ... but no tubes. Tornado warnings further east, but we went after a storm that was moving southward out of KS well to the east. After a long, hard drive, it had crapped out by the time we got there and was not even showing good lightning! Ugh!!

10. 16 June 1996

Route: Meandering about in northwestern OK.

Description: This was a day when I was out by myself on a long photographic weekend in KS and northwestern OK. I was not really chasing but when storms fired near Cherokee, OK, as I was exploring the Great Salt Plains Wildlife Refuge ... why not go after them? The storms were strong, and perhaps had some weak mid-level rotation from time to time but little apparent tornado potential. The best part came near sunset, with beautiful alpenglow on towers developing along a flanking line, and some pretty interesting lightning after sunset, with lingering skylight.


Summary

The growth and development of the "killer ridge" was enough for me to shut down the chase a week early! As a footnote, we were driving back to OUN on the backside of an MCS and saw a long roll cloud, apparently on the front as we were leaving the MKC area. This was a year dominated by northwesterly flow, with lots of instability being created under the western ridge, lots of moisture, and lots of shear but with weak, mid-level winds (suggesting the outflow dominance we observed repeatedly). Several days apparently having great potential were capped off in the regions that seemingly had the best environment. MCSs messed up several days, as convection tended to continue overnight and on into the morning in the "banded" style seemingly common to northwesterly flow. Tornadoes mostly were brief and difficult to see, at least where we were. What photogenic events that did occur (notably, the southwestern KS tornadoes of 26 May and northeastern CO on 30 May ... my congratulations to Craig Setzer and Greg Thompson, respectively!!) happened in situations where we probably don't have a clear understanding (at least from the synoptic scale data) what created them. Perhaps we can learn something from this year?

The progs right up to the day I left had predicted a quite different evolution of the situation than what happened. The "ensemble" runs clearly did not contain a single member that was even close to the actual evolution. The long range progs, in general, were not worth much!!

It would be very revealing and useful to forecasters to have maps of model errors for selected variables (500 mb heights, low-level moisture, mid-level winds, etc.) for each of the different models. There is no reason we should not have such maps available routinely! If PCGRIDDS can take differences between fields, why not take the difference between the initial data and forecasts from previous runs valid at that time? It would be helpful in documenting model shortcomings, many of which we experienced, directly!!


I'd like to express my appreciation to the gracious NWS staffers at Amarillo, Lubbock, Dodge City, Midland, Wichita, and the about-to-close office at Abilene, who let Al and me fumble about trying to decide where to chase.