Chuck Doswell's

1995 Tornado Review

 

Recently, I had an opportunity to review all my old video footage and obtain screen captures from those tapes. The tornadoes of 1995 that I saw occurred without many still images on my part, since I was concentrating on doing video, so I thought it would be nice to include some additional images to go along with my 1995 Storm Chase Log.


Posted: 21 June 2000 Newest update: ??

NOTICE .. Any duplication, electronic or otherwise, of the images at this Website without my expressed permission is a copyright violation, and I will treat it as such. Do us both a favor and ask me for permission before using any of the images herein ... you can e-mail me at cdoswell@earthlink.net.

NOTICE .. All images I show on my Web pages have been scanned from original slides or are screen captures, 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. For video screen captures, however, it has been my experience that they invariably need some help ... therefore, I have enhanced the screen captures to improve contrast and to try to re-create some of the orginal color balance and intensity (as best I can recall it).

Rights to use my video can be negotiated with Martin Lisius Prairie Pictures / Storm Stock.


22 May - North of Pampa, Texas

This chase set the tone for me in 1995. I basically wandered to a good spot and it happened. Unfortunately, the tornadoes were quite distant and there were no roads by which to get closer. Hence, these images are not much more than silhouettes of the tornadoes ... distance makes for poor contrast.

The first tornado caught me quite by surprise. It only lasted a few minutes and became reasonably well-defined. I could not see any debris cloud and when it dissipated, it did not go through a rope-out, but simply "lifted" and rapidly vanished. The tornado only lasted about 2 minutes.

The second tornado was more or less expected, after the first. It developed rapidly from a stubby cone funnel to an elephant trunk tornado ... then a ropy cylinder ... back to an elephant trunk, where I began to see some hints of debris ... then the debris became more clearly visible ... then the funnel began to shrink and become more tilted ... the roping-out process was pretty lengthy, lasting several minutes ... with the final stage ending with a segmented funnel. Overall, the tornado lasted around 10 minutes.

The May 1995 Storm Data shows an F1 tornado 8 miles northeast of Stinnett, with a 2 mile, 200 yard wide path, which probably is their best estimates for this event. The first tornado apparently did not make the record at all.

05 June - near Dougherty, Texas

This was the most difficult, and therefore the most satisfying, of all the events I experienced in 1995. We had seen storms on 31 May that had propagated southward, leaving behind undercut mesocyclones. The situation on this day was not dissimilar. After our first intercept of the storm, by the time we reached South Plains (see the summary narrative on my chase log) and watched a dramatic cone tornado spin up, there were lots of chasers around us ... but we didn't get much in the way of images there! [See Sam Barricklow's slide images of the tornado at South Plains, which Storm Data rates an F0]. Note that my "inflow band" image appears to show a tornado already present. Observe also in that image, the undercut, shed mesocyclone wall cloud on the left side.

Al and I were prepared for the rapid southward progression of the storm due to propagation, whereas other chasers were unable to stay ahead of the storm ... thus, we ended up having the "front row seats" on this one all to ourselves! We were headed east when Al began to go crazy, screaming that a tornado was in progress to our left as we drove down the road!! We stopped quickly ... I jumped out and watched a wild, multi-vortex beast in progress about a mile away. I think I said "Holy S**t!" about 12 times rapidly in succession as I was setting up the camera. During the process, I was fumbling with my video camera and thought I had recorded several of these wild sub-vortex spinups when I discovered I had turned the camera off, not on! I eventually managed to get one spinup on tripoded video [where the funnel would form on the left side of the tornado, race around the front, and dissipate, leaving a debris whirl without a condensation funnel] but Al was yelling at me that we had to leave ... he was worried about (a) hail, and (b) the tornado headed right for us. I was so fascinated with what was going on that I was very reluctant to leave the position ... but leave it we did. I managed to capture another sub-vortex on video, looking out the back window as we were driving out of the tornado path, with the vortex again forming on the left and racing around the front. We finally got to a position where we felt safe, east of the storm, and a &*$# truck started backing up to where it would block our view!! We moved a bit further east, where we had a magnificent view of the tornado from about 1/2 mile away as it moved southward, across the road over which we had just come east. It had evolved into a wedge-shaped, rather than a multi-vortex tornado. Even during this stage, however, it seemed that thin vortices were still forming just ahead of the tornado and being "incorporated" into the wedge funnel. In my video, a CG lightning flash occurs very near the tornado ... others were striking very close to us and we started seeing hailstones falling nearby ... our cue to vacate the premises! We had to move farther east and then south ... all the while, the wedge continued, but when we got into a good position again, the tornado was rain-wrapped and no longer visible. That part of our chase was over.

Given our uncertainties, I don't know how long the tornado lasted, but we were in the good viewing position for at least on the order of 10 minutes and I know the tornado formed earlier and lasted for quite some time after we had to leave. Storm Data shows it rated as an F2, running from 7 miles northwest to 6 miles south of Dougherty, for a 13 mile path length ; the width is given as 350 yards.

 

08 June - Pampa, Texas

This has to be the "gentleman storm chase" of all time! We used no weather data to make a forecast, and the only factual information we had was the result of two phone calls to Harold Brooks, back at NSSL. Harold indicated that the storms we were seeing all looked pretty good, and since Pampa was a direct route to one of them, that's the way we went. Events began to unfold for us as soon as we turned south onto Price Road in Pampa, where we saw what appeared to be a tornado in progress. It was. It was not a very picturesque tornado, but sirens were wailing, and it would occasionally produce subvortices, as it did here, here, and here. After several minutes of this behavior, during which the tornado was hardly moving at all, something happened. What had been the tornado seemed to "split", with part going to the left and dissipating and the other part moving to the right and maintaining rapid rotation, with a cone-shaped lowering. That lowering was moving westward

After a few minutes, that cone-shaped lowering began to move northward and a funnel cloud developed rapidly as we drove south to the railroad crossing at Price Road and US60. That funnel began to produce surface condensation and debris shortly thereafter. The main show had begun! Rapid condensation began as the tornado was about to cross the railroad track paralleling US60. As the tornado crossed the tracks, there were several power flashes. Once across the tracks, the tornado began to intensify, and increase in size. We began to drive northward to stay with the tornado, trying to get a view of it between buildings and trees. I zoomed in on the surface debris whirl, as the tornado began to enter the Pampa industrial park, continuing to intensify. Once in the industrial park, the air became filled with flying debris of all sorts. We stopped and I got out of the car, to see a massive cloud of flying debris as the tornado began to move northeastward. The tornado probably was at maximum intensity as it began to move out of the industrial park. Some idiot drove by us toward the tornado on Price Road with his flashers on, approaching the danger zone near the debris whirl as the tornado crossed Price Road as it left the industrial park ... I simply can't imagine what this person (or persons) might have been thinking! The tornado seemed to be diminishing in intensity as it approached a residential district in Pampa, just northeast of the intersection where we had come into town, and the surface debris whirl became somewhat contorted. The condensation funnel of the Pampa tornado "lifted" shortly thereafter, although debris was evident still at the surface ... the developing "Hoover" tornado (filmed so well by Martin Lisius of Storm Stock) can be seen to the right. As the Pampa event dissipated, the Hoover storm began to intensify in the dark background (now to the left of the dissipating Pampa tornado, in the background).

VORTEX and the other chasers on this day apparently passed up the Pampa storm, owing to road problems ... Al and I basically had this event to ourselves, also! Of course, a local sheriff got some famous video of the tornado from US60 ... Al and I appear briefly in his video as he roars by on Price Road after the tornado crossed Price Road toward the northeast, and we have seen a lot of citizen videos. Many may have seen/heard the exaggerated account of one citizen who experienced the dissipating tornado in the residential neighborhood, claiming to have looked up into the vortex. This account seems dubious, given that the funnel had "lifted" by that time, with only a debris swirl continuing at the surface.

From the first views of the initial multivortex tornado, the whole event took nearly 20 minutes. The tornado in town was originally rated F3, but this later was upgraded to F4; Storm Data says it had a 3 mile path, 200 yards wide. This had been an amazing event, and our day was not yet done!

 

08 June - near Hoover, Texas

After negotiating the streets to get out of Pampa, we began to chase the developing Hoover tornado. We made a number of navigational mistakes and never got very close to the tornado. Hence, the images are not quite so dramatic, but this was a bigger and, probably, more intense tornado than that which had just blasted the town of Pampa. Although we never were able to get much contrast, we clearly could see that considerable dust and debris were being created ... we learned later that the pavement had been scoured off a road that this tornado crossed. Our contrast continued to diminish as the tornado got more distant.

Storm Data describes this tornado as an F2, with a path of 6 miles and a width of 400 yards, 8 miles northeast of Pampa. It's quite likely that this tornado has been seriously underrated in terms of its intensity, but this one didn't hit much and appearances can be deceiving, of course.

In addition to the navigational mistakes that cost us a close-up view of this tornado, we also continued to chase the "Pampa" supercell across the Texas Panhandle and, although we saw several more tornadoes from the storm (with really bad contrast), this futile effort cost us a chance to see the powerful and dramatic Allison and Kellerville storms farther south in the Panhandle that the VORTEX teams chased successfully.

 

09 June - near Vernon, Texas

What could we do to follow up such a great day as June 08? Get more tornadoes! We joined a horde of chasers around a developing storm near Vernon, Texas. After watching the storm for a while, suddenly, a "dust bowl" tornado (without any apparent condensation funnel above it) developed in the distance, which continued for several minutes. Obviously, we were not in the best position to see it ... too far away and bad contrast as a result. Several other chasers, including Gene Rhoden, Tim Marshall, and Bobby Prentice, were quite close and got some dramatic footage of the dust whirl. This tornado lasted between 5 and 10 minutes.

Storm Data shows this event as an F0 tornado, 10 miles west of Vernon, with a path length of 0.1 miles and a width of 100 yards.

Later, we saw two more possible tornadoes ... it was getting progressively darker and there was so much scud and rain, it was hard to be certain of actual debris at the surface. The first tornado was nicely associated with a clear slot and rapidly rotating mesocyclone ... the second tornado appeared as rain seemed to fall away beneath the same rotating mesocyclone a while later. These funnels/possible tornadoes were brief ... only a few minutes each and apparently they did not make it into the record ... we didn't feel confident enough in what we saw to report them as tornadoes.

These are not great images, but it was pretty heady stuff to see more tornadoes after the previous day!

 

This was not a tornado, but was so interesting, I thought I'd include a couple of screen captures. One shows an overall view of the developing fire under the storm, the other is a "close-up" of the fire itself.


Acknowledgments. Except for 22 May, Al Moller was my chase partner on these chases. Obviously, Harold Brooks provided invaluable information on 08 June!