11 June 1997 Tornadoes in Wheeler County, Texas
CHASE SUMMARY 11 June 1997:
Chasers: Paul Janish, Janelle Janish, myself
Target: Intersection of outflow boundary and dryline in vicinity of Wheeler and Canadian TX.
18Z surface analysis.
21Z surface analysis.
We left NSSL about 1:30pm after debating our initial target area which was south-central Kansas (Medicine Lodge). It became apparent that the morning convection across NW and central Oklahoma was going to rob some of the CAPE in our initial target area. A nice outflow boundary became apparent from the convection on radar and mesonet data extending from just south of Norman WNW-ward to about Reydon, Oklahoma. The dryline was making a punch through the central Texas Panhandle aiming right for the boundary intersection. The 12Z ETA CAPE bullseye was also centered at the same spot, so we decided to head west to where we thought the outflow boundary might be intersecting the dryline. (We discovered the next day the the outflow boundary had never made it as far west as the dryline).
From Elk City, we drove NW to near Durham, OK and spotted several convective areas. One large thunderstorm was visible to our distant NW with a backsheared anvil and small overshoot. This was presumably the storm that was warned for in Texas County Oklahoma, that turned LP and died later (we suspect it moved into lower CAPE air, and the capping inversion choked it off). We could see some very distant cirrus anvils way to the north (N of DDC?) and way to the south (NW of LBB). But our attention was grabbed by one isolated tower developing to our WSW, we thought, somewhere east of Pampa, south of Miami, west of Mobeetie. We headed through Allison TX, to Mobeetie to greet an LP supercell. The storm was medium-high based, producing a small left split, and had beautiful rounded striations on the east side of the updraft.
The initial tornado reports west of Mobeetie appeared to be false to us. The storm base and ground was clearly visible from our vantage point as we heard a spotter claiming ground contact of a tornado. There was no funnel nor no dust seen by us (from about 5 miles east).
We decided to head south noting that the storm was begining to right turn severely. We eventually ended up at FM 2473 and FM 453 about 4 miles east of Kellerville and watched the storm very slowly move to the SSE. We were in and out of dime to quarter sized dry hail in the forward flank precip area. The beautiful striations and beaver's tail continued as the storm slowly grew larger but remined mostly LP in character.
In the next 20 minutes, this storm evolved quickly into a beast of a classic supercell about 3 miles away from us. Along with a well-developed beaver's tail cloud extending from the SE into the updraft base, a lower ragged tail cloud began to quickly develop extending from the NE. Rapid upward motion and motion toward the center of the updraft base became very evident, and a rear-flank downdraft (filled with some precipitation) began to wrap around the south and the SE side of a developing low-level mesocyclone. We also noticed that the storm had a very laminar front edge to its updraft, and no flanking line. Within about 10 minutes, the low-level meso became completely surrounded by the RFD and rotation became very rapid in a diameter of about 2 miles wide. At 644pm, we noticed the first hints of dust whirls under this "blender" of a low-level mesocyclone, and then wisps of condensation grew rapidly to a multiple-vortex tornado and then a stovepipe, and then the condensation briefly dissappeared. It returned soon, and the tornado quickly grew larger, and then became a wedge. The motion in the sub vortices at the base of the wedge suggested to me that the tornado was violent (compared to other violent tornadoes I've seen). We stayed at our position (about 7 miles north of I-40 on FM 453) for about 12 minutes before retreating south.
As we retreated the tornado became increasingly rain-wrapped and very large (twice as wide as it was tall). At one point, we thought we saw another smaller (but still large) vortex on the SW side of the wedge. The south edge of the updraft remained laminar and "flank-less". By the time we reached I-40, the rain was completely obscuring the tornado. We bolted east 5 miles to Lela, and then south. Soon, another storm to the SW began to precip into the inflow of our original storm, and we could no longer see the rain-wrapped meso. This meso (and tornado) crossed I-40 about 1.5 miles west of Lela and overturned many vehicles and sending 7 to the hospital.
Later, the new storm became a supercell, and we witnessed twin vortices develop on the forward flank gust front and move to the SW about 3/4 mile away from us. One vortex lasted about 2-3 minutes, had no visible condensation funnel (but rotation at cloud base), and died as outflow overtook the vortex (I think it transformed into a gustnado). As the daylight wore to twilight, this storm had absolutely beautiful laminar structure, still no apparent flanking line, and LOTS of meaty CG activity (too dangerous to be outside for a long time).
The next day, as a driver for the subVORTEX FC van, we crossed the damage path on I-40 and FM 453. The damage was 0.75 miles wide at I-40, and estimated damage at F3 or F4. About 3 miles north of I-40 is where the southern end of the damage path was on FM 453 (the path was rather wide on FM453 as the tornado was moving from about 340 degrees). I estimate damage on FM453 to be about F2. At the location where we photographed the tornadogenesis, the field about 1 1/2 miles to the west appeared scoured of vegetation.
TIME MILES LOCATION OBSERVATIONS (pm CDT) 400 000.0 Elk City Boundary visible by way of TCU just over N on OK 34 Elk City proper. Stretches ESE to south of I-40. Streches WNW from Elk City. 444 OK 33 First towers visible to WSW. W of Roll 447 Turned S on Big tower WSW. New smaller towers W. OK 30 501 TX stateline Big tower now a small storm 521 Crossing US83 Small base on storm westbound on FM 1046 529 Stopped 1 W At this location, storm grows slightly Mobeetie on larger. Is LPish. We get some pictures. TX 152 550 Same location 1/2" hail, big drop rain, AMA SVR 551 Leave location Some striations on updraft. Still Head back E LP and smallish on TX 152 552 In Mobeetie ** 1" hail ** Spotter reports a tornado with dust column and 30% funnel. We have clear view of entire updraft base, and there is nothing there. 555 SE of Mobeetie We see some rain shafts that could be mistaken as a tornado. 556 Turn S on Spotter still reports tornado. We FM3104 see nothing. ** 0.75" hail ** 559 2 miles S of AMA TOR We still don't see tornado that last intrsxn spotter sees, and we discount it. 600 same location ** 1" hail ** pictures 601 same location ** 3/4" hail ** "dry hail", nice updraft 602 Moving S on "funny rain shaft" FM 3104 604 112.0 Turn S on FM 2473 607 Stop just N pictures. CG activity picking up of river 611 Same location Psbl clear slot 615 Same location Can visually recognize a hook in precip curtains now. pictures 616 Same location We see inflow dust blowing left-to-right. Spotter reports it as a tornado. 619 Same location 1/4" hail. More dust. Not a tornado. 623 117.5 Turning W on Temp went from 74F to 81F as we enter FM2473 at inflow air. Tail cloud from precip "Magic City" area into base (N to S) begins to dvlp! Pix. 625 W on FM2473 Tail developing nicely. Base lowering, appears to be "rooting in boundary layer". 626 120.5 Turn N on Tail cloud rapidly accelarting south. Wall FM2473 at FM453 cloud begins to develop. Rapid rising motion. intrsxn and Warm 84F inflow. CG activity (in next 2 mins) stop increases dramatically (out of echo overhang above our heads). Pictures. 630 121.3 We turn S on Major close CG activity. Rapid rise in VIL? FM 453 634 124.4 Stop on FM453 We are in sunshine. Lose contrast so we decide to turn around and head back N. Got pix of vertical updraft S edge. 636 125.4 Stop again, 2 85F air! ESE wind at 30 sustained. mi south of Sparking CGs that are CLOSE! FM2473 near two dead cows! 640 Same location low-level rotation begins to pick up 643 Same location Massive LL rotation - a "blender". CGs 644 Same location ** TORNADO BEGINS ** Wide multi-vortex tornado begins to develop. Dust swirls at first, then condensation swirls. Some condensation ground contact at times. RFD (with sinking cloud tags) observe to encircle entire LL meso. Tornado est at 2-3 miles to our west mvg SE. Pictures. 645 Same location Bowl shaped tornado. Pictures. 647 Same Location Now a WEDGE. Violent motion. Rain beginning to wrap around S side. RFD about 1.5 miles to our west. Pictures. 648 We leave and Still a wedge. Picture from moving car. go S n FM 453 We hear no roar. RFD 1 mi away. Tornado geting wider. 650 Heading S Long beaver's tail from updarft base to SE. 651 128.6 Stop FM453 Tornado almost completely rain-wrapped. Very large. Pix. 653 Same location Could be over a mile wide. Mostly rain wrapped. CGs. Violent vortices. 655 Same location We see hints of a multiple wedge inside precip (a la Friona 2 Jun 1995), but left "wedge" could be low wall cloud who base is obscured by horizon (based on damage survey). 656 Same location New towers break cap to SW. 657 Same Location We realize we are in path. 659 Same Location Spotter remarks that tornado is getting smaller. Still a wedge. 700 Start S on RFD hits us. FM453 again 702 Heading S We see interstate and remark "they better be warned!". 703 132.4 Stop at I-40 Rapidly biulding updraft to SW. New storm. Tornado on road N of us in precip. 706 Turn E on I-40 Last log on tape. Stopped recording. We eventually turn S at Lela, and never see the large tornado again. Rest of details in Web write-up.
WWUS30 KAMA 120753 LSRAMA PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AMARILLO TX 250 AM CDT THU JUN 12 1997 TIME(CDT) .....CITY LOCATION.....STATE ...EVENT/REMARKS... ....COUNTY LOCATION.... 0550 PM WHEELER TX 1.75 INCH HAIL 06/11/97 WHEELER INTERSECTION OF 1046 AND 48 BY ARES SPOTTER 0552 PM WEST OF MOBEETIE TX TORNADO 06/11/97 WHEELER HWY 152 REPORTED BY ARES SPOTTERS 0627 PM 5 N KELLERVILLE TX TORNADO 06/11/97 WHEELER REPORTED BY ARES SPOTTERS 0643 PM 10 NW SHAMROCK TX TORNADO 06/11/97 WHEELER NEAR PAKAN CR 453 0654 PM 5 SE KELLERVILLE TX TORNADO 06/11/97 WHEELER REPORTED BY ARES SPOTTERS 0658 PM 8 SE KELLERVILLE TX TORNADO 06/11/97 WHEELER REPORTED BY SHERIFFS OFFICE 0709 PM WHEELER TX 4.50 INCH HAIL REPORTED BY 06/11/97 WHEELER BY SHERIFF OFFICE SHERIFF OFFICE 0730 PM 3 NW SHAMROCK TX 4.50 INCH HAIL REPORTED BY 06/11/97 WHEELER BY SHAMROCK POLICE 0730 PM 1.5 W LELA TX TORNADO 06/11/97 WHEELER *** 6 INJ *** NUMEROUS CARS AND TRUCKS OVERTURNED ON HWY I-40. 0750 PM SAMNORWOOD TX 0.88 INCH HAIL 06/11/97 COLLINGSWORTH REPORTED BY ARES SPOTTER 0750 PM 2 W SAMNORWOOD TX 1.00 INCH HAIL 06/11/97 COLLINGSWORTH REPORTED BY SHERIFF OFFICE 0759 PM N SAMNORWOOD TX TORNADO 06/11/97 COLLINGSWORTH REPORTED BY SHERIFF OFFICE 0836 PM 5 S MCLEAN TX 0.88 INCH HAIL 06/11/97 DONLEY REPORTED BY ARES SPOTTER 0842 PM 1 NW MCLEAN TX 0.75 INCH HAIL 06/11/97 GRAY REPORTED BY FIRE DEPARTMENT 0845 PM 10 E QUAIL TX 1.75 INCH HAIL 06/11/97 COLLINGSWORTH REPORTED BY SHERIFF OFFICE 0847 PM 1 W MCLEAN TX TORNADO 06/11/97 GRAY REPORTED BY SHERIFF OFFICE 1010 PM 5 S WELLINGTON TX TORNADO 06/11/97 COLLINGSWORTH REPORTED BY SHERIFF OFFICE 1030 PM 15 SE WELLINGTON TX TORNADO 06/11/97 COLLINGSWORTH REPORTED BY SHERIFF OFFICE 1030 PM 5 N QUAIL TX FLOODING 06/11/97 COLLINGSWORTH CR 1547 CLOSED DUE TO 3-4 INCH RAINFALL REPORTED BY SHERIFF OFFICE. NNNN PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AMARILLO TX 415 PM CDT THU JUN 12 1997 ...PRELIMINARY STORM SURVEY FOR WHEELER COUNTY TORNADO... THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN AMARILLO HAS GATHERED PRELIMINARY RESULTS FOR THE TORNADO WHICH TOUCHED DOWN IN WHEELER COUNTY ON JUNE 11 1997. THE TORNADO WILL LIKELY BE RATED AS AN F3 ON THE FUJITA TORNADO DAMAGE SCALE. THIS RATING WOULD INDICATE WINDS IN THE TORNADO AT APPROXIMATELY 160 TO 200 MILES AN HOUR. THE TORNADO TOUCHED DOWN NEAR PAKAN AND MOVED SOUTHWARD AND CROSSED INTERSTATE 40 NEAR LELA. THE PATH LENGTH OF THE TORNADO WILL BE AROUND 10 MILES, AND AT TIMES THE TORNADO WAS LIKELY 1/4 MILE WIDE. AT THE LOCATION WHERE THE TORNADO CROSSED INTERSTATE 40, NUMEROUS INJURIES OCCURRED. THE TORNADO REACHED THIS AREA AT APPROXIMATELY 730 PM CDT, 26 MINUTES AFTER A TORNADO WARNING HAD BEEN ISSUED FOR THIS AREA. THE FIRST TORNADO WARNINGS FOR THIS COUNTY WERE ISSUED NEARLY ONE HOUR BEFORE THE TORNADO CROSSED INTERSTATE 40. $$ GARCIA/CROWLEY