MAY 13

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by Phil Berg

Chasing the Sky’s Colors

The first formal chase of the largest chase team ever started in Clinton, Oklahoma, and ended with spectacular lightning shows in Childress, Texas May 12. VORTEX2 forecasting spokesman Eric Rasmussen announced to the team early Tuesday morning that everyone needed to head to Amarillo, Texas, by 2 pm, and during the 180-mile chase an exact target would be relayed by radio to all of the chase vehicles.

Just before 2 pm, the teams were instructed to head south to Silverton, Texas, where about 40 vehicles gathered, and waited for three thunderstorms to develop near the western border of Texas and move east in the common westerly winds of the Tornado Alley region.

“There’s about a couple thousand here,” said Silverton resident Andy Brice. “In ’95 we were taking pictures of some horses at a rodeo here, and that was the year of the big tornado in Dimmitt, and we caught these tornados.” Brice, who’s lived here for 25 years, runs a yard spraying business all around the Amarillo area. “We saw two tornados a couple weeks ago at the county line.”

At 5:25 pm National Weather Service issued a severe weather warning for the area to watch for quarter-size hail and wind gusts up to 60 mph, moving north at 20 mph from Dimmitt. At 6:23 a hail report came in, confirming the NWS report.

The VORTEX2 project left Clinton, Oklahoma, which had temperatures of 49 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning, which then rose to about 100 degrees in Silverton, and cooled to 67 degrees during the first rain in Childress, Texas, around 8 pm, and then rose again to 80 degrees just before the lightning show.

Data from pods deployed near Silverton will help scientists determine why the storms, which were unstable enough to have warnings broadcast, did not drop tornados. Trees were toppled, however, and branches littered roads.

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