MAY 13

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by Hummer Storm Chaser

A Day’s Chase Routine

To coordinate all of the groups of chasers involved in the VORTEX2 project, the steering committee of 8 well-known experts in meteorology and weather research all collaborate every morning at 9 am, and then hold a briefing for the 100 members of the project explaining where the armada of vehicles will head that day.

On Tuesday, May 12, that briefing lasted only a few minutes, as Eric Rasmussen explained to the crowd of researchers in the Ramada Inn conference room in Clinton, Oklahoma, that they needed to be near Amarillo by 2 pm, to watch for nearby storm systems to develop by 6 pm. Most teams left Clinton, and headed for Amarillo 180 miles away, transmitting their positions to the VORTEX2 tracking system all along Interstate 40 and then south on Interstate 27 to Tulia, Texas.

At 2 pm, all teams had filled their vehicles at the Rip Griffin truck stop, where 30-plus radar trucks, mobile mesonet minivans and four-wheel-drive pickups, the HUMMER H3T super-capable storm chaser, and video crews assembled and waited for at least three nearby storm systems to develop.

A quick drive of about 45 minutes to Silverton, Texas, where an hour wait defined where the storms would create wind gusts up to 65 mph and temperatures would vary by about 40 degrees in a couple of hours, saw the top radar trucks take up positions to the south of the storms by 7 pm, when the CSWR team deployed about 15 sensor pods into an outflow path of the front of the storm.

Then an hour’s drive to Childress, Texas, a veteran sufferer of tornado damage, led to a hailstorm of gumball-size ice chunks for about 10 minutes at 8:30 pm, and then a spectacular lightning show for about one hour into the darkness of the Tuesday night.

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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