The setup on Saturday May 16th was slated to be volatile with a Moderate Risk out over portions of far western north Texas on up in to Oklahoma and Kansas. A strong upper level system dragging a cold front east along with moderate instability, rich dewpoints and strong southeasterly surface flow provided all the juice that storms would need to become strong and potentially produce a few long-lived and violent tornadoes.
Tornadoes, however, was not the goal of Jenny and her chase partner James Langford as they headed out 287 from Dallas towards western north Texas on Saturday afternoon. Storms began firing up pretty early along the dryline across the panhandle and rolling plains, so there were several to choose from by the time they reached their target area. Always preferring to play the southern storms, they decided to go check out a cell that was rapidly approaching Quanah. It provided to be a beautiful storm producing several funnels as they watched it draw closer. One thing about chasing in far north Texas is that you have to consider where you are in relation to river crossings if you want to follow a storm up into Oklahoma. This can be tricky and you have to think way ahead about where you want to be, taking a gamble that it actually will produce a tornado, in order to see it. This storm ended up producing a very large tornado just 5 miles to their north, as well as another large tornado near the town of Elmer, OK, just across the border, but it came at the cost of several storm chasers’ windshields and windows who were on that storm.
Not willing to risk losing the windshield…or the sunroof…the team decided to drop south and check out another cell that was developing southwest of Vernon. The structure on this storm was amazing…a perfect wedding cake with beautiful striations. They stayed with the storm as it cruised northeast towards Electra and then up into far southern OK. Not wanting to venture any further north, they dropped south on 44 to intercept another strong storm behind the one they were following and got to it just as it went tornado about 5 miles north of Wichita Falls near Sheppard Air Force Base.
It was quickly getting dark and the team needed to be back home, so they continued south and decided to check out yet another strong storm that was over the Iowa Park area just west of Wichita Falls. The storm’s structure was amazing from their vantage point overlooking downtown Wichita Falls. There was no other choice but to find a (relatively safe) place to pull off along the highway. It would have been an epic shot over downtown, but they didn’t find a decent spot until further south along 79/281. Still a great end to a fantastic chase day!