2024-06-02 REPORTS: TX

Mar 30, 2008
Norman, OK
Woke up late today after a long string of chases and a chaser gathering. Took a look at water vapor and got out the door as fast as I could.


Headed down to Floydada then up to Silverton. Witnessed at least 3 amazingly gorgeous tornadoes. This was the first, unless that little persistent dust swirl I observed counts as #1.


Will eventually have the videos up on stormchasing.video and my chase recap on benholcomb.com
Of note, two reports of 6" diameter hail in the SPC log. One in Swisher Co TX and another in Briscoe Co. TX.

EDIT: Seeing posts of a ~7" diameter hailstone near Vigo Park TX! If verified, it will be the largest hailstone on record for TX.
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This is the type of day that makes me ecstatic to have a secondary staging ground in Lubbock. Spent a long weekend visiting friends from Texas Tech and to stage in case mesoscale features aligned a day or two for tornadoes. During that stretch, a modestly favorable background regime was present for supercells in West Texas as deep moisture existed beneath a series of weak STJ impulses. We missed the Midland tornadoes on 5/30 by the skin of our teeth, so when the outflow became an obvious player the morning of 6/2, I was all over it. We were on the Happy storm from the moment it touched the boundary at I-27. Due to positioning and roads, we missed most of the first tornado north of Silverton, but we were in prime position for a 20-minute tornado show as the next low-level mesocyclone matured.

These are just a few of hundreds of photos that I'm sure I'll never have time to get to. It was such a relaxed, serene intercept - just us, the toads croaking, birds chirping, and...well, a mobile radar generator humming (the same radar I used to operate when I was still a TTU student). It wasn't my most intense intercept, nor is it the best tornado ever, but the aforementioned factors make it one of my favorite tornado intercepts of all time.

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Began the day in Odessa. Got a late start, originally thinking we wouldn't have to go too far north of Lubbock. Went to church at noon and weren't on our way until just after 1pm. We would be targeting the OFB, but I didn't have an exact target location in mind; I figured I would work it out while my son drove. It became apparent we would need to be further north than Lubbock. After hanging out around Plainview, I decided to intercept the storm near Happy, which was the southernmost in a line. It was just after 6pm.

By 6:30, the storm was hauling in dusty inflow as we followed it east of I-27, along 2698, which becomes 146, toward Vigo Park. There were very few chasers on the storm for the first 90 minutes or so, but by around 7:30pm every chaser in Texas was drawn to it like moths to a flame.

We experienced two very close, intense lightning strikes while driving east. The meso seemed to jump/reform east and became a huge barrel. I'm pleased with where we were at this point, but curious how the structure would have looked if viewed from further out. For at least 20 minutes after this picture was taken, the storm was still not TOR-warned.



We drove down 207, past Lake Mackenzie, and then got our first glimpse of a tornado behind hilly terrain, just before 8pm. It was picturesque, but we could not see the tornado making contract with the ground.


I had no idea that just a tenth of a mile or so up the road the land was flat again and we would have had a much better view of this tornado. Once we got to flatter land, we no longer had a visual on it; not certain if it had lifted, or just couldn't be seen because it was murkier under the base, which was about 5-6 miles away.

My recall of the details is a little spotty at this point, but I believe we were on 86 heading east toward Silverton when we saw another skinny tornado develop, at around 8:15pm. We watched it from just off 86 as it morphed through several sizes and shapes over the course of at least 15 minutes, ending with a classic rope out, in which the visible condensation funnel remained on the ground and attached to the cloud base, but disappeared in the middle (no picture of this final stage, unfortunately).






After the tornado lifted, we followed it into the Caprock Canyons along route 256. The meso was ground-hugging and I hoped we would see a wedge form, but it was not to be.


We enjoyed the visuals from a scenic lookout parking area, and then slowly crept forward in the bear's cage and stopped to grab a couple of baseball-size hailstones from the side of the road. Route 256 turns to the northeast and further up ahead was already overtaken by the hail core. So, with waning light at 9pm, combined with a further reduction of visibility in the Canyon, we decided to call it a day and head back west on 256.


It was an awesome day by any measure, and a nice "win" after what had been a frustrating couple of weeks of chasing, with a combination of uncooperative weather and blown opportunities. This day was significant for being my son's first photogenic tornado, in his third season of chasing (in 2022 we saw Morton, but only briefly and from a distance, and in 2023 we got a low-contrast tornado in the murk in the Texas panhandle). He commented, this is what you think of, when you envision a tornado. I know he will always remember it!

The pessimistic perfectionist in me still regrets certain decisions. For example, if I had stayed on route 207 instead of continuing south to Lake Mackenzie, I might have been closer to the tornado and able to view it from its west. But at the time, the meso was already east of 207, so it made sense to get south so I could go east and keep up with it. I could have backtracked and gone back up 207 after the tornado formed, but that would have required turning my back on it to go back west on 86 to 207. It's only in hindsight that it may have made sense to stay on 207. Maybe I wouldn't have been that much closer in that scenario anyway - I would have been closer to it latitudinally, but further longitudinally. I also could have gone up one of the dirt roads off of 86, but it's that age-old conundrum of stopping to watch and enjoy it, versus wasting time looking at the map and continuing to drive in the hope of getting closer, only to find that the tornado lifts, before you ever got a chance to get out of the car and immerse yourself in the moment.

It's not bad to think about what you might have done differently. That's how we learn and improve. And it's why, in other posts, I've noted that I am still looking for that "peak experience" - a day like today, but able to get (safely) much closer than I was today (5-6 miles). As long as you don't let it pollute a good memory. I think I'm good on that score with respect to this Silverton day - I do have overwhelmingly positive memories and feelings about it - not only for what my son and I were able to see and experience together, but also about my execution. My decisions can only be revisited with the benefit of hindsight; they all made sense in the moment, unlike some of my other poor decisions on this chase trip. So, like I said, an awesome day by any measure, and easily the best day of the trip and my best day since Selden in 2021 (although I have to say, Midland day on May 30 was a close second, even missing the tornados).
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