3/19/2006 REPORTS: West Central TX

As my partner Graham Butler was posting in the NOW thread for this day, we were out attempting to get some early season supercell action in Central Texas. As we had expected, the particular action we were looking for was going to start down SW of San Angelo. We knew there was no way the front was going to get as far north as forecast, with those ongoing thunderstorms all night reinforcing the cooler air up there.

After a quick stop to see the folks at the NWS in San Angelo, we headed out for Ozona, TX. In route, a supercell got going somewhere out along the Rio Grande and was headed NE, where we intercepted it on I10. It had a great rock hard updraft and was really sheared over with an impressive flanking line. Here you can see why one does not really want to chase down in that area, unless of course you are CUI-SDS (Chasing Under the Influence of Supercell Deprivation Syndrome)!



Even on I10, this was treacherous country to drive with all the canyons and steep inclines.

We were finally topping out a place we could see a good distance. I shot this just before the top the hill.


You can just make out the makings of a wall cloud to the right of the road there.

I stopped taking photos and started shooting video when we go out. There was in impressive wall cloud that started getting undercut by cold air right as we stopped. I do believe it was crossing, or just about to cross the warm front at that point. We ran in to Bob Schafer about this time as well who ran with us the rest of the evening.

We hurried back east to Ozona and up north hoping to get to US190 before the storm got to that intersection so we could move east with it. I really think it was crossing the front near or just about the intersection of 163/190. It arrived there just about when we did. We could see no tornadic related features at this point, despite the FIVE TVS markers that just popped up on the radar. We scooted east pretty quickly as we were getting bombarded by rain and hail, which got to consistantly 2" with some higher random pieces probably hitting 2.5". Broke a cup off the anemometer (this was the first chase out after replacing those too!) and gained a few new dents. As we finally got east of it we ran into Steve Miller (TX). At this point, there was just a big, rapidly advancing gust front that exhibited some rapid updraft motion and a few needle funnels on occassion, but it was rather unimpressive at this point to me. We had to keep moving pretty quickly to stay ahead of it. When we got to Eldorado, it appeared to be lining out, and we noted a new supercell down to the south, which we decided to try and intercept.

Let me tell you that you NEVER want to chase south of I10 and west of San Antonio, most ESPECIALLY at night. It's nothing but Canyons and wildly twisting roads you can only take at 20-30 mph!! We get behind the second supercell around Leakey, TX and followed in behind it through some of the worst roads I have ever driven! We were also concerened about low water crossing roads, as the roads had many of them that had the potential to flash flood, and the large signs side of the road gave testament to that. We made good use of Delorme Topo mapping here, to let us know of potential low areas that might flood in advance so we didn't get surprised by one in the dark. The storm was really talking at this point with near continuous lightning!

Due to the road networks, the next hour or so all we could do was just stay behind it. We did find a very suspiciou damage path in the twisty roads northwest of Bandera. It was VERY localized, the first one was about 100 feet or so across, lots of tree and vegetation debris with some good sized rocks, with virtually nothing on either side of it. The second path was at least a good 75 yards, with some VERY large tree debris, branches 10-15 feet long and a good 6-8 inches in diameter and smaller vegetation debris with rocks at list the size of a large man's fist. Again, no debris at all either side of this debris path. We reported this to NWS. Another thing that made it suspicious is that the type of tree limbs in the road were not seen either side immediately adjacent to the roadway, which means they were carried at least 25 feet or more (we couldn't see further than that), and these were large HEAVY limbs.

We stayed behind the storm until somewhere west of Kendalia (Bob called it a night when we crossed I10). The storm was lossing a lot of it's characteristings, and we suspected it had crossed the front as well, although it still carried a tornado warning. We noted on radar yet another supercell to the south that if it stayed on it's current track would go right in to San Antonio, so we headed back south to intercept it.

We heard the reports of damage in Uvalde, and met the storm at Hondo. Did not some wall cloud like lowering in the vicinity of the radar indicated TVS signatures, but this storm too was becoming part of the line now. We stayed with it until San Antonio, and decided to give it up for the night.

Managed a little over 1300 miles and complete exhaustion. One thing for sure, we give ourselves a A for effort, as we were in the right places in what was exhausting chasing terrain compounded by nightfall, we just couldn't get anything to produce while we were there. It was a great navigation test, test of equipment as well as nearly every gadget we had came in to play at some point. I must say I was incredibly impressed overall at the coverage of the Sprint network all throughout west central TX.

I may do a short little video here later tonight, and will update it here if I do.
What David said.

I can add, though, the pics I got between initiation and when I hooked up with him and Graham. I stopped taking pics at that point, because we were just high-tailing up to US190, and then it was pretty dark, with nothing photogenic anyway.

There was some decent mesoscale rotation pretty quickly after initiation. Oh, and we saw a hell of a funnel (aloft) once getting clear on 190. Biggest funnel aloft I've seen, I believe.