Tornado at Clyde, Texas
from a Mini-Supercell

The target area for this day's chase was low pressure system on a dryline near Abilene, Texas. Towering clouds developed early in the day along the dryline and moved rapidly to the southeast. Contributing to the movement was a synoptic pattern of extensive shearing winds from the surface through midlevels in the atmosphere. The strong winds aloft carried the storm tops to the southeast. Jeff Passner chased with me this day and we felt we had everything under control as we headed into Abilene from the northwest. The images shown below were a good example of what was happening as our stomachs reminded us we were late for lunch. Thinking we had enough time we pulled off the 4 lane and grabbed a quick sandwich. Heck, the storms were ill developed and showed no signs of putting out an anvil or back shearing. We thought we had time.

Our lunch took about 15 minutes and we kept a clear view of our developing cell to the east. After we finished lunch we proceeded around the south side of Abilene and prepared to continue the chase. Suddenly, our NOAA weather radio sounded off with a tornado warning. The announcer read the warning particulars with a slow, but intense Texas accent. We looked at each other and smiled. This cannot be true. These "clouds" didn't look like storms yet. Must be a false report we thought. It took us about 10 minutes to get into position behind the main storm top. What a surprise we got!

All images and text © copyright Gene Moore unless otherwise indicated.

storms developing on dryline   dominant buildup near Abilene

Developing cumulus conjestus clouds along the dryline to out east. It was still early in the afternoon as the cumulus began to bubble. At this time no area appeared dominant, but higher tops were persistent directly to our east.

 

Strong vertical development such as this tower kept getting sheared off by the strong northwest winds aloft. The towers were rock hard in appearance before shearing winds too their toll.

impressive shear in northwest flow   tornado warning is issued

This is an example of the excellent shearing winds keeping the building storm tilted at a 45 degree angle. This set of towers would take over as the main storm of the day.

 

A tornado is developing while this wide angle image was taken. To most chasers this storm probably looks distant, but that's because it's small. Close inspection indicates a weak anvil beginning to shear off to the southeast. It initially showed before this image but never took off to the east. Now it was beginning to shear downstream. The time was about 2:20 CDT.

tornado in progress northwest   wide angle - vertical shot showing storm top

A tornado in progress to our northeast. The condensation funnel has a "needle" that extended to ground. It can't be seen in this image. What we did see were large chunks of sheet metal glinting in the sun as the tornado lifted them half way to the cloud base. Something was getting hit.

 

This vertical shot shows the extent of the main storm tower that was topping out about 2 miles southeast of the tornado.

tornado with thin needle funnel extending down   17 mm wide angle of storm

I had light meter (exposure) problems that day and some of these shots are too dark, but the narrow needle is almost visible in this image. While following the tornado we came upon a road block. We learned mobile homes were damaged and there were injuries. Most of the damage was F-1 with some possible F-2 due to snapped power poles. The width was about 100 yards.

 

This is a wide angle shot of the storm. When the tornado first formed the intersecting cumulus towers were from the northwest. Now they were beginning to converge into the storm from the south. The top of the storm is still unorganized and appears to be a collection of individual towers.

  decaying tornado on nw side of cell

This is the last shot of the storm before the tornado dissipated. The funnel lasted for about 15-20 minutes. The storm is becoming much larger and more organized during this shot, but still is only about 2 miles wide. A large mass of clouds converged into the cell from the south. We would make our intercept for this area of the storm and not on the northwest side were the previous tornado formed. The downstream anvil was chunky and looked pulsed, but persisted giving us hope the storm would hold together until we got into a better position.

  wide angle - developing tornado & funnel

Police road blocks and damage cost us time as we had to detour to the north. We caught the storm near the town of Rising Star. This shot was taken looking north from the merging towers on the south side of the storm. Two funnels were in progress when this image was taken. If your computer is set on 32 bit color you should be able to find them. Shortly after this shot was taken a strong debris cloud shredded two large trees about 200 meters to our northwest. I didn't get any images as I ran to warn my chase partner. The roar was amazing at that distance. As the tornado crossed the highway it picked up hundreds if not thousands of one inch caliche stones that had been spread along the shoulder of the road. The bottom of the funnel turned white as a ring of these white rocks crossed the highway. The hard stones hit the pavement with terrific force and it sounded like hundreds of individual gunshots. Fortunately, the southeast movement of the debris cloud was slow allowing us to flee east. A flatbed-semi cut in front of the tornado catching the leading edge of the stones. The wide-eyed driver roared by us at about 80 MPH. The leading edge of the debris cloud was about 30-40 meters away as I threw my camera into the floorboard and side-stepped the Jeep's clutch. Three gear-shifts later we were safely out of harm's way. We never saw a full condensation funnel to ground. The tornado turned south and dissipated in a field. It was the storm's last gasp and the last tornado of the day.

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