May 5, 2002
-Images are located below text-
Chasing solo this day and targeting an area from Amarillo, Texas to Clovis, New Mexico, I arrived in Amarillo at noon and closely monitored data until 3 p.m. before deciding to jog north at 4 p.m. toward some developing cells near Channing.1. However, upon arrival, it appeared that the cells were linear, and I decided to return south to my original target since cells were beginning to develop southwest of Amarillo in an area where backed surface winds were more favorable for supercells and tornadoes. I encountered some golfball-size hail near Wildorado 2. before going south on Hwy. 809 to intercept the cells. I opted to intercept the southernmost storm in a line of cells located from Umbarger to just north of Nazareth. Taking Hwy. 87 south, I intercepted the rapidly intensifying southernmost cell and set up 2 miles northwest of Happy, Texas in the supercell's vault. The meso was being undercut at the time 3., but it soon reorganized into a blocky wall cloud.4. The meso continued organizing and soon took on a bowl shape.5. At 6:30 p.m., much dust began getting kicked up under the rapidly rotating meso as the RFD blasted around it.6.; 7. The wall cloud continued lowering as the surface rotation organized into a dust bowl 8., and it wasn't long until the tornado filled in and became a full-fledged wedge (tornado #1).9. Several close bolts struck in close proximity 10., and I decided to push a bit further south as the tornado continued churning.11. About 10 minutes after tornadogenesis, the circulation began weakening considerably before eventually dissipating as a new meso (upper right of pic) formed to the east of the old meso.12. Taking FM 1075 about 1 mile east out of Happy, I stopped to observe the new meso 13. as it spun up a dust-whirl tornado (tornado #2).14. Bumping a bit further east, I stopped once again at 6:44 p.m. and observed the large stovepipe tornado (tornado #3) that had just moved through Happy, unfortunately causing two fatalities.15. Going east again for a better overall view, the somewhat low-contrast tornado continued churning up a large, dusty debris cloud.16. However, as the RFD continued wrapping, visibility improved markedly. The funnel appeared as a ghostly, white cone contrasting nicely with the dark, dusty debris cloud rotating around it 17. as it moved to within 1/2 mile.18. Continuing east again to stay ahead, the tornado dissipated as I had my back turned to it. However, a new meso just to my northwest was rapidly developing, and just before 7 p.m., it produced a brief tornado with a slender funnel (tornado #4).19. Continuing the chase on FM 1075, the meso was almost scraping the ground and provided beautiful structure as the RFD wrapped around it.20 A well-developed beaver tail was also noted to the northeast.21. With the supercell moving into a bad road network, I took Hwy. 207 north and had a gorgeous view of the supercell as it moved over the Palo Duro Canyon.22. Cut off by the precip core from going any further north, I went south on Hwy. 207, then northeast on Hwy. 256. At 8:30 p.m. near Silverton, I was treated to a stunning view as the waning rays of sunlight illuminated the backsheared portion of the anvil.23. Attempting to catch up with the supercell on Hwy. 256, I encountered intense damage just west of Lakeview. Many trees and power poles were knocked down. The UMASS radar truck was entangled in power lines, and one of the knocked over power poles was on fire.24.; 25.
Aside from the two unfortunate fatalities in Happy and an encounter with the UMASS radar team completely blocking FM 1075 at one point (see Chuck Doswell's May 5 account for details concerning the UMASS incident), this day can easily be called the most amazing chase I've had to date. Also, I must extend much appreciation to Scott Blair and Dave Lewison for excellent nowcasting throughout the day. Check out this incredible 4-hour WeatherTap radar loop (678k) courtesy of Dave Lewison. Absolutely incredible!