Jay and I awakened this morning in Clovis to an almost ideal situation. For once we were starting near our target area, so we would not have to drive far to see action. Although I did need to be in Norman the next day for work, I would not have to be in until 11:30am, so it would be no problem if we got back as late as 4am. So we were not in a real big hurry to get anywhere today. After lunch at Burger King, where I enjoyed a Texas Jalapeno Bacon Cheeseburger, we meandered west from Clovis to look for a place to pull over and monitor reports and watch the sky.
By the time we found a place to stop west of Melrose, we were no longer able to get TV or NOAA Wx Radio reception. We did have a good view of the sky, so that was one thing going for us. But while we were there, it was apparent we probably wouldn't have as much going for us as we did yesterday (at least as far as storms were concerned). The easterly winds we had yesterday weren't there - they were out of the due south today - so much for the upslope. The rolls of stratocumulus streaming in from the east weren't there today either - in fact, the stratocumulus today was actually coming in from the southwest! Clearly today would not provide as spectacular of a show as yesterday did. By 3:30pm MDT, we did begin to see some mushy looking convection trying to go up about 100 miles or so to our northwest, and we saw what appeared to be cirroform anvils about 70-100 miles to our west or southwest. Jay was eager to go after the stuff going to our northwest right away, but I wanted to wait to see what the stuff to our west and southwest did. Also, the stuff to our northwest was not in a good road network yet. If those ended up being the storms we went after, I wanted to wait for them to get closer to Clovis so we would have more road options in order to better manuever around the storm. We did agree that we needed to be in a different spot however, since we were still in the data hole. So we drifted north from Melrose, keeping an eye on the storms to our northwest and trying to get TV/radio reception. We never were able to get good reception though, so we ended up driving back to Clovis.
Once we got back to Clovis, we found a Wal-Mart parking lot to stop and monitor reports on TV and radio. Whatever was to our west and southwest seemed to fizzle out, while storms continued to build to our northwest. We listened in amazement to reports of unseasonably cold temperatures behind the front, including 49F in Clayton! At 4pm??!!! Wow!!! We then saw radar images of big messy clusters of storms which extended from east central New Mexico through the Texas panhandle and into northwestern Oklahoma. At this point, I figured we were going to have a big MCS on our hands. Since I needed to be home the next day anyway, I suggested that we head on back to Norman. After all, whatever we saw in New Mexico would probably not be much different from what we saw in Texas or Oklahoma, and there would be an excellent chance of the MCS overtaking us on the way home. Although we did hear a couple of tornado warnings for the Tucumcari area right before we left Clovis, we dismissed these as gustnadoes after looking at radar images, and therefore ignored them.
On the way back, we went through Dimmitt and Tulia instead of Amarillo to buy some time before being overtaken by the MCS. Skies were mostly overcast through the Texas panhandle as the storm's anvils spread downstream. Somewhere near Tulia, I noticed that our southerly winds had become easterly. Although I still wasn't expecting tornadoes, I knew that even squall lines and MCS's can get a boost from upslope winds, so that made hopeful. The drive was for the most part uneventful until we got east of Silverton, when Jay narrowly missed hitting about 8 deer which were standing out in the middle of the road. What is it with us almost hitting deer this year? Right after that harrowing experience, Jay noticed a high vista to the left of the road, and wanted to get out to get pictures. I passed on the opportunity to get pictures, and was going to wait in the truck until he finished. That was until the shelf cloud started roaring over the horizon! It seemingly no time, we went from a slate gray featureless sky to a huge dark umbrella shaped shelf cloud racing towards us from the west. I scrambled out of the truck to set up the tripod as the shelf filled the sky over the reddish canyons to our west. The underside of the shelf was initially dark gray, becoming mixed with tinges of blue as it drew closer. The forward speed of the shelf cloud was incredible, and brought back flashbacks to May 27, 2001 and June 15, 2002. Before we knew it, a tremendous burst of wind came out of the west, nearly bowling us over and sending my hat tumbling across the parking area. Jay raced over to retrieve my hat before we got back in the truck and made a hasty retreat. Soon after we left, the rains arrived, and quickly became so heavy we could barely see past our windshields. Even some hail was mixed in with the intense rain, but fortunately it was just pea sized today. We stayed in the rain until around Memphis, where it began to let up. In fact, there were some areas in the southeastern Texas panhandle the roads appeared dry! That changed once we got back into Oklahoma, where the rains picked up again. We encountered some flooded roads in Altus, and stayed in moderate to heavy rain until just before getting back into Norman. We arrived back in Norman at 1am CDT, where Jay dropped me off at my work's parking lot to pick up my car. Jay then headed back to Austin, no doubt bringing with him stories of amazing storm encounters and a truck full of dents to prove it!
Today's chase gets a 10 out of 16. It was great to be able to get in a productive mini-chase vacation. It was also great that Jay was able to enjoy two days filled with severe weather on what will likely be his only opportunity to chase this year. Jay totally missed out on our chase vacation with Shawn, Ed, and Mike two weeks earlier.
Total Mileage: 474 miles
Total Driving Time: 12 hours, 15 minutes
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