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Texas Night Funnel and Amazing Tornado Warned Supercells - 4/26/15




 We started our day with a 5% tornado risk that was subsequently upgraded to a 10% and then a 10% hatched risk.  We felt a huge boost in morale with the updated outlooks!



 Morning forecasting discussion.









Time to get moving!

I found it wonderful to be back in the TIV after two years - funny how time flies!  Sean needed to do some shots of the TIV, so I took the opportunity to stow away and do some interior shots of the guys and the mad max machine.












Soon we had our tornado watch.







We had two storms to choose from, both of which were severe warned at this time.  We opted for the northernmost storm, as it had a more classic / promising shape.



And indeed, the storm went tornado warned, and off we went.





 Approaching the storm, it had a nice looking wall cloud.


 

We continued to move northeast to stay with and ahead of the storm.




Around 2:50pm, the mesocyclone was nearly overhead directly in front of us, and began to exhibit an intense swirling rotation.  It felt almost as if we were looking right up at it - it was unbelievable.  I have never seen that kind of rotation up close.  Justin said, "I bet if you were a mile back you could see a funnel."  I'm pretty sure my brain exploded when he said that.  So fantastic.

Unfortunately the area of rotation weakened and the storm had moved on to the northeast.  Meanwhile the storm well to our southeast had begun to look significantly better than our own, and we began kicking ourselves.


At this time, Bubbles (our van) split off from TIV in an attempt to hedge our bets.  We took Peyton and one of the RED cameras, and blasted southeast.


 As we crossed through Dublin, TX we were met with some significant drifts of hail.  Some vehicles had slid off the road into the ditch.  Driving in hail drifts can be pretty tricky, feeling like you're just driving on snow and ice.  This type of hail production is very typically seen in high plains / CO storms.  You can see a short iPhone video of the hail as we are driving through it below:

video


We got to the storm and it was muddy and unorganized, falling apart.  We did notice a newly developed cell to our southwest was looking much better, so we doubled back to that cell instead.  At that time, TIV was on its way down to the same storm, all of us headed for a rendezvous in Stephenville.

 

 What we saw when we arrived was nothing short of spectacular.  Some of the most phenomenal storm structure I've seen in a supercell.  






Around this time the storm did produce a tornado, but it was obscured from our view, shrouded by the rain.  We realized we did not have a further play on this storm, and once more decided to drop southwest to an adjacent supercell that had some promise.  



 As the base of our new storm approached we could see some lowerings.  As we were quickly losing light, we proceeded to continue chasing this storm but with caution.  We crept north to maintain a safe visual as the storm moved east/northeast.

 I adore this photo.  Peyton was standing there shooting and it looked like he was about to be abducted by aliens.  Such a cool, otherworldly set of colors.

 Our light faded quickly, but we knew we had some areas of interest in the storm.  Intermittent lightning can play tricks on the eyes, and can make it easily look like there is a wall cloud, funnel cloud or tornado when there is not.  Patience and honest assessment is necessary.

 But, surely enough, our storm decided it was going to give it a shot, and spit out a little funnel for us.  I am shooting with a D3s, and the light was nearly entirely gone at this point.  For all intents and purposes it was just black outside.  For anyone interested, the above image was shot at f/2.8, 1/125 at ISO 16,000.

 The rest of the night I decided to try some hand held exposures just to get an idea what we were seeing but to try to do it with less grain.  Above and below images:  f/2.8, 0.8sec, ISO-8000


We don't like to chase at night, especially when the terrain and visibility is not ideal.  With prolific lightning you can gain enough visual awareness to chase safely from a distance well south of the supercell and observe backlit tornadoes if they occur, provided you have a clear view and a decent road network.  At this time we decided to call the chase and head back to our hotel in Glen Rose where Sean & the TIV crew were already waiting.  They just had a tornado warned supercell pass with a reported tornado 5mi to their SW.

When we arrived it was in the nick of time, as Glen Rose was in the line of a series of trailing supercells moving east at a mere 12-15kt.  There was a great deal of flooding around town and we had a fantastic show from the hotel lobby with crazy wind, lightning and hail flying into the front doors of the lobby.



Short iPhone video of the rain and wind outside the hotel:

video


Though we had some water leak issues in our hotel room, the staff was responsive and friendly and it was taken care of.  Overall a fantastic chase day!