May 29th was the type of day you live to chase for, a “classic triple point” with a strong dryline punch in central Kansas and a deep low pressure system near Wichita and 1800 CAPE on the DDC 0z sounding. SPC had issued a high risk area covering most of the central plains, a very large area which was more or less useless when you need to narrow it down to a single corn field. I choose to play the dryline punch as opposed to the triple point and it paid off extremely well. My late afternoon cumulus towers began to build and shortly after a couple of low precip supercells formed between Highway 54 and the OK/KS state border. We could monitor both storms from one location, but quickly got into position when a wall cloud began forming on the southern cell. With more cells popping up just south of the OK border, the pressure began to build, our storm was rotating, but it wasn’t in a hurry to produce a tornado. Meanwhile, tornado warnings were being issued across north-central Oklahoma, and we had time to get to them. I decided to wait as patiently as possible and not long after that, our storm tapped into some extremely moist air with dewpoints in the high 60s and began to spin like a top. We were positioned less than a mile from the first tornado formed, giving us easy access to pursue the tornado for several miles during its 31-minute lifespan.
Not the most productive storm chasing day of 2003, but we ended up with a brief tornado near Clarendon, Texas.
The Storm Prediction Center issued a Moderate Risk for the area in and around Wichita Falls. A much larger Slight Risk area extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Colorado/Nebraska Panhandle.
We started our day from Liberal, KS. The initial target area was near Wichita Falls. However, as we were driving south through the Texas Panhandle we crossed the Dryline and made the decision not to proceed to our initial target near Wichita Falls.
Most of the day was spent monitoring conditions via satellite. We parked at a truck stop along Interstate-40 at the State Highway 70 Intersection.
This is about 25 miles north of Clarendon. By mid-afternoon, we visually noticed towering cumulus to our southwest and opted to begin our day’s chase operations.
Storm development began in dry air. As the developing storm crossed the Dryline boundary, the skies grew dark very quickly. At times we encountered some large hail, about golf ball size. The windshield on the storm chasing tour van ended up getting a large crack in it.
Chasing in this part of Texas is always a wonderful experience. The paved rural roads greatly help in intercepting storms without risk of getting stuck. We got on the storm and stayed with the updraft base, which at times became wrapped in rain with a strong rear-flank downdraft present.
Staying southeast of the east traveling storm, there was a quick break in the occluding rain curtain that gave us a quick peek at a tornado as it was weakening.
All in all, as stated it wasn’t the most productive day in terms of tornadoes, but any day with a tornado is worthy of a celebratory dinner. We traveled to Amarillo and had dinner at The Big Texan, a landmark of the Texas Panhandle.