Chase Date: May 22, 2016
Jari Ylioja, JR Hehnly
Miles Logged: 893
States Chased: TX
Tornadoes Witnessed: 10
Largest Hail Encountered: 2.75"
Highest Wind Encountered: 70MPH
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks
I had to miss out on the 21st in Kansas as I had a wedding to attend in Springdale, AR and then I needed to pick up Chrystal from the airport in DFW on Saturday night/Sunday. So after the wedding I drove to Dallas where I picked Chrystal up and we stayed in DFW and headed out Sunday morning to points west. My original target was Lamesa, or Lame-sa as Chrystal was saying.
Heading to Lamesa today
— Ben Holcomb (@oklahomachaser) May 22, 2016
After a quick detour to In n Out, we headed west on I-20, leaving DFW around 11. I made decent time on I-20 with minimal stops for bathroom and a stop for gas and allsups burritos in Snyder. The SPC had issued a MD which only went as far south as Lubbock. I felt like my target of Lamesa was perhaps a little too far south, so we adjusted and went towards Lubbock, ending up in Post.
Sitting in Post, Texas
The Dairy Queen had no ice cream(what the heck?), so we ended up heading to Sonic and sitting around. Storms tried firing all around, but eventually I really thought going southwest towards the storms firing off the dryline were the way to go. They were still messy, but I was hoping one would take over. We lost data once we hit Gail, but visually I could see the updrafts and they were pretty stout.
By the time we were in Howard county it became obvious that the storm out west of Big Spring was going to be a good one. It had some deviant motion, and was producing a lot of Cloud to Ground lightning. Sadly, the road networks were bad, so we had to drop all the way to I-20 before heading west out of Big Spring to come around the south side of the storm.
I captured a couple of CG strikes on camera along 176 before things started to really wrap up for the first time. We dropped south on some dirt roads and witnessed the first tornado of the day – a whispy multi vortex in a field just south of 176.
We continued south another mile and witnessed a big multivortex including a spin up on the dirt road right next to the front of my car. I had dropped a couple SN reports and eventually tried calling the Midland office but had difficulty because my phone screen had gotten wet.
Eventually I got ahold of the Midland NWS office as they were issuing (finally) the tornado warning. I continued south as the multi vortex grew bigger and became rain wrapped. The storm had taken a hard right to the south (although I hadn’t realized it was going due South yet) and the tornado even traveled perhaps a little bit to the west of south.
Large, dusty wedge that looked like a wall
It grew into a large wedge near I-20 and crossed it, apparently throwing some vehicles off the road. Due to lack of roads we had to take I-20 east and ended up taking the US87 bypass road which didn’t appear to even be open at the time, but it allowed us to get further south then west.
We tried to pass in front of the circulation on CR8 near Morita, but JR Hehnly had just witnessed an anticyclonic tornado and still had a view and messaged me letting me know not to try crossing in front since it was quickly overtaking my position.
Windshield Wiper Disaster
I continued south on 461 then east as it turned. I witnessed a couple of tornadoes off in the distance to the north. While driving towards them, my drivers side windshield wiper flew off. The storm had cycled a number of times by then, producing a few more tornadoes along 461. Eventually without a drivers side windshield wiper, I decided to bail south on Ranch Road 33, which was literally about the only road south for miles.
We got to Hillger road and I went back west to investigate a circulation and about drove into the tornado. It’s clear on video, but in person with no windshield wiper, it’s not so obvious. I had to backup fast and get out of there, heading back to 33 where we witnessed yet another tornado. All in all, we witnessed around 10 tornadoes this day.
Dropping south to get some structure photos
Eventually I ran out of roads and decided to drop south to Garden City. I was going to try and maneuver around, but ran into JR and Jari, who had an extra windshield wiper I could use after some taping it to my wiper arm. We all decided to drop south and get structure photos, as I was less confident about tornadogenesis at that point, and the storm had definitely become severely-HP in nature.
We took pictures until it was dark out south of Garden City before heading west to go around the storm. JR was almost out of gas, and in a bit of luck, we managed to find a pump in the middle of nowhere that pumped gas slower than can be to get JR enough gas to get to a gas station.
We headed home, through another bunch of storms with RFD winds kicking up dust to our west on 1800/137, then to Big Spring where we got food and Jari took over driving, taking us safely back to Norman by 5 am.