April 26, 2008 San Angelo, TX supercell
It is chase season again on the Great Plains! I abandoned Los Angeles on Friday, April 25th, and stayed in Las Cruces, NM, on Friday night. The outlook for severe weather looked decent in West Texas on Saturday. Kirstie Johnson and I targeted the area from about Midland to Sweetwater to San Angelo. By mid-afternoon we were in Midland, looking for a wi-fi hotspot to fine tune the forecast. We were beneath a moist tongue of air with some strato-cu and cumulus….but where along this long SE-NW tongue should we be? The wi-fi/data search failed, and I phoned Brian Morganti. His excellent diagnosis of the current weather led us to Sterling City, which is between Midland and San Angelo. A couple of strong cells evolved out of the cumulus field not too far south of Sterling City just as we arrived!
A strong cell split and spit out some hail as we watched from Water Valley, northwest of San Angelo. It was high-based and relatively slow to move east-southeast. As it approached San Angelo it strengthened quite a bit, and the cloud-to-ground lightning activity increased dramatically. We placed ourselves several miles east of San Angelo for about an hour to photograph the storm and the lightning. I wasn’t particularly lucky on capturing the most impressive bolts, unfortunately, but I caught a few decent ones.
The storm was working on dew points near 50F when it went up northwest of San Angelo, so the tornado potential was very low. As the cell moved east of San Angelo, the dew points came up to near 60F, and the cell was tornado-warned as it moved into Concho County, near Eden, after dusk. Small hail fell on us in Eden, and I elected to continue east of Eden to escape the larger stuff that was certain to clobber the town (I later learned of hail to 1.75 inches in Eden). The supercell’s base lowered and the CGs increased to our south. We stopped in light-moderate rain to view a sculpted base, and thought we caught a glimpse of a funnel-shaped thingie sticking out of the base. It did not persist, but the tornado warning did. The road network was somewhat sparse, and we continued into Brady and then southwest from there to try to get another look at the updraft area, but the rain was too heavy north of Hext, and we turned around.
This was a really fun chase! Thanks to Brian and Martin Lisius for the forecast help. We were flying blind, with only NOAA wx-radio onboard for weather info. We are in Arlington currently (Monday, April 28), awaiting the beginning of Tour 1 on Wednesday. The weather pattern on the Plains has been quiet Sunday and Monday, and will be on Tuesday, too. Severe weather returns on Wed/Thu for the start of the tour.