June 11, 2012 Bowie, TX electrical storm
This rather unremarkable chase day wound up being a day of emotional extremes for me. It began in Manhattan, KS, and we had another long drive to make, to the Red River and vicinity near Ardmore, OK. A boundary was forecast to be hung up through north TX and into southeastern OK. A strong cap above a very warm and moist airmass would allow CAPE values to skyrocket to about 5000 just south of the boundary. There was enough shear for organized storms and supercells, but tornado potential was very low.
We managed to reach Ardmore and Marietta, OK, just north of the Red River, before any storms had formed. The cap was strong, it was hot and humid, and it was looking a bit like a bust day. Around 6 p.m. at the McDonalds in Marietta, I turned the key in the van to get the a/c going. Clickity-click-nothing. The van was dead. My drivers Penny and Danny quickly went into action and found a nearby garage and mechanic on duty. The mechanic was shuttled to the dead van via the other van, and he fiddled with a wire between the battery and starter and got the thing to start! The van was taken to the garage to tighten things up and to take care of the problem. In the meantime, some towers were starting to develop a little to our northeast, and well down south in TX, not too far from Breckenridge. As our group waited for the van repair, I checked my voice-mail and learned that I was among the 2500 Albertsons employees who were being laid off in the company’s move to cut expenses. I have worked part-time for this company (Lucky/Albertsons) for 35 years, but had only 9 years of seniority since I quit briefly in 2003. Still, I thought that I was safe when they announced the forthcoming lay-offs a week or two prior. Nope.
So, there I am at the McDonalds, out of one of my 3 jobs, waiting for the semi-disabled tour van in the heat while severe storms are beginning to develop, with only a couple of hours of daylight remaining. I guess things could have been worse, but I was a bit bummed out!
The moderate despair would be short-lived. The van returned after about an hour in the shop, near 7:20 p.m. The Breckenridge storm was moving in an unexpected motion —- right towards us! It was nearly 100 miles distant when we got out of Marrieta, but we could get on it near sunset if it kept moving northeast along the boundary. There was a severe thunderstorm watch in north TX along the sw-ne oriented boundary, and the predicted “mean storm motion vector” was “31010″, or a slow movement from the northwest towards the southeast. The Breckenridge storm was moving northeast at about 25-30 mph. It was a supercell which was anchored to the boundary and propagating along it to the northeast. Weird.
This wasn’t the best part! During the drive to the supercell, I learned that the Kings had taken an early lead against the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals!! Oh My Goodness —- I had forgotten all about the hockey game during the doom and gloom of the previous hour! Soon it was 3-0 Kings, and then 4-0 Kings! I was giddy to the extreme! I have been a Kings fan since the club came into existence, and it was looking like they were finally going to do that which they had never done before. They were about to complete a remarkable 16-4 run through the playoffs, and I was practically beside myself with happiness and anticipation!
We reached Bowie, TX, and found a hilltop about 10 to 15 miles west of town. The severe storm was just to our south, and the gigantic storm tower was just south of the road. It looked like this was a left split supercell, with the precip area to the south and southeast of the updraft base. It was a little after sunset when we stopped, and all that was left to do was to watch the cell and its fairly frequent lightning drift off to our east. A heavy hail core briefly threatened us to our south, but our locale remained dry. The tripods were set up, and I enjoyed about an hour of lightning photography as I listened to Kings’ radio announcer Nick Nickson call the 3rd period of the game (on my i-phone). The Kings coasted to an easy 6-1 victory, and the day wound up being one of the best days in my life!
A new thunderstorm developed to our west eventually, and we drove through its precip core on our way to Wichita Falls for the night. What a great way to celebrate!
And, by the way, Albertsons called me less than a month later to re-hire me.