May 12, 2005: Tornado & Huge Hail in S. Plains TX

Click for a 4-minute (8MB) WMV video of the tornado and hail.

Started the day in Garden City KS, after the previous day's disappointment in northern NE. A full GPS log is available for DeLorme Street Atlas. (may12_2005GPL.zip)

Our group assembled for a photo one last time, because Mark Robinson and Dave Sills had to head back to Ontario.

Left to right: Chris Kridler, Scott McPartland, Pete Ventre, Kristy Randall, Dave Patrick (in front), Mark Robinson, Dave Sills, and myself, Dave Lewison.

A few miles north of S. Plains TX, we ran across a chaser convergence of several vehicles and tour groups. That's George Kourounis of Cloud9 Tours in front of Dave Patrick's white pickup.

The storm that had gone across Plainview put out a nice bowl-shaped wall cloud that occluded off with only a few tiny spinups. I'm not inclined to call these tornadoes as they could have been along the RFD front.

The storm then gusted out as it got seeded from the upstream storm forming on its flank.

I heard several reports of this feature being a forming a wall cloud, but it was just an outflow feature from the dying storm, looking northeast. Click for a timelapse:

The new cell to the SW looked much more promising. It produced several "gustnado-ish" features that were spinning up along the outflow.

The storm had that outflow-dominant, shelfy look to it, but there was definitely still rotation on the north side of it.

The XM was having a field day with this cell. 138MPH?!?

A bit further south (3 mi north of S. Plains) the rotation on the north side of the meso tightened into a funnel. Look at that green sky in the background looking west...a sign of things to come....

The funnel descended, making ground contact at 6:14PM CDT. This tornado moved SW, S, and then SE around the parent meso as it rapidly intensified, blowing down power poles across Hwy 207. (Bottom images looking south)

Ah....you don't get more screwed than this. Power poles blocking our escape to the south, and no east roads available.

Scott angled the truck the best he could and we just sat back and took the beating of a lifetime.

A barrage of mostly baseball hail pounded the truck. The hail guards on the rear windows were getting beaten into submission, inching closer to the glass with every strike.

Here's a nice softball, partially exploding on impact.

The damage is done. Chris' Element looks like it was beaten by an angry gorilla with a bat.

Scott's XTerra was dented badly as well. But, the retractable hail guard worked great! It got damaged itself, and needs a new steel mesh, but that's it.

The rear side window wasn't as lucky. It got hit by a baseball that dented the wire mesh (1/8" steel wire!!), making contact with the glass and shattering it. Just look at the size of the dent near the gas lid!

After cleaning the glass out of the cars, we headed west to I-27, with a plan to stay in Lubbock. We were treated to some spectacular sunset images along the way.

Some radar images of the event. Times are 6:01PM, 6:10PM, 6:19PM, 6:28PM. Interesting to see how the storm managed to wrap its own outflow gust front/RFD into the north side of the meso. Visually, there was not much of a clear slot. Instead of punching into the updraft, the RFD appeared to wrap around the outside of the meso, spinning up the tornado just on the inside of the inflow notch.

The large tornado crossed the road around 6:18PM, and the baseball barrage began around 6:25. Look at the mean "hook from hell" on the 6:19 frame. Those dBz values are approaching 75.

In the velocity images, there looks to be a double couplet structure in the last frame...maybe this was the second tornado to the immediate east that was reported by several chasers?

And here's why we never made it to Lubbock. About a mile south of Abernathy, the XM showed a huge cell exploding almost on top of Lubbock. The only exit available on I-27 was 4 miles further south and may have placed us in MORE baseballs.

So, we jumped the median onto the access road and blasted back north towards Amarillo.

Gotta love XM......

All Images c. 2005 Dave Lewison. No reproduction without permission.

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