Tuesday, May 8, 2012

5/8 - 12:10am CDT - Today's Texas Storms

Our initial target area near San Angelo, Texas quickly soured as storms fired early in the day just after noon. This was because the environment was not capped enough, meaning warm air aloft was not present to limit storm development and isolate it so only the strongest updrafts would survive. Since all the storms fired at once, and especially in an area where winds were becoming northerly aloft, they merged into a large mesoscale convective system (MCS) that moved toward San Antonio and Austin. Before the MCS formed, the individual storms did have some rotation and supercellular characteristics. Check out this panorama of a severe storm with rotation just south of San Angelo I took earlier today below.

Once we left that batch of storms, we surged westward to the Fort Stockton and Pecos, Texas area where easterly winds and storms forming to the higher elevations to the west had the best chance to become isolated supercells. One of these cells moving due east (a "right mover") looked very promising for quite a few hours, but an outflow boundary from the eastern batch of storms near San Angelo that we were chasing contaminated the environment that the storm was in. This was surprising given that outflow boundaries are almost always a good thing since they can enhance low-level shear and create lift to eithe create other storms or enhance existing ones. The fact of the matter was that this outflow boundary was much too strong because it had a very large area of rain-cooled air from the storms to the east. This acted more like an airmass than a boundary, and the subsequent little isolated storms that formed after the initial right-moving cell we saw in West Texas did not grow as they could have because the environment was contaminated. It was a beautiful afternoon though, and the storm below is the last one we saw before heading to our hotel.

As we headed to our hotel we saw a great lightning show from storms that formed over higher elevations to our south. The lightning was fairly frequent and there were quite a few cloud-to-ground strikes. I was able to get one of my best-ever lightning shots during our time watching these storms, which you'll see to the right. Lightning photography requires patience, knowing your way around your camera, and luck. Tonight's patience paid off!

Tomorrow looks like another day in Texas or one in New Mexico. There are two target areas we're monitoring, one of them in Southern Texas and the other in West Texas and Southern New Mexico. Southern Texas would be a setup where we target storms near the same cold front we've been chasing southward for the past two days whereas New Mexico/West Texas will be more of an upslope storm situation with lower (but not inadequate) dew points. The Storm Prediction Center has outlined these two areas with a Slight Risk in their Day 2 outlook, but this may need adjusting by tomorrow morning. I'll have our latest chase forecast on here tomorrow morning!

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