The best chases are often the ones that surprise you. Our chase north of Amarillo, Texas was no exception.
It was a spring day like any other in Amarillo. A chance of storms but little to any chance of supercells. Normally, I don’t even check radar on those days but out of curiosity I did. I saw a very nice and somewhat organized storm north of Amarillo at approximately 4:00 pm. I called my wife and told her as soon as she got off of work it was go time.
I pick her up a little after 5 and at that point I was going crazy having have waited over an hour and watching this monster mature. We headed north and right away upon leaving city limits we see a textbook wall cloud with rapid rotation. It was at that point we saw the perfect structured supercell we had been searching for. I can’t explain the exhilaration you get when you spot a wall cloud on a chase! It’s so amazing and the best natural high there is. You see this potential, this chance of a tornado happening right in front of you and the anticipation charges your soul and alerts all senses. Let me clarify that a wall cloud (rotating updraft) is generally at the right rear of a supercell and that is the part is the area where tornadoes form. To see it in person as a chaser means that you are in the right spot to see the excitement.
The storm’s beautiful structure left us watching in awe. I can’t help but think to my self, “How in the world this is happening?”. The conditions in the atmosphere where not very supportive of supercell development yet here it lies before us.
After a few moments the wall cloud dissipates but I notice instead of its normal, north-west movement, the storm decided to head south-west meaning a potential new wall cloud might have formed on the other side. So we press on and try to navigate to the other side of the storm. Successfully we do, without punching the hail core typically located in the middle of the storm. We travel a few miles north and there it is, a new wall cloud. Rotating and looking as though it will produce a tornado at any second. It doesn’t, rather, it dissipates. The wall cloud moves to another location and so do we. We are still trolling the right side of this storm and trying to keep up and we then find a new wall cloud and this time a funnel is dropping from it. We are so excited! It’s a perfect tube of smooth condensation. My wife and I watch and just get lost in its graceful beauty. We encourage its lowering and beg it to drop further, screaming frantically for it to do so. I was hoping, deep down in the pit of my stomach for it to touch the ground so my wife could see the pure beauty. In years past I have gone on many solo chases and have seen them all alone or in some cases with one of my chasing buddies.
It was dropping from the sky and in perfect pencil form she continued to descend. But then, to the left another funnel begins to drop! They dance in the sky together and flirt with the idea with touching their tornadic tails on the soft grassy plains below. I scream, “We are going to have twins!”. My wifes laughs and says humorously, “We are? I had no idea!”. The funnels are hovering over a deep canyon and as a result never quite touch but we are so invigorated by the experience.
On a day were storms were unlikely, supercells nearly unimaginable two funnels dropped. That, my friends, is what its like to chase in the Texas Panhandle. There are two things I have learned over the years when chasing here, expect the unexpected and always keep your eye out for changing conditions in the atmosphere during spring and early summer months. Lightning could strike or in this case, a couple of funnels.