2015 Chase Diaries, Day 2, 5/29: Supercell near Abbott, NM

GPS logs:

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[Locations mentioned in text either annotated or circled.]

Started the day in Dodge City, KS targeting the TX Panhandle. Unfortunately, the MCS the night before cleared all the way down to the Gulf and wiped out the rich theta-e air in western TX. So we were working on nothing, really. But a chase-cation is a chase-cation. I had to do with what I had.

Took off at 9:30 towards Amarillo, but decided to stop at Dalhart instead after seeing some TCU in the area and the HRRR being pretty enthusiastic about the area. Actually the HRRR has been complete crap this year, not sure why I keep looking at it, but it worked out in the end. Ate a quick lunch as storms began to initiate off higher terrain. There were three areas of interest: a clump of storms that had developed near Raton, NM, fairly mature cells in the vicinity of Roy, NM, and some anemic looking stuff near and south of I-40. Ultimately, decided to ignore the latter and repositioned to Clayton, NM to figure out which of the northern clumps I’d target.

Stopped in Clayton to see that the southern cells hadn’t changed much in character, while the northern clump had merged into one cell. In a matter of a few scans while I was stopped in Clayton, the northern cell intensified quickly. Furthermore, there was a route that would take me directly to the cell (a rarity for the road-sparse northeastern NM).

Game on.

Except: I forgot to fill up on gas in Clayton. While my gas tank was still 2/3 full, I knew I’d need a full tank to last me through the storm chasing climax. But I forgot, and this would come back to haunt me.

Approaching the updraft on NM-193 north of Gladstone (the white SUV is my rental). Rock solid.

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Didn’t look tornadic though. Inflow was cold, thanks to the early morning MCS that wiped out the good air. CG lightning activity was wicked, no photos though.

A few minutes into it, the storm kicked up some dust in the distance. (Barely visible in the photo.) Figured it was some RFD surge ongoing.

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Decided at this point to backtrack some to avoid the hail core. This is between two radars so everything is visual. Saw some fellow storm chasers.

Looking north again, another shelfie to add to 2015’s vast collection.

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I backtrack some more, all the way back to the main road (US 56). Stopping again and looking west, I am greeted with a lowering!

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Well that looks more like it! Zoomed out view.

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And as it crosses the highway.

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I know the storm was trying hard. But inflow was just cold. RFD was probably freezing, given how high cloud bases were.

Backing up some more, I see the storm has become a massive HP beast. Wish I wasn’t so frantic on avoiding the core, so I could have composed this better. It was beautiful.

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A few miles to my west, the storm unleashed this:

To keep up with the cell, and not get cored, my strategy was to blast down south on NM-120. Stopped a few times but the structure was no longer so pronounced. Some random pics, including obligatory cows:

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At this point I’m far enough from the cell to avoid the core, and watch it as it gracefully marches southeastward. End up at a viewing spot with a bunch of other chasers, and see a rainbow emerge from the hail shaft:

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Met a couple of chasers (damn I wish I remember one of the guy’s name), and Roger Edwards from SPC. Here’s the chaser “convergence”:

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The storm seems to weaken at this point, but some mammatus can be resolved:

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All in all, a great day. Story’s done right? Nope, not quite.

Remember when I forgot to get gas as Clayton? I still have 1/3 tank left, and Roy seems to be a good place to get gas. There is also no data reception here, and I also figure Roy, on the highway, a good place to get data and figure out what other storms are ongoing.

30 minutes later, I get to Roy. It has nothing.

I could go down that highway (NM-39) and hope that the next town has gas and data, or I could keep going west on NM-120 and hit Wagon Mound on I-25, which would definitely have gas. But the latter option puts me too far west and out of contention for additional storms.

“Live to chase another day”… and so I pick the latter option, and get my gas. [By the way, the scenery is incredible on NM-120 between Wagon Mound and Roy.]

Oh yeah, and since it’s the interstate, I also get my data back, and see massive supercells south of Clovis. Remember those initial storms I blew off because they looked like crap? They blew up an hour later.

About an hour after seeing those supercells on radar, one of them did this:

Well, that’s chasing for you. I’m not sure if I would have made it even if I blasted south on NM-39. Roy to the tornado was at least 2-3 hours. No regrets, safety comes first. Running out of gas in the middle of nowhere is no bueno.

Overall, great day. A few setbacks but watched an amazing supercell. Staying overnight at Santa Rosa, NM.

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