June 15, 2009 Storm Chase – Texas Panhandle

June 15, 2009

Storm Chase

Texas Panhandle

Editor:  Putnam E. Reiter

Forecast/Setup –

Risk Area:  Slight Risk
Initial Target Area:  Shattuck, Oklahoma

SPC Products: SWODY1 16:30z –  Local Storm Reports


SPC Case Review

This setup was not much different than what we saw on the 9th.  The ridge was still in-place over Texas and had nudged into Oklahoma.  A southern stream longwave trof was positioned just off the southern California coast.  This kept stronger 500mb flow across the region.

Presence of seasonable heat and humidity led to afternoon CAPE values above 4000 J/Kg across much of Oklahoma into Kansas.  Kansas had several rounds of severe weather leading up to this day.  A well defined shortwave trof was progged to eject northeast during the day, at a favorable time for afternoon thunderstorms.    Models did not handle moisture fields well and hence dryline movement.  Several of the models showed the dryline into Oklahoma by mid-afternoon and erroneous drying in Texas advecting into Oklahoma.  Neither of these occurred, the dryline remained in the central Texas panhandle.

Models did indicate that storms would develop during the mid/late afternoon hours along the dryline from western Kansas southward into the Texas panhandle as the 500mb shortwave trof ejected northeast.  This did occur with initial development in Kansas.  SPC quickly issued a tornado watch from Dodge City to near Lubbock.  Additional storms developed near and north of Amarillo.  The storms near Dodge City produced a few tornadoes and the activity near and northeast of Amarillo mainly produced destructive hail.

A pair of supercells developed just east of Wichita, Kansas, most likely on an old frontal boundary, and both produced tornadoes. These were probably the best storms of the day as they were isolated from the activity to the west.  There were only a few severe thunderstorm warnings for Oklahoma on this day and not significant occurred.

The Chase –

Team 1 – Rob Ferguson, Brett LaBare, and Putnam Reiter
Miles Driven – 430 – Gas spent $40.00
Departure Time – 14:00 CDT
Return Time – 22:30 CDT


We left Oklahoma City and headed west on I-40 to HWY 281 up to Watonga and then back west on HWY 3.  We got to Woodward and dropped by Walmart to get a charger for Rob.  I got the equipment setup and we headed on into Woodward to grab some grub.  As we got close we heard word of storms in the panhandle, so thought itw as best we headed on west.  Finally got grub and gas, then headed southwest to Shattuck on HWY 15.  I really couldn’t make up my mind on whether to go north or south at Shattuck, but the storm’s rapid movement east (relative for June) made me want to go south.  So, we went south on HWY 283 to HWY 60 and went west.  We had storm scale features at this point, even though we were 20 miles away from the storm.

We got into Higgins, Texas, and went west on HWY 213.  We drove to HWY 305 just south of Lipsomb and just sat there.  At this poiint we had a good view on the storm as it was just to our northwest.  The lightning was impressive and Rob got some decent pictures of it.  The rainfree base was well defined but wall cloud cycles were inconsistent and there weren’t any well defined RFD cycles.

As the storm got to our north it started to lose some surface features and sure enough a quick look at radar indicated it was weakening.  But, never fear another storm had developed along the dryline just southwest of our current storm.  We watched it a little bit longer and then continued west on a dirt road for about a mile.  Finding a good hill, not a hard thing to do in the panhandle, we setup to watch the storm.  As the storm approach, we noticed a well defined wall cloud and saw a RFD cycle.  I talked with Jay and Andy, finding out a tornado warning had been issued on this storm.  We tried to drive farther west but the road was closed as it went private.

We drove back to our hill and watch some more.  A funnel developed for a brief time as the RFD cycle appeared to finish.  Once this happened the storm developed a new lowering and we continued to watch it.  A short time later we noticed that this storm was also losing features.  Radar confirmed the storm was weakening, but we stayed with it.  Eventually the rain shaft decreased and the storm was nothing more than a residual updraft.  It was interesting to see a storm go from warranting a tornado warning to a mere updraft in 20-30 minutes.  Albeit tough since it didn’t produce a tornado.

We drove north a little on HWY 305 thinking we were going to intercept a third storm in Oklahoma but after looking at radar we decided it wasn’t worth it.  We headed back south on HWY 305 and got a few more pictures.  Note, I think there were 800 pictures between Rob and Brett, not including the 33 minutes of HD video.

We then got to HWY 213 and went east through Higgins and then on HWY 60 east to Seiling.  As we neared Seiling, another storm had developed and started to decay.  Rob and Brett got a few more pictures of the sun through the decaying rain shaft.  After that we got into Seiling for some fuel, food, and walk around.  We headed southeast on HWY 3 to Watonga and south on HWY 281 to I-40 and then back to OKC.

With this chase,

Lessons Learned –

–  This is about as good as it gets.  We did everything right, just didn’t have the luck.

Multimedia –


Encounters –

Engaged Storm:  South Lipscomb
Tornado:  No
Funnel:  No
Hail (larger than 0.75 inches):  No
Wall Cloud:  Yes
Wind (above 57.4 mph):  No

Engaged Storm:  West of Lipscomb
Tornado:  No
Funnel:  Yes
Hail (larger than 0.75 inches):  No
Wall Cloud:  Yes
Wind (above 57.4 mph):  No

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