By AARON GRAVES
A total of
12 tornadoes touched down in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles Tuesday
evening, according to a preliminary report from the National Weather
Service office in Amarillo. All 12 where rated EF0, most being
short-lived and causing little if any damage. Four tornadoes where
spawned by a storm that came close to Dalhart and moved on towards
However, the real news from Tuesday was the arrival of The Weather Channel personnel and scientists with Vortex2. Other media crews, including the Discovery Channel, were also present. They spent the day studying a huge supercell thunderstorm that dropped six tornadoes from near Channing and Hartley, towards Dumas, and on past Stinnett. Mike Bettes broadcast live on The Weather Channel near Dumas.
Most of the 12 tornadoes came from two storms. The first storm formed in Hartley County around 5:00 p.m. Quarter size hail was reported near Hartley at 5:09 p.m., which quickly grew into golf ball, then tennis ball, and then baseball size hail as the storm gathered strength. At 5:32 p.m. the first of six tornadoes set down four miles southeast of Hartley, followed by another eight miles southeast of Hartley and a third 11 miles west of Dumas.
The huge supercell storm seemed to be following US Hwy 87 on a collision course with Dumas. It was a close call. Two more tornados, one two miles south of Dumas and another two miles east of Dumas, were reported.
The storm dropped a final tornado three miles northwest of Stinnett. This was probably the strongest of the six, traveling six miles. Thankfully, it missed the city and only damaged two irrigation pivots. (Videos from the Dumas storm have already appeared online at Youtube.com, including this one near Stinnett.)
A second storm traveled into Dallam County from New Mexico. It gathered strength as it prepared to pass by Dalhart, and dropped its first twister near Ware at 8:52 p.m. Golf ball size hail was also reported. Funnels were visible to anyone on the north side of Dalhart as the storm traveled past. A second tornado dropped near Conlon at 9:30 p.m. and stayed on the ground for four miles.
Stratford also had a close call from this second storm. A third tornado dropped just two miles west of the city, followed by another 15 miles east.
In all, over 60 severe weather reports of strong winds, large hail, and tornados where received by the NWS office in Amarillo.
Tuesday’s mini-outbreak may have provided the scientific community a huge windfall. “We collected what I think will be groundbreaking scientific data,” said Josh Wurman, a research meteorologist and a member of the Steering Committee for Vortex2. Well known in the scientific community, he came to wide public attention recently on the Discovery Channel reality series “Storm Chasers.”
“Vortex2 is by far the largest, most ambitious tornado study ever,” Wurman said in an interview with KXIT Radio. “Our goal is to understand the process of tornado formation better, to observe it from all different angels… so we can learn just what it is about some of these thunderstorms that turns them into tornado producers while the majority are not.”
Why such a large undertaking? “The payoff, directly, is fewer deaths,” Wurman said.
Vortex2 members hope their research results in more accurate, advanced warnings. “Right now the average lead time for warnings is only 13 minutes, and the false alarm rate is 70%,” Wurman said. More advanced warning means more time to seek shelter. Less false alarms mean warnings will be taken more serious by the public.
Vortex2 was stationed near Channing Tuesday in anticipation of severe weather. They were in perfect position when the first storm developed. The team was able to observe the storm before it produced tornados, and kept with it throughout its life. In all, some 50 vehicles, 120 scientist and crew members, and a whole slew of cool scientific instruments documented the Dumas storm.
The first Vortex project took place way back in 1994 and 1995. Vortex2 began operations last year and made headlines with a tornado in Goshen County, Wyoming that was broadcast live on The Weather Channel.
In other news….
May, June, July and August are the typical rainy months for the Dalhart area, and the rain finally returned. A nice, soaking rainstorm slowly rolled across the area last Friday, dropping almost an inch of precipitation. It also rained Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Wednesday’s blustery evening storm added another half inch of rain and made for a dramatic sunset. So far, 1.66 inches of rain has been recorded at the Dalhart airport for May.
Last Friday’s weather dropped temperatures back down into the low 50s. Since then, we’ve been gradually warming up. So far, no rain is forecast for the area over the weekend. Temperatures are expected to get near 90 today, Saturday and Sunday. Saturday could also be a bit on the windy side.
High and Low Temps -
May 14: 51, 42; May 15: 65, 46; May 16: 72, 48; May 17: 75, 50; May 18: 74, 53; May 19: 76, 50.
May 14: 0.91; May 16: 0.04; May 17: 0.17; May 18: 0.10; May 19: 0.44; May Total: 1.66.