Pic of the Week 5/26/16
“LP Supercell: Clarendon, TX”
Date taken: 5/24/16
Location: South of Clarendon, TX on Highway 70
Wow! What a crazy week it has been for storm chasing. I’ll go ahead and tell you right now I did not get any of the tornadoes in Kansas. So if you were expecting tornado photos I have to apologize. So far no tubes for me in 2016. But, I did get to storm chase this past week and came back with some nice shots. One of the more memorable chases happened on Tuesday (5/24).
After driving over 600 miles for a bust on Sunday I was ready for some more storm action. I brought my camera and laptop with me to work on Tuesday just for the off chance a storm went up close by. I knew I was going to be working all day, but maybe if we were slow I could leave a little early and do some chasing. When 4:00 rolled around my boss said I could go (we were slow anyways) and I called up my good friend Ian to see if he wanted to tag along. We left Wichita Falls around 4:30 and headed towards Childress, TX. A sharpening dryline over the western half of the Texas panhandle was pushing east and into a very moist and unstable atmosphere. The plan was to drive to Childress and adjust from there. Along the way we could see a cumulus field building to our west. Storm towers would rise and bubble up into the sky only to dissipate moments later. There was some explosive development, but it never looked like things would organize. Childress, TX was our target and a little closer to the dryline. “If we don’t get any storms we can catch the sunset over Caprock Canyon” I told Ian. I was really reassuring myself that even if we busted I was going to come back with some kind of photos. I called up James Langford to help us analyze our target and nowcast for us. He suggested we keep pushing west closer to the dryline. The National Weather Service was expecting storm initiation soon.
We reached Childress, TX and we could see a few storms starting to fire to our west. These storms looked different. Thick cauliflower like updrafts were surging into the sky and knife-like edges to the anvil cloud spread over our head. Radar showed a storm near Clarendon, TX and we pressed on 287 towards Clarendon. Driving closer to the storm we could start to make out more features it still looked like it was elevated and on the dryline. When we reached Clarendon we turned south on highway 70 to get a better position on the storm.
The upper level winds this day were quite weak so storms were not expected to move very fast. We found a great spot to pull off the side of the road and set up to photograph the storm. It was a beautiful low precipitation supercell. Although elevated and small the updraft had wonderful helical striations and amazing mammatus clouds. I set up my camera to record a timelapse. This nearly stationary LP supercell would be perfect for some timelapse photography. We sat and watched the updraft spin and corkscrew for almost 20 minutes then some light rain began to fall. The problem with LP supercells is they don’t have a strong downdraft, but a powerful updraft. Despite their size they can produce large hail especially in an unstable environment. To avoid the precip from the storm we drove a little farther south. On the way there we had to stop and shoot this amazing scene.
The Caprock Escarpment opens up south of Clarendon and we found a beautiful view of the canyon below with our LP storm churning on the dryline. The sun was positioned behind the storm revealing these incredible crepuscular rays stretching across the sky. I have to say this was timelapse heaven. We watched this storm for a solid hour before it finally died off—and what a magnificent death it was! I shot this image as a vertical panorama. The very top of the frame is almost looking 90 degrees straight up. The photo is made from 6 individual frames and stitched together for this ultra-wide panoramic view. Witnessing this unbelievable scene made the 300miles we drove so worth and I shot one of the most amazing timelapse sequences I have ever recorded.