Patience, persistence pay off in SE New Mexico

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On Friday we rested, and on Saturday we busted. It was beginning to look like Sunday would be another bust. We had watched towers climb repeatedly west of Lovington, New Mexico, until what we thought was the last one poofed out, exporting another saucer-like “orphaned anvil” toward Texas.

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So gave up on that location and drove toward storms 80 miles away at Roswell. On the way to Roswell, we got distracted by growing cumulonimbus clouds just north of the road. With the Roswell storm wavering a bit, we headed north on paved roads through open rangeland — carefully watching for numerous cows on the road — toward the new cell. It showed promise for a bit, but began to waver, and the paved roads began to bend away from the storm. But then, we got a glimpse of a tower growing about 60 miles to our southwest, east of Carlsbad, N.M. We had seen the echo on radar, but it took a good look at the storm from a distance to know this was THE STORM we needed to go after, even if daylight was beginning to run out on us. We raced south, back toward Lovington, and then southwest and south, diving in front of the storm’s path just ahead of the precipitation core. During several quick stops in front of the storm and longer ones once we were south of it, we were treated to spectacular supercell structure backlit by the sinking late-day sun.

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The funny thing is that we caught the supercell right back where we had been searching the sky earlier, west of Lovington, N.M., driving through a blacktop road through a Chevron oil field with more free-range cattle to make our dramatic intercept. A day that could have easily been among our most frustrating turned into one of our most exhilarating.

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