Photo taken by Samantha Wright.
The first few days of the 2016 trip were long ones: 900+ miles driving on the first day followed by another 600 miles and a storm intercept on the second. Going in we knew that the best chance for storms was in southwestern portions of Texas, so we decided on a marathon drive from Blacksburg to Texarkana for the first night, arriving in Texarkana around 1:30am EST (12:30am CST).
The marathon didn’t end there: our second day we arose early and hit the road, aiming for San Angelo Texas in hopes of making it there in time for a day-2 intercept of a storm. We made it, and intercepted a cluster of storms south of San Angelo. Road networks were limited, so our time on the storm was laced with constant analysis of its motion relative to the single road that would dictate a safe retreat. We would stay with the storm as long as we could in one location before being forced to retreat a distance and start the process over again. A very low wall cloud accompanied by strong inflow winds greeted us on a narrow one-lane (but paved) road. As the storm closed in on our location, we moved east and then south to stay close along the one road that could lead us to safety if needed.
Heavy rain and hail rapidly approach, and we depart in a hurry. The heavy precipitation core enveloped the road a minute later.
The menacing storm continues to move ever closer, and we linger as long as safely possible.
This was not a big tornado day, and we didn’t expect one. The ingredients were simply not in place for a greater tornado threat this day. We did accomplish a couple of very important things though: 1) we safely made it back to the plains 2) the crew made the most of the opportunity to learn the forecasting, navigation, and storm analysis needed for a successful intercept.
If the upcoming pattern is any indication, this day of training on a storm will be a valuable asset in the days to come.