Last night in Clovis NM I awoke a number of times to bright lightning and booming peals of thunder, usually music to a stormchaser’s ears Yesterday’s storms had coalesced into a mesoscale convective system (MCS) that poured rain down across a wide area of eastern NM and western TX, moisture desperately needed by the folks suffering from severe drought. However this MCS lasted a good portion of the night and was still going strong this morning, not a good thing for today’s chase setup.

The rain-cooled air and strong outflow boundaries from the large complex of storms basically threw the atmosphere a knuckleball today…and we whiffed on it. Using the available models, surface data, and Storm Prediction Center discussions we targeted the southeastern corner of New Mexico and rolled out the parking lot by 9:15 a.m. (MDT). But as we splashed southward through the flooded countryside – plowing through substantial puddles in several towns – it became clear that we needed to push further south into sunshine. A line of strong storms had already formed east of us which was not something we had anticipated, nor was the strong outflow boundary pushed out by the nocturnal storms. Said boundary was well south of us and steaming away from us as we drove.

Thus we wound up south of I-20 in far western Texas and targeted a cell that was the right hand twin of a splitting updraft:

Typically when a cell splits the right hand version becomes dominant and is the favored half to chase. This one looked good for a few minutes but gradually fell apart as several other storms had while we watched. It finally dawned on us that the missing ingredient was low level moisture which the existing storm line to our east had apparently claimed as its own.
Noting that better moisture lay east of us we rolled in that direction but had to detour due to a collapsed bridge on one road. Another set of updrafts went up ahead of us on the detour and we stopped to let it cross the road ahead of us, seeing this rainbow as a result:
By this time it had become painfully obvious that our chances of chasing a discrete cell were slim to none. Via social media we saw that chasers out ahead of the line of storms were beginning to bail as the squall line gained strength. Thus we decided to call it a day, eating dinner in the Midland area before rolling to our hotel in Colorado City TX. But on the way we were treated to a bonus as the storm line out east of us was illuminated by the lowering sun, providing a wonderful view of underlit mammatus:
Chasing is more than seeing tornadoes. One realizes that when seeing sights like these.
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