Texas Panhandle Tornadoes of March 28, 2007

 

All images and text
© copyright Gene Moore

 

This was a long drive for me from San Antonio to my target area SE of Lubbock, Texas. In route I checked the data and decided I would shift my target area for storm formation further west and north to a region east of Plainview. Storms formed during the late afternoon and two became strong after about one hour. One of them was in my area of concern so I headed for that cell. It moved rather fast at first and a second cell formed in its wake. I decided to go for the south storm instead of proceeding north on highway 70. Taking a series of farm to market and dirt roads I had a good intercept of the south cell north of Floydada, TX. It was at that time I encountered a closed road due to recent heavy rains. That change in my route put me behind the curve for the first couple of tornadoes, I finally got into position just east of Silverton. At first all I could see was a flat storm base of towering cumulus feeding into the storm from the south. Soon that rapidly changed, pictured here is a distant shot of the forming wall cloud and rotating mesocyclone. The bulbous lowing was spinning and only moments later developed into the first tornado of the south storm. I couldn't stop to take more pictures from this distance, it was just too far and the haze and moisture in the air was flattening the contrast in the images. Digital photography is great, right away we know if an image is good or bad, I knew I had to get closer. It was during this time I was working my way through the farm roads both asphalt and dirt (mud) to make my way to the storm.

It would be a tough hour to get into position from the first moments I saw the distant billowing towers of the storm. Generally the first choice on a storm can be a crap-shoot unless that area is the focus for strong development. I was not totally sure of my decision until I got a good look at the back of the storm, it was exploding into a supercell minute by minute. I continued to navigate to the storm through Dougherty and west to with five miles of Floydada where I turned north on back roads. By this time I was seeing two tornadoes drop to ground and lift back up from two wall cloud circulations. Each of these circulations had a flanking line, one from the south and the other intersecting from the west. I had little time to get in position as the action had already started. One tornadic circulation was just east of highway 207 headed for South Plains and the other was near Cedar Hill. Finally I had to double back to route 207 because of closed roads due to flooding. As I got closer to the circulation on the back flank I could see swirling dust rising into the base of the lowering, another tornado was developing.

 


forming tornado   tornado in progress - white funnel
 

I this point I could see the action under the wall cloud better. It was rotating fast and drawing dirt into the cloud. Another tornado would form in minuets. It was as this position that I came upon a closed road and had to double back a costly five miles.

   

After getting past the road closure I finally got out on highway 207 north. The white funnel at the center of the image is an ongoing tornado obscured by dirt at the ground. It was from the wall cloud pictured on the left. Meanwhile the lowering on the right is producing a funnel.

 

   
 

It seem to take forever to get north and catch the storm. Roads were wet and slippy and traffic was moving very fast. I'll bet it was residents return home after the tornado to check their homes, which is quite common.

   

At this point I was finally close enough to see the tornado to my north near the town of South Plains. That community had a large tornado in 2005, but this one passed mostly to the east of town.

 

     
 

The tornado is now moving away from town and into open country. There are two funnels intermittently touching down during this time. One is down during this photograph but I would have to turn the image very dark to so it, so I left it as it was shot.

 

During this time a passed through the town of Silverton. Just east of town this wall cloud was spinning up to form another tornado. This was the wall cloud I've been following since the beginning, but had been occasionally obscured by rain. Other chasers shooting from the NE verified this with their photography.

 

   
 

Violent RFD (rear flank down draft) motions and forming scud clouds moved rapidly across the back side of the wall cloud. The road ahead would curve to the northeast giving me a better view only minutes after this image was shot.

   

The tornado started as suction spots and individual funnels snaking to ground around the cone funnel. This continued for about ten minutes at the circulation wrapped tighter.

 
   
 

This was my closest approach to the tornado now lifting dirt into the base, but the condensation funnel it still intermittently on the ground. I could hear the "waterfall" sound of the tornado at this time, but lost it as it moved further north.

   

Bits of debris and occasional condensation rise from the ground below the funnel as this image was taken.

 
   
 

Tornado continues on to the NE. These shots are video captures as I traded off shooting stills for video at this time.

   

The funnel remains planted on the ground as the tornado takes off to the northeast and away from the highway I was taking east.

 

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