Texas Panhandle Tornadoes 5.16.17; Moderate Risk Thursday - Oklahoma Skies

Posted on May 17, 2017 at 6:51PM CDT

I don't have a whole lot of time on here, so I'm going to let the pictures do the talking for the most part. Yesterday we followed a couple of long tracked tornadic supercells from the far eastern Texas Panhandle into portions of west central Oklahoma. Witnessed at least four tornadoes. Here are a few shots of the first supercell and tornado we saw near McLean, TX.

A photogenic tall stovepipe tornado touched down near McLean, and lasted for a good ten to fifteen minutes. The tornado quickly went into the rain however and we lost sight of it as it roped out. As this storm began to cycle, we decided to drop south on another cell which would eventually produce several damaging tornadoes, including the Elk City, OK killer. 

The structure on this supercell was absolutely textbook and quite breathtaking to say the least. The following image is as we were following a county road into Oklahoma looking towards Erick. This storm had a very large and low wall cloud and several brief tornadoes touched down before eventually producing the rain wrapped wedge as it barrelled into the south sides of Elk City. We ended up making a navigation mistake and lost the storm, therefore losing view of the tornado. 

After realizing that we were eating the Elk City storm's dust(and almost literally at one point. We had at least 40-50mph inflow into the storm that was creating considerable blowing dust), we decided to play a new cell that had popped up and quickly organizing near Eldorado, OK. This particular cell put on quite the lighting show as it traversed the wichita mountains and we ended up in a pretty hairy situation on a muddy county road as the rfd(rear flank downdraft) overtook us. The storm tried wrapping up a few times, but it became clear the farther east these storms moved off the richer theta-e axis and into increasing CINH that they would quickly weaken.

Moving on to tomorrow, the risk for severe storms ramps up again in some of the same areas impacted by yesterday's storms.

The Storm Prediction Center(SPC) has gone with a moderate risk over southwest Kansas and adjacent northwest Oklahoma for tomorrow afternoon and evening. Large upper level trough to our west will continue to send pieces of energy amidst southwesterly upper level flow, while a dryline sets back up to the west with a triple point across southwest Kansas. The risk areas tomorrow will be a hair farther east compared to Tuesday, with a much larger area at play as well. Storms may also be more numerous tomorrow.

Strong instability and favorable low level and directional shear will promote supercell storms capable of all severe hazards tomorrow afternoon and evening. Storms will likely develop around 3-4pm across northwest Oklahoma and southwest Kansas and these will be the ones most likely to produce significant severe weather, including the possibility of a long tracked tornado or two. Farther south, convective mode is a little more unclear and storms may form a bit earlier along the dryline from southwest Texas into central Oklahoma. These storms will also be capable of large hail and damaging winds. Tornado potential depends on whether or not storms can stay discrete and hodographs in this area are not nearly as elongated/curved compared to the northern target. In both cases, storms will eventually congeal into one or more complexes/lines during the evening with the tornado threat transitioning to more of a hail/wind threat. 

Going into Friday, severe weather will continue to be a threat as a cold front pushes into the state. Increasingly parallel flow to the boundary will create a situation where significant rains and flash flooding will become an issue going into the weekend. Some parts of the state along the I-44 corridor could receive several inches or more of rain by the time this system is done. 

Will likely be out and about again tomorrow. We will have updates on our social media pages, which you can follow by clicking the buttons below. Stay weather aware tomorrow!! 

Sidebar; It seems that people continue to stop under overpasses during hail. This is a BIG NO NO! You are not only putting yourselves in danger(especially in a situation of an approaching tornado. Overpasses act to amplify tornadic winds which could impale you due to flying debris or worse.), but you're also putting others in danger by restricting traffic flow! Hail is never fun to be caught out in, which is why we stress to people to have a plan BEFOREHAND and to not venture into these storms! If you find yourself caught in hail, pull OFF the road and try to find shelter elsewhere. Never seek shelter under an overpass! 

Also reckless driving by media/storm chasers alike are causing huge headaches/safety concerns as well. NO ONE is immune to basic traffic laws! You see a stop sign, you do just that. STOP. I have seen several instances in just the last few weeks alone of chasers flying through stop signs without acknowledging their surroundings. We just had a deadly wreck because of this a couple months ago and we are cruising for another if people don't stop with the craziness. While I don't discriminate who chases and how they chase for the most part, I DO care about the safety and well being of others. NO storm is worth losing your life over. Live to see another chase! Be courteous to others and aware of your surroundings! Stop the drama.

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