March 13, 2021   

My son Ryan and I made the decision to make the long trip to Texas to chase this event.  Leading up to this day, we wavered back and forth between making the trip or not making the trip, but finally, enough solid parameters lined up Friday to lure us out.

We left after my son Ryan got off work Friday evening and headed out to Overland Park, Kansas to pick up Brian Stertz.  After a few hours of sleep at his place, we began our trek to the Texas Panhandle in the darkness of the early morning.  The view on most of the daylight drive was shrouded by a low level cloud/fog deck to start the day.  Kind of creepy to see only the bases of the wind turbines out in the fields.

We arrived in the Texas Panhandle around 11:00am giving us plenty of time to develop our game plan for the day and choose our target.  We were quite sure storm initiation would occur in the western Texas Panhandle, but there were several issues that would play a part in our target decision.  The first issue was the less than adequate road system due to the Palo Duro Canyon.  We figured it would be a short window for storms to mature before entering that unchase-able area in the Canyon and getting around that large Canyon area would be a challenge for keeping up with the storms and thus, putting an end the chase day. Second, as we watched Radarscope, we watched an unbelievable herd of chasers on SpotterNet heading into that area.  With limited roads, we chose not to become a part of the ever increasing circus that has evolved around storms in the southern plains around any tornadic storm.  Third came from the SPC guidance that suggested as the storms got east into the Moderate Risk, those better parameters would intensify the storms and increase tornado potential.  Our chase team bought into those parameters that the SPC prediction was based upon.

So after our lunch in Shamrock, Texas, we chose our initial target as Memphis, Texas.  We chose this city as it had many road options; north, south, east, west, as well as a major state highway northwest and southeast.  Supercells developed in the western Panhandle.  As they approached the north/south Interstate 27 west of the Palo Duro Canyon, three of these lined-up supercells eventually became tornado warned.

The northern two cells were the strongest and eventually putting down the first brief tornadoes.  Meanwhile, we stayed patient with our plan in waiting for some more discrete cells in the Moderate Risk out in front of this broken line of supercells to the west.  We were optimistic when the Storm Prediction Center put out their Meso Discussion and ironically, their arrow was pointing right at the spot we were sitting.

Several discrete storms northeast of  Lubbock caught our attention and were coming in our direction.  We watched each of these areas of storms as we continued to remain patient.  As the Supercells out west entered the Canyon area, we were hearing reports of them strengthening and producing more significant tornadoes near and in the Canyon.  We repositioned ourselves to Clarendon, Texas to give ourselves an opportunity to intercept those cells if they remained strong coming out of the Canyon.  We eventually finalized our plan to make a move Northwest to intercept those storms as the storms to our southwest were not intensifying.

We took that road option to the northwest, State Highway 287, and set our intercept point at Claude, Texas for the northern most and strongest cell coming out of the Canyon Area.  We were there in plenty of time and worked our way into the rain surrounding the circulation, but as the rotation area of the storm came into view, the storm no longer had a visible tornado. 

We then took aim at the second storm coming up.  As we moved back south to line up the second cell,  we were blasted by quarter size hail from the hail core of that second storm.  As we got into position on the second storm, we were met with the same fate as the first cell.  The circulation had weakened and no tornado was visible.  We worked our way southward again attempting to get into position to view the next storm in the line.  Nothing doing again.

Now we turned our attention to the cells that were originally to our southwest that were not intensifying.  They had now had an uptick in their intensity and hinting at some velocity, but after working our way further south to investigate both of those cells, neither had any strong tornadic characteristics.

We ended the day with a small cell just to the south of Clarendon, Texas.  We watched it develop and then followed it up to and through Clarendon. 

It became tornado warned as we navigated the roads to follow it northward.  As we headed toward Interstate 40 on the road north of Clarendon, we came across one snapped power pole.  Thinking this was quite odd at the time, we later found out the storm we were following put down a brief tornado crossing the road and causing the damage just a few minutes ahead of us, but as the case all day, it was completely hidden by the rain from our view. 

Rain from the storm was also quite heavy and was causing massive amounts of flowing water out of the fields and nearly over the road in several spots. 

We got to the on-ramp to Interstate 40 to discover the Highway was at a complete standstill with trucks and cars stopped as far as the eyes could see both ways  Found out later that the Highway Patrol shut the Highway down in both directions to give this possible tornado room to pass over the Highway safely.  This delay put an end to our chase day.

Overall, a very disappointing day for our team as the expectations were much higher.  The area we had hoped for discrete supercell development in the Moderate Risk failed to produce as expected.  Although we did have successful intercepts of storms, the storms we intercepted had weakened to the point of either no tornadoes or were rain wrapped so the best parts were not visible to us.

Another side note:  Some of the pictures used in this story are video grabs as there were few times that we were able to set up photos as we were always on the move during the interesting parts of the storms.

40 Hours - 1787 Miles

Click on the link below to see video of some of these storms.

Return to the
Summary 2021 Page

Return to the
Storm Index Page