Texas Panhandle Magic

April 3rd, 2019 was my first chase of the Spring season, not including a few local chases in Colorado in March. I was eyeing the eastern Texas panhandle for a few isolated, sculpted supercells. The tornado threat was on the low end, though not completely improbable. But from the perfectly spiraling wind profiles through the soundings I was examining, I knew that if we could get some storms to sustain in that environment, it wouldn’t take long for them to become sculpted by those winds. There was ample mid-level shear to work with and just the perfect amount of moisture without being overkill.. and when the first cells started to fire and become more and more robust, we were in business.

We were among the first chasers to arrive on this beautiful storm near Memphis, Texas as it began to take shape. It began as an elevated storm, and seemed to struggle in the early stages as it was fighting the capping inversion. Even still, it was photogenic, and we enjoyed unobstructed views of it and other storms in the vicinity for miles in all directions.

We continued to track along with this storm, heading east and keeping ahead of it as it slowly meandered across the barren farmland. It didn’t take too much longer before it tapped into the better winds and moisture, and the incredible structure began to form. I was in awe of its beauty. The texture of the swirling updraft and the light that seemed to be caught in all the ridges and striations was something truly magical to witness.

I lost track of how many times we stopped to take photos. We found it impossible to stay out of the hail as we continued to skirt just south and east of the edge of the core, so we continuously stopped, grabbed a handful of shots, then blasted east a little further just as the core threatened to bury us. The process continued.

By this point in our chase, I could hardly keep myself together. I could not process the spectacular scene I was witnessing. Every angle, every stage of this supercell became more and more dramatic and breathtaking. I continued to snap away ferociously on my Nikon D810, desperate to capture the beauty of this storm in all its epic perfection.

And here, the grand finale.. I shot the above photo sitting passenger, shooting out the window as we tried to navigate a tricky road network to stay ahead.. and then, as luck would have it, our tire began leaking air and going flat. While Scott Peake, my chase partner and driver at the time, quickly changed the tire to his spare, I continued to fire away a few more shots, but the structure was starting to fall apart, and I knew our chase was coming to an end. It was one of those chases, though, that you desperately try to hang onto.. one of those storms you never want to let go of.. I felt the sadness creep in as we watched it shrivel and drift away.

This chase, this storm.. this is what storm chasing is all about for me. Being able to follow this majestic supercell throughout its entire life cycle, from formation to dissipation, was so surreal and enjoyable. In those moments, you feel as though you become one with the storm.. you get to know the storm, all its angles and shapes and colors and sounds and motion.. the feel of the winds as they rip and howl into the storm… I’m not sure there is a feeling in the world that compares to it.

I am forever grateful for the limited opportunities I do have to chase these incredible visual artistic masterpieces of nature. I am forever hungry for my next opportunity to be out on the open road in pursuit of storms.