Large Tornado & Monster Hail- South Plains, TX- May 12th, 2005





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Published on Oct 30, 2009

http://www.ThunderStormVideo.com Exactly one year to the day after we witnessed the amazing Harper County, KS tornado outbreak, South Plains, TX happened. But, unlike a year before, on this day things would not exactly turn out as planned. As with any storm intercept, large hail is always a threat, and at some point every chaser will most likely get caught up in it. On this day, it was our turn, along with many other chasers.

The day started out in Garden City, KS where Dave Lewison, Peter Ventre, Mark Robinson, Dave Sills and I had stayed the night before. We geared up and started heading south towards our target area. A lone supercell thunderstorm had gone up in the Texas Panhandle and it was going to be a long haul to make it there in time. Our initial target area had not been that far to the south, but that TX Panhandle storm looked so good on radar, we couldn't pass it up and went for it. To be honest, I didn't think we'd be able to make it to the storm in time, but we did! Mark Robinson and Dave Sills decided to go for a target area in south central Kansas, that decision saved much of the glass on their vehicle, lol.

Upon arriving in the town of Turkey, TX we could see our target storm, and quickly gas'd up as we wanted to make sure we had a full tank to start the chase! Most of the next few hours were spent on Route 207 waiting for our target storm to produce a tornado. It tried several times, and did produce a few brief spin-up's on the ground, but up until that point did not produce a tornado. There were some reports of this storm putting down a tornado earlier in the day, before we arrived, but I never got confirmation on that. A new updraft base took shape and now, finally....we were looking to be in good shape!

We relocated a bit further south on Route 207 to get a better view of the base and right as I set up my tripod and began rolling video again, a funnel began to form! This was it! The tornado touched down and it was beautiful! Dave, Peter and I were in awe as it slowly churned over the field to our west. However, this tornado was moving southeast, a bit unusual and we soon realized that it was going to cut us off, and prevent us from heading further south down Route 207. Here's when things got pretty bad, lol.

We pulled off of 207 and waited as it crossed the road just to our south. In reality it would have been best if we were heading east at this point, but we missed our east road option and only had a south option to work with. But looking back on it, even the chasers that took the east road option, many of them got caught up in the large hail as well so who knows.. Anyways, we waited for the tornado to cross the road in front of us and then our plan was to blast south out of the hook, and into the clear air where we'd be safe from the hail. This never happened.

What I didn't plan for was a downed telephone pole blocking our path, lol. This pole, and it's wires were in the road, right in front of me and I had to hit the breaks pretty hard to avoid crashing into them. Note to self (ALWAYS assume there will be downed poles in the road after a tornado crosses). I tried to back up to see if I could maneuver around, but right at this point, the pole behind us fell, and now we were locked into this location. At this point, our other friend Chris Kridler was right behind us, and she was stuck with us as well. In reality, I would have been able to maneuver around the poll in front of us, but at the time the visibility went to ZERO, and there was a ditch on the side of the road as well. The risk of rolling my truck was very real, and I didn't want to take a chance on that happening. Better to deal with large hail, then to roll your vehicle.

It was at this point that the hail came and munched us good! As you'll see in the video, we were getting pounded with baseball and softball size hail for quite a while, I had over 7 grand in body damage done to my Nissan Xterra. But, I will go on the record and say that I did not report any of the damage to my insurance company. I put myself in that situation by chasing, and sucked it up. Besides, I show off those dents proudly to this day! They are all still there almost 5 years later, lol.

We did manage to get out of there obviously as once things let up a bit, I could see enough to where I was able to maneuver around the downed poll in front of us. Thus ending a very exciting and stressful chase day!


©Scott McPartland


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