20160517: Texas Storms

Lane and I headed out around 1700 with the goal of Junction, TX in mind. We didn’t make it as far as Junction because of traffic, but that worked out as we hit a new cell forming near Harper, TX. The cell exploded quickly and became severe quickly as well. We found a great vantage point of the structure, lightning, and what we think was at least a funnel (possibly a tornado, but the ground was obscured by trees along the horizon). We only saw rotation for a single radar sweep and then it was gone, and the video/photo suggests if it was there, it was very brief.

Afterward, we attempted to head to Kerrville to head off the line of storms approaching I-10. We didn’t make it because the rain and hail from the Harper cell, winding and flooding roads make going very slow. By the time we got north of Kerrville we were in the core of a larger cell dropping 2.5″ hail on us with accumulation on the road and hail fog dropping (along with pouring wind-driven rain) dropping visibility to 10 feet at times and extremely difficult to even see the lines on the road. It was very slow going.

Once we reached the I-10 we tried to race SE toward San Antonio to catch the line there, but again, we didn’t make it. This time because of pounding rain and winds, jack-knifed trucks, hydroplaning cars, etc. We were under the front winds for over an hour. We couldn’t get ahead of them and waiting for them would have put us in the harder rain and hail for the entire drive to San Antonio.

After reaching north San Antonio we decided to call it a night and head over to the I-35. There we ran into major flooding, vehicles stuck in the water with people trapped and water rescues occurring (one of which we had to call 911). It was slow going but we finally got clear of the heavy rain and into smoother sailing on the Interstate between New Braunfels and San Marcos. Ended the night at Denny’s at 0230 eating pancakes and french toast. Then up until 0500 trying to figure out if we actually saw a funnel or not on the Harper storm. We submitted what we had and the evidence we had to NWS San Antonio for them to determine what we may or may not have seen.

With that said… let’s get to pics and videos! As always, click on an image to see the full size.

It was pretty dark when we got to Harper. Luckily the camera increased the ambient light so we could see the structure better, but doing so makes the pictures a bit grainy:

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Lightning helped us see the structure better:

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When it got too dark for even the camera to use ambient light, we had to rely solely on lightning. We saw a lowering several times and then finally caught a wall cloud:

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The wall cloud continued to develop quickly and became this:

vlcsnap-2016-05-18-03h07m40s188

Then we started to see what we thought was at least a funnel, but just could not be sure in the dark, even with the aid of lightning. It wasn’t until we got home and went through the video frame by frame that we feel we were in fact looking at a funnel and possible tornado.

There was one lightning strike that shows a funnel. However, we fully concede that this is possibly a trick of the light. But given the other frames we caught, we are including this one as well:

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Then there’s this single frame:

vlcsnap-2016-05-18-03h44m58s136

Then we found five frames where it seems clear to us that there’s at least a funnel and possibly a tornado on the ground. I’ll include all five frames below and then the GIF we created with the frames where you can see rotation. I used ACDSee to lighten the frames up so their more visible.

GIFFER001

GIFFER002

GIFFER003

GIFFER004

GIFFER005

And here’s the GIF:

output_eRfhFy

Then we drove through that core with 1″ hail and head toward Kerrville. Along North Ranch Road 783 between Harper and Kerrville (about 5 miles north of I-10) we encountered hail and fog, then hail accumulation (oh, that’s why it’s suddenly foggy lol), and then increasingly larger hail up to 2.5″ with horrendous visibility.

A quick stop in Kerrville at a gas station then the long windy and rainy ride down toward San Antonio where we encountered this (luckily the lightning helped illuminate the shot):

20160517_223015

While heading into the north San Antonio area we passed eight fire trucks and two ambulances heading west on the I-10. Either we had just missed on helluva pileup or there was an 8 alarm fire somewhere. We never could find any news about it, though.

We gave up the chase essentially as there was no way to catch up to the line after taking so long to get from Kerrville in the pounding rain. Then we ran into flooding, floating cars, and water rescues…

This one we had to call 911 on. There were two cars stuck total and neither would roll down their windows and answer our calls. The drive of the vehicle behind this one finally got out and pushed his floating car back south until he hit concrete and then kept pushing. When the Fire Department showed up, it turned out no one was in this car and they had already abandoned it. While the firetruck was sitting there, with two cars swamped, several cars went AROUND the firetruck and tried to make it through. The Lincoln made it through the water, but stalled out less than a block after the water. The Kia Soul tried to run with a set of tires on the sidewalk, which helped mostly, but in the long run they got too much water in the engine and bogged down after they hit the edge of the flooding. People are stupid.

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Then it was zig-zagging between I-35 and the service road to avoid flooding on each. The second one we encountered had two vehicles stalled in the right two lanes of the I-35 and a vehicle stalled on the exit ramp with a Sheriff on the service road with his lights on stopping people on the service road. Traffic was not stopped on the I-35. The far left lane was passable, but was already getting water on it. Our concern, especially since the two cars on the Interstate still had people in them, was that someone was going to come barreling in and hit them.

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We passed two more water rescues happening in underpasses, but at that point kept driving instead of stopping.

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