Chasing the Weather – MSU storm chase class day 7 update

COLUMBUS, Mississippi (WCBI) – Wednesday, May 24th proved to be quite an active day across east-central New Mexico into western Texas. All severe weather hazards occurred.

We began the day in Lubbock, Texas and ventured west into eastern New Mexico. Our target city was Tucumcari in Quay County. We arrived early in the afternoon and found a small park to wait for any developing storms.

Storms began developing shortly after 5 PM MDT just north of Tucumcari. They quickly strengthened and became severe, initially producing a hail and wind threat near the city.

Nm 6

Structure was already “good” in the storm thanks to improved mid/upper level shear. In the picture above, there was already a well-defined updraft with limited precipitation, indicating potential severity and strengthening.

Nm 3

Structure on the storm remained impressive as it morphed into a “high-precipitation” supercell. These are common in Mississippi but not as common in these parts of the country. Nearby atmospheric analysis showed available moisture nearing the 100th percentile of normal, indicating anomalously high moisture.

Nm 2

In the above picture, a tornado was reported by area storm chasers; however, from our vantage point, we could not observe it due to the rain/hail shield likely obscuring the tornado at this distance. Still, we saw clear and rapid rotation in the storm which ended up producing several more tornado reports.

Nm 7

In the last picture captured by one of our students, there is an apparent tornado on the left hand side of the image. This was actually captured as we were heading east of the storm on US 60 toward our hotel in Canyon, TX. We had already ended our storm “chase” of the day as it is unsafe to chase nighttime tornadoes.

As of Thursday, 5/25, NWS Albuquerque confirms three tornadoes occurred in Curry County, including the one we observed after sunset. All three were rated EF-U, or EF-unknown. These ratings are assigned when little to no damage occurs; thankfully, these tornadoes occurred mainly in rural, open fields.

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