How perfect to chase a supercell that looked like an alien invader in Roswell, New Mexico.
On May 28, Alethea Kontis and I hit the road in Childress, Texas, with Jason Persoff, Dave Lewison and Scott McPartland. Our first target was the Midland area, but it looked as if the target was shifting south into tough chase territory (rugged hills). And even if Midland had remained the most likely target, the frustrating construction nightmare had us changing direction and heading for eastern New Mexico.
This choice illustrates a typical chaser’s dilemma: Go for the more likely tornado, which may not be that easy to catch or see if it happens because of territory or congestion, or chase the more visible, accessible storms. These days, with so many chasers on the road, I really like secondary targets. And even though we didn’t see a tornado, I am thrilled with what we saw in New Mexico.
We were already behind the eight-ball by the time we neared Roswell, with ongoing rotating storms emerging from the higher elevations. Yet we were greeted by an eerie sight – blowing dust, gustnadoes from a dying storm to the north, strange green light and a beast of a supercell in front of us. It was like driving into a sci-fi movie.
The storm was full of hail, and Scott and Dave went ahead in their well-shielded car as we dropped south. Except a big hailstone bounced off their hail shield and took out a side mirror. The rest of us hung back but still got into some fun smaller hail and took photos of baseball-size hailstones we found by the side of the road. The trees in that area were shredded by the bombardment.
Finally, we saw multiple funnel clouds and were treated to an insanely orange sunset and a double rainbow. The chase concluded with beautiful lightning amid the mammatus at Artesia. And Alethea and I made one more stop on our way back to Roswell for the night, capturing spectacular stars above the retreating lightning storms.
Not bad for a roundabout 559-mile chase.
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