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Funnel clouds and landspouts sighted across the South Plains: Sunday, 25 March 2007

Landspout Image

Photograph of a funnel taken from the Lubbock NWS office at the Science Spectrum around 12:30 pm. Funnel is located near U.S. 87 and 98th Street. It is uncertain if the circulation was reaching the ground at this time. Click on the image to see a larger version. (picture taken by Jody James, NWS Lubbock).

Around 12:30 pm, the NWS office in Lubbock started receiving reports of funnel clouds on the south/southeast side of Lubbock. The funnels were forming below building thunderstorm updrafts along an outflow boundary. The storms began to form a SW-NE line across the central and eastern portions of the county. Individual thunderstorm cells would move northeast along the line, being replaced by new development to the southwest. More funnel clouds were reported from near Indiana and 98th St. to north of Idalou between 12:30 and 1:30 pm. In fact, one of the funnel clouds that reached the ground and formed a landspout tornado produced some minor tree damage near 98th and MLK blvd, shed damage near 98th and Indiana, and power lines down near 82nd and highway 87. For a more complete list of the preliminary local storm reports click HERE.

Below is anther picture of a funnel cloud/possible landspout tornado over south Lubbock...

Landspout Image
Picture of another funnel cloud taken at 1:03 pm looking southeast from 102nd and Quincy. (pictures taken by Todd Lindley, NWS Lubbock)

The thunderstorms that produced the funnel clouds and landspout tornadoes developed along a line of convergent winds from an outflow boundary left over from earlier thunderstorms. The boundary can be seen in the satellite image below stretching from east of Brownfield, through southern and eastern Lubbock County, and then north-northeast into Briscoe County. The surface observations are also plotted on the map and you can see that in general, there are westerly winds to the west of the boundary and southeasterly winds to the east, creating the converging winds along the axis of developing thunderstorms. We believe that this boundary originated from early morning thunderstorms across the eastern Permian basin. The boundary then slowly moved northwest into the central South Plains. The boundary may have been enhanced by differential surface heating as partial clearing took place Sunday morning across the southern South Plains and central Permian Basin. Studies have shown that funnel clouds and landspout tornadoes can occur when rapidly increasing thunderstorm updrafts occur along a wind shear boundary - particularly when the boundary is oriented southwest-northeast. A recent scientific paper by James Caruso of the NWS and Jon Davies provides further details on the environmental conditions conducive for landspout tornadoes. You can access the paper HERE.  UPDATE: Meteorologists at NWS Lubbock along with two other researchers presented a study of this event at a meeting of the National Weather Association. To view this please click HERE.

Visible satellite image
Satellite and surface map around noon on Sunday showing the outflow boundary and thunderstorm development. Click on the image for a larger version.

Later in the day, more funnels were reported across the western South Plains and northward into the extreme southern Texas Panhandle, as another outflow boundary from the midday storms pushed farther to the west. Below are some pictures taken of funnel clouds and a likely landspout tornado from north of Olton.

Picture of funnel clouds north of Olton.
Picture of funnel clouds north of Olton.
Picture of funnel clouds north of Olton.
Photographs of funnel clouds and a tornado taken from north of Olton around 5:00 pm. (picture taken by Gary and Denise Cross, relayed by KCBD). Click on the images for a larger view.

In addition to the funnel cloud and landspout tornado reports (from shortly after noon through early evening), the event transitioned into a heavy rain maker. This resulted in many locations across the central and eastern South Plains receiving well over an inch, with localized amounts at or above 3 inches. All of the heavy rain produced flash flooding, with many roads being closed due to water making them nearly impassible. All the water did also result in some stalled out cars, a high water rescue at the intersection of 82nd Street and Highway 87 in Lubbock, and a car accident injuring two people on Highway 82 between Lorenzo and Ralls. Again, for a more complete listing of storm reports click HERE.

Heavy rain picture
Photograph looking SSE from near 103rd and Slide showing one of the rain shafts that brought the torrential rain to south Lubbock in a short period of time (John Holsenbeck, NWS Lubbock).