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Photograph of lightning striking a tower in south Lubbock

First Thunderstorms of 2009

Map of rainfall totals collected across the area from stations of the West Texas Mesonet ( Click on the image to view a larger version.

A powerful upper level storm system combined with good amounts of low level moisture returning from the Gulf of Mexico to bring widespread rains to West Texas for the first since the middle of October 2008. Initially, as the upper level storm system approached during the day Sunday (8 Feb), strong southeasterly winds of 25 to 35 mph developed, and help pump increasing amounts of moisture across the South Plains. Then, as the storm drew closer, it joined forces with a strong Pacific cold front, with both working to lift the low-level moisture that was in place.

Radar loop of thunderstorms tracking across West Texas 8-9 February 2009.
Radar loop of thunderstorms tracking across West Texas 8-9 February 2009.

A line of showers and thunderstorms quickly developed across eastern New Mexico late Sunday afternoon. Early on, these storms produced some penny to quarter sized hail in eastern New Mexico in addition to brief heavy rains and strong winds. The squall line raced eastward into the South Plains and Texas Panhandle during the evening hours, and then through the Rolling Plains overnight. As the storms moved eastward, instability waned, and they no longer produced hail, but did continue to produce strong and occasionally severe wind gusts. Wind gusts between 60 and 70 mph were reported near Denver City, Friona, Anton and Olton. However, the main product from the thunderstorms was widespread moderated to briefly heavy rainfall. Most of the South Plains and Rolling Plains received a solid 0.30 inches of rain, with locations across the central and eastern South Plains and south-central Texas Panhandle generally getting 0.50-0.75 inches.

The activity advanced into the Rolling Plains during the early morning hours of Monday (9 Feb), but the intensity decreased and lightning diminished before the whole system moved east of the area by 3 am.

Three reflectivity images from the Lubbock WSR-88D radar Tuesday evening showing the progression of the squall line across the area. The first image is from 7pm, the 2nd is from 9 pm, and the third is from 11 pm. Click on the images for a larger view.