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Huge Tornado Outbreak

Texas Panhandle - May 15, 2003

We intercepted a total of 4 tornadoes from 3 different supercell thunderstorms. At one point, near Stratford, there were 2 tornadoes on the ground at the same time. In total. there were 26 tornadoes reported on this day. This was the biggest outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded in a single day for the Texas & Oklahoma Panhandle region.

Stratford Tornado #1 01
Just before the first tornado touched down, my truck got stuck in the slippery west Texas mud. We watched the developing storm approach but there was nothing we could do but sit tight and film it.

Stratford Tornado #1 02
The tornado took on an elephant truck appearance. As it continued moving off to the northeast, I got out of the truck and set up my tripod. There were 60 MPH inflow winds feeding INTO the storm at the time.

Stratford Tornado #2 01
As the first tornado started to weaken, a larger tornado was forming further north.

Stratford Tornado #2 02
The large tornado took on a multiple-vortex wedge shaped appearance. It was wider than it was tall. Luckily, it touched down in an open field.

Stratford Tornado #2 03
Even though the tornado was huge, because it never hit any structures, we'll never know how strong it actually was. A damage survey done by the National Weather Service said that it was 3/4 of a mile wide.

Sunray Tornado
Later that evening, tornado #3 was spotted in the rain near the town of Sunray.

Stinnett Tornado
During the dark of night, tornado #4 crossed the road ahead of us. We saw a bright blue power flash, then the funnel hanging down. Once we cross the damage path, we stopped to lend assistance to the emergency crews. Luckily there were no injuries from this tornado.