April 26, 1994 - The Gainesville, Texas Tornadoes

Al Moller and I teamed up on this chase.   We met in Denton and drove north on I-35 to Valley View and then west to highway 51 where we intercepted the storm.   Highway 51 runs NE from Decatur to Gainesville, Texas and was ideal for chasing this northeastward moving supercell.

The storm produced a series of tornadoes, including several small tornadoes between Decatur and Gainesville.  As with many storms, only the tornadoes that produced damage in a city or town were reported by the media.

Al and I reported our observations real time to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth and to Gainesville civil defense officials via the Gainesville and Denton ham radio repeaters, providing them with "ground truth" (visual observations to confirm radar derived information).  As a result of reports from us and other spotters, the citizens of Gainesville had more than 20 minutes advance warning of the approaching cyclic tornadic supercell.

Carson Eads and Gene Rhoden were also on the storm.  They also provided valuable real-time reports to NWS via the ham radio repeaters.

The following images are from slides.  My video camera was in the shop at the time and unavailable.  Click on any image for a larger view.

gain-1.jpg (28339 bytes) Looking WNW from highway 51 several miles southwest of Gainesville at a funnel. The funnel is located to the upper left of the bush in the lower center of the image. This funnel touched down briefly and toppled several power poles shortly after this picture was taken.
gain-2.jpg (27482 bytes) Looking NNW from highway 51 at the curving flanking line feeding into the mesocyclone. Note the rear flank downdraft (RFD) notch cutting in from the left (SW). The storm was still several miles southwest of Gainesville.  Alan Moller used my ham radio to contact the Fort Worth National Weather Service Office to report the storm's intensification. Our reports, along with those of other SKYWARN spotters, provided almost 30 minutes of advance  warning to the citizens of Gainesville.
gain-3.jpg (55475 bytes) Rotation continues to intensify as the RFD cuts deeper into the strengthening mesocyclone.
gain-4.jpg (33633 bytes) Looking WNW from the junior college campus just inside the SW city limits of Gainesville. We were within the circulation of the mesocyclone and within a mile of the developing tornado.  We could clearly the sound of the tornado.  The sound was similar to the roar of a large waterfall
gain-5.jpg (31123 bytes) A tornado developed west of the junior college campus.
gain-6.jpg (42743 bytes)
gain-7.jpg (37890 bytes)
gain-8.jpg (30129 bytes) Two funnels existed at opposite ends of the wall cloud. The one pictured here was at the south end of the meso and never fully developed into a tornado (at least condensation to the ground was not observed). Note the RFD notch and precipitation shaft to the left of the left funnel.
gain-9.jpg (67387 bytes)
gain-10.jpg (88502 bytes) Can you find the small satellite tornado north (to the right) of the main tornado?  Three satellite tornadoes were observed simultaneously with this storm when the main tornado was crossing I-35, just north of state highway 82.
gain-11.jpg (70534 bytes) One of the developing satellite tornadoes moved directly overhead of my filming location.  It developed unexpectedly while my attention was focused on the main tornado.  It touched down about 1/2 mile to my northeast.  We intercepted it again as it crossed highway 82, near the center of the Gainesville business district, about 1/8th of a mile in front of us.
gain-12.jpg (18441 bytes)

Copyright 1994 - Samuel D. Barricklow - All rights reserved.

These images were made using a Pentax ME-Super and digitized using a Nikon Coolscan II slide scanner.

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Last revised: November 30, 2008