8 tornadoes reported Monday on South Plains, 2 nearly a mile wide

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 4:12 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A long-track supercell thunderstorm Monday, May 23, produced eight confirmed tornadoes starting just before 7 p.m. and ending just before 9 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Two of the tornadoes are rated EF-2 and were nearly a mile wide. Though it was a close call to multiple towns, the twisters avoided these communities. No injuries were reported.

The tornadoes were confirmed in Cochran, Bailey and Hockley Counties, to the west of Lubbock.

The first tornado was close to the Cochran County and Bailey County line, northwest of Morton. This was a brief, needle-like tornado that became rain-wrapped. There was no damage observed and reported. This tornado lasted about five minutes, from 6:50 p.m. until 6:55 p.m., and the rating is unknown. It was on the ground for one mile. This initial report prompted John Robison and the KCBD FirstAlert Weather team to go on the air, then continue coverage for more than three hours continuously.

The second tornado started at 7:03 p.m. directly north of Morton, close to the county line. This tornado was rated an EF-2, with estimated peak wind around 120 miles per hour. It was on the ground for 15 minutes and, at its peak, was nearly a mile wide, according to the National Weather Service. It was on the ground for more than three miles. The width of this tornado may have been wider than what was surveyed. It is described as a wide, dusty, wedge tornado.

The first EF-2 Tornado near Morton, TX on May 23, 2022.
The first EF-2 Tornado near Morton, TX on May 23, 2022. (Donnie Merritt)

Five minutes before the EF-2 tornado dissipated, another tornado formed just east of where the second tornado formed. This was a small tornado with an unknown EF rating and unknown width. It was on the ground for about a mile, but it lasted about nine minutes. No damage was reported with this tornado.

East of where the third tornado began, a small, short-lived tornado formed in northeast Cochran County. It is reported to have lasted five minutes and traveled 1.6 miles.

Then in Northwest Hockley County at 8:06 p.m., an EF-0 tornado was spotted in an open field. Wooden power poles were blown down at the intersection of FM 597 and FM 303, two miles south of Pep. The path length was nearly two miles. The estimated peak winds were reported at 85 miles per hour.

The sixth tornado of the evening formed at 8:28 p.m. about five miles northeast of Whiteface in Hockley County. The EF rating is unknown, but the path was about one mile. This was a small, short-lived tornado.

Another small, short-lived tornado formed in the same area and was on the ground for about a half-mile and lasted about two minutes.

The eighth tornado, an EF-2, started at 8:40 p.m. four miles east-northeast of Whiteface in Hockley County. This nearly mile-wide tornado left a path of nearly 8.5 miles with peak winds of 120 miles per hour. This was larger than the first EF-2 tornado. It was on the ground for 18 minutes and dissipated about seven miles west-southwest of Whitharral. There were several locations along FM 303 with wooden power poles snapped at the base and two overturned oil pump jacks. Due to the flooded roadways, surveyors could not see other damage or the remaining tornado track.

Tornado North of Morton in Enochs, TX on May 23, 2022.
Tornado North of Morton in Enochs, TX on May 23, 2022.(Veronica Jasso)

The Weather Service notes this southernmost storm of a complex moving out of New Mexico interacted with an outflow boundary lifting northwestward out of the Permian Basin.

The survey crew wasn’t able to access all of the tornado tracks close-up because of flooded roadways Tuesday. Mobile radar data from Texas Tech’s Atmospheric Science Group and the National Severe Storm Laboratory’s TORUS Field Campaign aided the survey crew in determining time and location of some of the tornadoes.

EF Scale: The Enhanced Fujita Scale classifies tornadoes into the following categories:

EF0...Weak......65 to 85 mph

EF1...Weak......86 to 110 mph

EF2...Strong....111 to 135 mph

EF3...Strong....136 to 165 mph

EF4...Violent...166 to 200 mph

EF5...Violent...>200 mph

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