Essex Storm Chase – Tue 18th & Wed 19th July 2017

After missing out on the early July Storms and Supercells over Lincolnshire these 2 days would see another shot at storms after another very warm and humid period. Tempratures had again been in the Mid 80’s and Dewpoints constantly in the mid 60’s. Today’s set up was proving to be a pain for the weather models, it was a case of who do you believe in the main. In one camp you had the Arpege, Hirlam and Euro going for nothing much in the east and in the other camp we had Estofex, Meto and Euro4 all stating the South East would get affected to some extent from 7pm onwards until the early hours. I was happy that the main 3 models I trust in were on “our side” so to speak.

The Set Up was a pretty classic breakdown for the United Kingdom. A High pressure moving east into Scandinavia a large area of Low Pressure situated west of Ireland and warm humid air being pumped up from Iberia. The trigger would come from a shortwave trough moving north from France during the day firstly affecting the South West and then as it migrated North East areas further North and East of that would come into play. An added bonus to keep storms sustained was an LLJ from the east aiding inflow and longevity for storms to sustain themselves.

Cornwall was affected first but a seperate area of storms around the Channel Islands looked promising for Central Southern and SE England for this evening, some strange radar returns around Jersey aroused my suspicions of a forming MCV (Mesoscale Convective Vortex) this is an area of Surface Low Pressure within an MCS, And these can last between 6-12 hours. This area (Complex) of storms was moving NNE due to the fact the steering winds at 600hpa were better orientated than further West in the Channel with those winds steering straight North or slightly NNW.

I continued to track the storms not really giving them much of my attention because I plotted their course to run through Portsmouth, Reading and onto Milton Keynes and probably too far to chase on a Tuesday night, but what was noticable was the continued redevelopment of very strong storms way off to the SE of the Complex. This first occured NE of Portsmouth, then and West of London. This area of the MCV was going to track towards the M11 and that would be doable from here with a quick run upto Chelmsford and then across to Stanstead. My chasing buddy Peter Scott was also up for the chase so we kept in contact and aimed to meet up. The Storm by now was very discrete in nature and sitting between Harlow and Bishops Stortford and it started to put down some nice Cg’s. ┬áBut of course as soon as we got to the stopping point they dried up completely, the IC lightning was prolific though and lit up some stunning structure, the hail core also had a green tinge to it when lit up. Have found out that 50p sized Hail was falling near Duxford with this storm. Peter got some nice shots of this storm one of his pics below.

You can clearly see above the inflow tail cloud racing into the Storm from the east, we were directly south of the storm looking north at this point. Shortly after this we left the storm as it was heading into Norfolk and I was starting to see lightning from the south again, this was from an amazing storm going on over Brighton and the South Coast. I knew exactly where I wanted to be for this and was on a mission to try and get that in the water shot from the Cliffs I have been trying to get for 10 years! Travelling south from Chelmsford the sky was constantly lighting up with the storm system still over 50 miles away. I got down to my vantage point in good time and just sat there watching lightning for about 45 minutes and watched as the storm grew closer, I would only start shooting for lightning when a few cg’s were within a sensible distance and around 2am this started to happen.

Everything in place and with anvil crawlers aplenty could this be the day it happens. Anvil Crawlers are good for out the front of the storm Cg’s in front of the rain so I was hopeful add to the fact we do not normally get this type of storm in the Uk that often. ┬áJust about then the rain started -Noooooooo

But luckily for me it was coming from the North East and not hitting my camera so I continued, the lightning getting closer with a few bolts landing on the hills the other side of the Estuary about 5-7 miles away. Then one that landed pretty much on the shoreline so we were getting closer.

Was this to be the day, literally 30 seconds after the shot above and on my next exposure of 15 seconds Boom, everything went white in a blinding flash in front of me (It was soo bright I didnt even see the Cg land in real time) and was absolutely gobsmacked when my camera processed the following image!

I jumped for joy! Good job it was 215am and nobody could see a mid forties man jumping around Leigh Cliffs in the pouring rain. But I got the shot I always wanted to get from a Uk perspective and was over the moon. I packed up and headed back home and watched the storm unleash over SE Essex at around 3-4am. This was an above average event for the Uk with 100,000 lightning bolts registered with 70,000 of those hitting Sussex, Kent and Essex!

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