Reports and updates from the WeatherHolidays Storm Chases
Author: Paul Botten
Hi - I am 44 years old and from Essex in the Uk where I live with my wife and 3 daughters. I have been storm chasing in the USA since 2004 and here are all my chase logs from those years including the Desert Monsoon in Arizona and also notable events in the United Kingdom.
Today was our last chase of the Monsoon season and with moisture increasing just enough there should be some marginally severe storms around today. We got onto storms early around the Wilcox area and finally started to see some typical monsoon storms erupting and also some decent CG lightning.
We watched a couple of areas of storms erupt and dissipate in the usual 30-40 minutes. This one below looked really nice and threw out some stunning Cg bolts for a time
Behind us was another area of storms hugging the mountain tops as well
Mel once again managed some nice daytime bolts with his lightning trigger
Sadly all the storms died before Sunset so it was left with 2019 gaining the first time we had not seen night time lightning in the State for the first time since 2008. The Monsoon just did not get started this year not just August but July as well. Roll on 2020
We started from our base hotel in Scottsdale and the only available moisture in the state was way down to the SE of Arizona South East of Safford and even then what storms there were rapidly moved to the south towards Mexico. Some showers that were in the dying phase looked photoworthy before darkness and we managed a quick pic.
We ventured further south as darkness fell and the Milky Way was in full view to our South East and with a distant storm in Mexico flashing away we tried some arty shots. This one below of Mels came out really well.
And that was that for the day. Nonsoon 2019 continues with just 1 day left of the Season we were hopeful of better storms on our last day.
We used the 3 days where no weather was possible to travel back to Arizona knowing there might be a couple of active days for days 9 and 10 of our trip. The 1000 mile journey back from Eastern Colorado allowed us to drive through the breathtaking scenery of the Rockies and visit places like The 4 Corners Monument and also Monument Valley on the way back along with some Astro Photography with the Milky Way visible from the Sunday with the Moon Phase allowing for a brief window every night. Our first stop on Sunday 18th was at the 4 corners monument.
In the picture above I have 2 arms and 2 legs in each of the 4 States.
We moved on from there to Gooseneck Park which is a less crowded version of Horseshoe Bend and well worth a visit for about $1 entry fee
We then moved onto Monument Valley and its iconic view from the North with the road leading up to the Rocks.
We still had time for some Astro Photography on the way back to Phoenix stopping off in the Prescott Valley to capture the Sunset which was lit up from Smoke from the Wildfires which have been raging for a few months.
And Mel took this beautiful shot of the Milky Way when the skies cleared
On the Monday we visited an old favourite in South Mountain National Park again for Sunset.
We started today in Emporia (KS) and today was the day we would start making our way back to Arizona via another chase in Colorado and SPC went with a 2% Tornado Risk in North East Colorado so the plan was to head west along I-70 and pick up whatever there was storm wise with an aim to finish in Colorado before the 2 day journey back through the Rockies and some Scenic stuff along the way. As we neared our favourite place of Burlington a nice LP Supercell was ongoing near Otis so we headed North along Highway 385 to take a look. Capping today would be a massive obstacle to overcome and our once healthy Supercell that had gained a brief Tornado Warning was clearly struggling already visually.
The Storm all but died by the time it reached us South of Wray so we headed back south to the only storm that had managed to overcome the solid cap and along the way on the North West Side were treated to some nice Hailbows.
We ventured south to position just North of Cheyenne Wells for some Lightning shots as it got dark but even these were very below par with too much dirt ingested into the Storm making the bolts look brown and murky.
A very below par day but after the 3 days we had just had it would have taken something special to compete with those. Ended the day in Burlington.
We started today in Limon with a gruelling 5 hour drive across Interstate 70 to our target are which was Junction City east of Salina. The Set-Up was pretty textbook with an early day MCS Moving SE Through NE Kansas laying off an Outflow Boundary along I-70 Between Kansas City and Concordia which was pretty easy to see on radar. Temps would be around 80f with low 70’s dewpoints south of the boundary and great SE Winds around 25knts and North West flow around 45knts, HRRR was showing a group of 3 Supercells initiating around 6pm moving to the South and South East. We made good time and grabbed a quick lunch at Hays and made our target area for about 5pm. Agitated Cumulus started to appear around 530pm around Manhattan (KS) and we made our way to a decent vantage point in the Flint Hills to watch our storm of the day Initiate. We made our way to a point just east of Alta Vista and set up the cameras to watch a textbook Classic Supercell move towards our position.
The rapidly setting sun and the Crepuscular Rays were stunning from our vantage point. Some beautiful Anvil bolts were also starting to rain down from the 60,000ft Storm.
The structure with inflow tail cloud was some of the best of the Season at this point.
The Storm quickly became Tornado Warned and with some strong rotation from a blocky wall cloud it wasnt long before a Cone Tornado formed to our North, we had been sat in the same spot for 40 minutes now watching this all unfold in front of us without seeing a single chaser.
After watching the Tornado dissipate we relocated about 5 miles south on dirt roads as 3 more Supercells started to line themselves up but with light almost gone now it was getting harder to get any decent pictures. Our initial Supercell was now to our east but another to our north had a confirmed Tornado on it ironically 6 miles East of Alta Vista where we had been for 45 minutes, we managed to grab a decent picture of this 10 minute Cone Tornado through the trees though.
We headed further south after this to put some distance between us and the structure to shoot some lightning and we were not dissapointed with some of the lads taking amazing shots.
Cg and Structure Shots below
We ended the day in Emporia a full 1,098 miles from our Phoenix Hotel and let the last Supercell roll over our Hotel. An incredible chase day which would not look out of place in late May and yet again August delivers.
We started today in Burlington and NE Colorado looked very good again and SPC Agreed putting a 2% Tornado Risk in Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas. Storms would fire along a boundary but Moisture would not be as good as Tuesday with only Mid to High 50’s Dewpoints and Temperatures in the High 80’s. Large Damaging Hail would be the main threat but if a storm could remain discrete then Supercell Structure could be the main show. After a slow start with storms struggling with a stronger than expected Cap we found ourselves a little bit out of position near Sterling and a storm that quickly became surface based fired about 50 miles SE ironically just north of Burlington. The Supercell looked really nice from the west but the main problem now was getting on the right side of it to the South East.
We took a dirt road once our storm went Tornado Warned and started to see some very large hail on the ground some of the stones were 3″ that would certainly make a mess of our cars so we gave the main core a wide birth and ended up down the east side of the Storm along Highway 385 again through Burlington.
Some of the Large Hail Below
Our Position trying to get South East of the South Moving Supercell
Once South of Burlington we got about 10 miles SE of the Storm and watched in awe at some incredible structure that would not be out of place in June.
We moved along with the Storm towards Cheyenne Wells but darkness was rapidly approaching
The structure continued into the Night
We had a bit of a scare at Sheridon Lake when our road was closed at the Railway crossing and had to head back north into the Storm which again had been Tornado Warned but managed to head west and watch the storm drift away to the South. An incredible day ended at Limon with a big decision on wether to head back to Arizona tomorrow or chase one last day in Kansas.
We started today in Dumas and left towards our target of Burlington (CO) for some Supercell action and along the way the SPC Upgraded the Risk area to Enhanced for 45% Hail and 5% for Tornadoes. This was a solid May/June Set-Up occurring in August. Great South Westerly flow at 45knts, a deepening area of Low Pressure and high 60’s dewpoints into North East Colorado, this Set Up was screaming Tornado Potential.
HRRR was showing Initiation around 3pm with South Eastward Moving Supercells which would eventually form into a Bow Echo which would race across Kansas so the trick was to get on Storms Early. After passing through Lamar we noted a Supercell already ongoing at 1130am near Ogallalla and what looked like a solid Storm firing up near Sterling. Storms were firing around 3 hours early so after arriving in Burlington to gas up we grabbed a quick lunch and headed North on Highway 385 and sat around 15 miles North of there watching the Storm of the Day gain a Tornado Warning and start to come into view. It had an amazing low base and we had screaming 40mph hot South East winds going into it.
And it wasnt long before a huge Cone Tornado had dropped to the ground near the Town of Joes (CO) our only problem was we could not get near to the Tornado from our vantage point due to lack of roads. Quickly another Tornado dropped down and we now had Twin Tornadoes ongoing.
The Radar below shows our position looking at the Hook of the storm.
We re-positioned further south towards Burlington to keep up with the storm and Tornado number 3 dropped much closer to us.
More storms were starting to fire up at this time and it was starting to get messy already and this was happening at 4pm. A Storm to the South West of the Tornado producer near Bethune was dropping extreme hail and we later learned that the Colorado State Record Hailstone had gone with a 5″ Stone being verified but NWS Goodland the next day.
I decided the chase was pretty much over at this point as storms were going Outflow Dominant so decided to pick our way out of the mess and get south to shoot some pretty green skies over some Sunflower Fields we had seen earlier.
We stopped west of the line of storms to shoot some lightning and ended the day in Burlington ready for another chase in exactly the same area for tomorrow.
Having arrived into Phoenix on the Sunday we took the executive decision to head east for a week due to the Monsoon Season looking like a Nonsoon Season like it had for most of the 2019 Season. Models were showing little to zero storms in the whole State and with digging SW Troughs spreading Westerly dry air it was looking like a shutdown for at least a week. So we headed towards the Texas Panhandle for a General Thunderstorm Risk stopping off halfway in Albuquerque and picking up storms around the Dalhart area. Storms today were typical pulse type storms with very few Cg Lightning bolts until a boundary or two fired off more substantial storms around 7pm. The Towering Cumulus below were just North of Dumas.
We got into position just North of Dumas along Highway 287 and the Storm started to get a little bit more active as darkness was happening and the cloud tops cooling.
One last Storm around Dusk moving up from Boys Ranch which went briefly Severe had some really nice Sunset Colours and Melvyn managed to get the best Cg Shot of the Day.
A really nice Start to the trip and after a team meeting we decided the next 4 days coming up offered some really nice Supercell Chances so we have decided to stay for a week back in Tornado Alley for an extended Season.
We started today in Camrose with the PASPC highlighting both Alberta and Saskatchewan as areas of interest. A surface Low was moving NE to be situated over Edmonton with a Cold Front trailing off to the South and South West and a Dryline from the Low heading off SE through Saskatchewan.
Models were insistent on the Dryline firing off some decent cells around 3pm so we headed east into SAS. We noted a line of bubbling TCU and these duly grew into Supercells so we set off to intercept and sit in front of a stunning Classic Supercell with a Field of Canola in front of us which Canada is famous for at this time of year.
The storms looked very tornadic until they seemed to cross into some cold air and started to congeal into a mess but our attention was drawn to a stunning Anvil from a storm south of Saskatoon which gained a Tornado Warning as well over the radio. We set off but the Intercept would prove impossible with Regina Lake cutting off any east road options and storms started to grow upscale at that point as well. It was a great learning curve though today and shows how chasing in Canada is not only possible but beautiful with its scenery. We ended the day in Regina and not before we got some stunning pictures of the Sunset and Mammatus under the Anvil which was moving away east into Manitoba.
And that draws to a close our Canadian Chase for 2019
We started today in Great Falls with a Target of Alder Flats to Drayton Valley.
After lunching in Calgary we headed much further North and West to chase building Upslope Storms in the Foothills. One thing that was worrying me today was the delayed shortwave and its impact on pushing the storms out of the foothills and into the better moisture. Dewpoints of 64f were present which is quite rare for this far North and West. The first Supercell west of Alder Flats was pretty much stationery and never quite made it out of the hills but looked pretty.
We re-positioned further North and East to a great little viewpoint above Winfield and watched 3 Storms lined up but yet again they all struggled when they left the hills. This one was had the best structure below
We decided to head a bit further east in readiness for the last chase day which had some really good chances at a few Tornadoes in Saskatchewan and this day ended up being quite a bit lower than our expectations.