Thunderstorms 26 October 2014

The particulars of this day I’m not exactly sure of. Being such a busy period of time in my life (hence why I am only writing this now), I hadn’t had a chance to even look at the models, however there was talk of some good potential for mid-based storms and so throughout the day I kept my eye out. Very early in the morning around sunrise I was woken by a few deep and long booms of thunder, however by the time I went outside it was more or less over.

Throughout the day there were some very textbook altocumulus castellanus developing during the afternoon, and after a strong cell developed on north western Eyre Peninsula, I started to check radar frequently. Mid-based stuff is usually pretty pulsey, however this sat out ahead of the rest of the activity and powered on in across E.P. maintaining a heavy core. I thought surely this can’t be surface based, but a quick check of the soundings over E.P. showed sure enough, there was the potential for high based, surface stuff to get going. Given it was nearing Spencer Gulf and showing no signs of slowing I headed out to intercept it. I got my first view of it from near Blyth, and it had a beautiful large anvil, and a decent RFB to the southern side of the cell with a decent precipitation shaft to the north could be seen. A quick message from a mate and a check of radar seemed to indicate a slightly right deviating supercell with the potential for some largish hail.

Past Lochiel and over the Barunga ranges, I finally got a good view of it. You could be forgiven for thinking it was simply a weak, pulsey storm, it was very grey, the rain shaft whispy and no real RFB to be seen. However after getting closer I finally got a good view of the RFB and realised she was nicely structured. Solid flat RFB, very circular, well separated from the downdraft, which was wrapping in, overall a very good looking storm, structure wise.

First view of the base, wispy rainshaft but black echo on radar. Would almost suggest RFD cutting through at the back of the storm, judging by the clear slot.

I raced south along dirt roads until just north of Port Wakefield, where I had no choice but to watch the precip shaft cruise by to the south, given it still maintained a purple core (but it was starting to weaken) I thought better than punching and risking any hail damage. What this storm lacked in CG activity, it made up for in in cloud cc and anvil crawlers. The anvil was freakin massive at this stage, streatching out to the SE, with large hanging breasts of mammatus, being lit by lightning. A LP supercell at this stage I believe, had all the trademarks.

Beautiful updraught base.

Wider view.

Looking the other way at the anvil. Some nice mammatus.

The first cell as it began to weaken. Can really see how discrete this thing was.

After the excitement of this, I headed to Port Wakefield to intercept the next lot coming in, I had already seen a rather solid wall cloud on the next approaching cell, however it rapidly shredded and disintegrated before my eyes in the distance. I finally got a view of the updraught itself on the initial cell, and it was the skinniest most malnourished thing I had ever seen, couldn’t believe it had produced the amount of anvil it had. South of Port Wakefield I watched the next one come in, another wrapping cell showing decent rotation, attached to a longish line of mid based stuff to the north. It presented a wonderful sight coming into evening, with frequent flashes through a boiling black base, and CG’s ripping out to north. Once again, given this cell was maintaining a strong radar reflectivity, I stayed to its north and watched the hail core drift a few km’s to the SW and then dive harder south. This proved to be a wise decision with 20 cent sized hail near Gawler later on from this very cell. I chased it south and punched into the back end where I had some very small hail and simply enormous drops, I’ve seen plenty of storms with hail which usually produce large drops but these were something else, could see them coming a few seconds before they hit the window. Given it was launching itself southward I gave up on it, found a nice wheatfield and watched as sunset rolled on and storms lined up 180 degrees across the horizon firing bolts out.

Wall cloud on next cell, which rapidly broke up on approach.

Next cell coming in, another massive anvil on this thing.

Mean looking RFB

Strong cell on approach, fairly massive RFB on this thing and ghostly hail shaft. The top right area of the image was wrapping quickly and produced quite a few small, mid-based funnels.

Hail shaft cruising a few km to the south.

Now I could have raced east and tried to catch more of the CG producing stuff  (probably a wiser decision in hindsight) I stayed where I was and simply enjoyed it. I checked radar and seen southern Adelaide burbs were about to be unleashed upon, but looked to my west, and with a long line of altocumulus castellanis rapidly forming , and low battery thought I would try and save it for that chance. I took a few shots around sunset (how could I not) and nabbed a couple of keepers, a visual overload of colour, cloud and lightning. The mammatus to the east was particularly impressive, as I’m sure some people who seen it up close can attest!

Beautiful skies on sunset.

Sunset and bolts.

The castellanus line rapidly approached and was firing out bolts more and more. I set up my composition and waited, next thing I knew it fired…directly on top of me, and was east within minutes, absolutely no view east ruined chances of getting anything here. Doh. Had this fired minutes earlier would have been in a primed position, the luck aspect of chasing! I chase it east and north, watching it rain bolts to the east, out of range for using my limited battery on so I head to Balaklava, where closer bolts fire to the NW. Now my problem is they’re behind rain and weakening the impact, not my night! The camera was so flat at this stage I had to remove the battery between exposures just to squeeze out extra shots but I managed to nab a few.

Nice and branchy.

Brilliant bolt.

Bright Cg.

Nice double bolt.

I head up to Blyth to watch another rather lightning active cell move in, it had decent hail in Whyalla earlier and was ripping crisp CG’s so far out ahead of the rain it was mental, November 5 2011 like. At this stage the camera was 100% dead so it was purely a visual treat but boy was it nice. I spotted what looked to be a wall cloud on the thing, but without a camera to capture it with lightning illumination it was impossible to tell. I get to Blyth and the cell goes quiet (have noticed this a lot, cranks bolts at night across the plains, then reduced frequency into the hills, probably just coincidence). While it lasted though this cell was pure brilliance, one of the better night storms I have seen for sure!

All in all a brilliant arvo/evening of chasing, and very unexpected for me.

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