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Chase May 10 2001

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Route:Amarillo (TX) - Vega (TX) - Dumas (TX) - Canadian (TX) - Wheeler (TX) - Amarillo (TX)
Chasepartner(s):Herman Harperink, Harald Edens and Floris Bijlsma


CHASE LOG:
A moderate risk for severe weather was issued for Central Oklahoma and Kansas - not too far distant from our homebase in Amarillo, but we left off rather late during the day due to problems with our electrical equipment, so we decided to head off to New Mexico...in the direction of a few small thunderstorms growing vigorously to the NW of us. About 20 minutes of driving later, we reached the southern side of the bigger of the two cells (the older one). The anvil reached out far above and over us, blown away off the storm by windshear.
To the northeast, another few virga fallstreaks hung down from the cloud base, causing some impressive dust clouds getting airborne near the horizon. Eventually, another dust cloud formed in the distance, and became a nice dust devil - cool! We got ahead of the storm pretty quickly, and the horizon to the west was set on fire by the setting sun, with some fallstreaks of precipitation.
Above us and to our east, the shelf-cloud of the storm extended out like a flat plateau with smooth lenticular-like appearance. Purple lightning flashed around and under the storm, some even down in front of the sunset - amazing! Miles above, the anvil of the storm, occasionally lit up by an anvil-crawler lightning.

After half an hour of photography and enjoyment we had to leave, as the storm had closed in too much for comfort. We drove on in ENE direction, parked the car when the storm was well behind us, and continued photography. The sight of this storm is hard to describe - there was a flat and structured cloud base ahead of the main precipitation core, with lenticular-like clouds in front of it and below. We drove through moderate to hard rainfall with strong wind gusts, the sky lit up frequently by close lightning bolts. CGs and crawler lightning flashed around us. When we reached the back side of the precipitation we stopped at a picknick area alongside the road, where we found shelter from the rain and the, errr, lightning... ** FLASH ** FLICKER **
Very beautiful and intense lightning discharges occured, which weren't very frequent but very large-scale discharges. We setup our equipment in a line next to eachother and photographed the CGs and crawlers. The storm receded away in the distance, and eventually we had to get in the car and chase it.
The cell had split up into several individual precipitation cores, of which the original core presented mostly crawlers; another cell to the south dropped CGs.
At that point, it was near 1AM. A long and exhaustive night followed with a number of short chases and photography sessions of the lightning, dominated by beautiful crawlers. We heard some rattle in the bushes (we didn't want to know what caused that, and we couldn't see it anyway), and the eery howling of several troops of coyotes. All this together with a penetrating fresh smell of mint and "post-thunderstorm" atmosphere. We went on, and searched for a new place to photograph the CGs and crawler lightnings, since trees partly obscured the view to the storm. We noticed another dark precipitation core to our west lit up by CGs.
We stopped over several times to photograph, only to get going quickly again due to rainfall. We weren't a minute too early by leaving our photography spots, usually. At some point, we were walking back to our van, which was parked at the end of some dusty trail... and we were just walking under a power line with our stuff when the landscape would be lit up for a split second in bright purple light.Crackle of the power lines, followed by a hissing sound, and the inevitable clap of thunder shortly after - oops... time to GO!


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© 2001 Bernard Hulshof