Monday, May 14, 2012
Day 3 Storm chasing: Disclaimer - this is my personal experience as a student on this thunderstorm field studies lab class. My apologies to my fellow meteorology students, who really know what they are talking about, if I use incorrect terminology or have the chronology of the storm incorrect.
Early in the day, I figured we were in for something good when we ran into Sean Casey & his TIV - Tornado Intercept Vehicle - from the Discovery Channel's Storm Chasers program, and the tornado research team from National Science Foundation. (See photos posted earlier on Facebook @ Nancy Leary Haines. Sorry that I'm not more techno savvy to put the photos with this blog. I'm having trouble uploading photos to Spark from my smarter-than-me phone. Maybe when I get home, I'll post a blog with the photos here.)
We watched the storm forming for a couple of hours over the Guadalupe Mountains near Carlsbad, NM. The storm intensified as it came over the mountains into a bow echo, and overnight turned into a mesoscale convective vortex storm.
I got my first lightning bolt photo around 7:30pm mountain time as the storm was intensifying. We chased with the storm for several hours, stopping along the way for teaching moments. I learned about inflow, when the storm in front of us sucked in warm air while the wind was at our backs. Then an outflow of cold air pushed out causing a dust storm to blow all over us. At that point, we ran for the vans and drove to get ahead of the storm. While driving, we saw dust storms & tumbleweed blowing across the road.
About 11:30pm, we stopped to look at the constellations. The sky in front of the storm was so clear and full of stars, it was just beautiful. I couldn't help but turn around and video the lightning storm behind me. I posted that video in the next blog. If you can wait out the long seconds of darkness, you'll see some amazing lightening.
We got checked into the hotel in Fort Stockton, TX, just minutes before the hail storm started. While one of my roommates & I were getting settled into our room, the true meteorology students were outside observing the hail storm that had 70mph gusts of winds. Some of the guys had welts on their arms & legs from the flying 1" hail pellets hitting them while standing under the hotel canopy. We joined them a few minutes later, indoors, for a unique phenomenon of toasting the storm into the wee hours of the morning.