After nine days of no storms, I struggled with motivation, but somehow still dragged myself out of bed last Thursday at 5am to get to the AZ/NM border in time for late morning development. It seemed like a lock for a supercell to form between 10-12 near San Simon and move east into New Mexico. Arrived early, took a cat nap, enjoyed a weaker storm waking me up with rain drops, but I knew the real show was the tail end one rapidly intensifying over the Chiricahua Mountains. Lightning showed up on radar finally and I knew I was in business. I sat back and watched it arrive in San Simon mostly a blob of rain, but then the bolts starting hitting around me and some structure began to show. I headed east on 10 to get out of the precip and avoid the widow maker bolts, but after a few miles I pulled over to a nice high view overlooking this valley. And that’s when this thing rapidly turned into the most incredibly structured supercell I’ve ever personally witnessed here in Arizona. The wall cloud, the vertical updraft, the incredible rain/hail falling to the right and then NUTSO towering lightning bolts landing everywhere. There is actually another faint one on the left. Thankful I pushed myself to chase this and feel lucky to have been on this guy for the 20 minutes it was awesome. The time-lapse is great, look for it in Monsoon 6!
October 1st was my final chase of the monsoon this year and it was a wonderful way to bookend a spectacular season. This image was taken along the AZ/NM border late in the day. A low-topped supercell with a wall cloud spinning to the north as it slowly died out. This is basically the closing image from the year for me, although I still have lots to edit. After this storm faded, I turned and headed for home and that was all she wrote.
Didn’t even know the time-lapse caught a lightning bolt until weeks later, which was a pleasant surprise!
What a fantastic chase on Monday. I hung around the Marana area for a lot of the afternoon, but when a new cluster of storms blew up southwest of Casa Grande, I raced up there hoping they would do something great.
And wow they did. I’ll post more pictures later, but when I arrived south of Picacho, I time-lapsed a gorgeous storm as it slowly grew in strength and became weakly supercellular. The dusty outflow was intense and I cannot wait to get those time-lapses edited!
I raced back ahead of it and by this time the storm was picking up speed and it was tough to stay in front. As I neared Oracle Junction, a new cell blew up and essentially merged with the old one and now a shelf cloud was rapidly forming.
A slow truck kept me from racing as far ahead as I wanted, but by the time I got to the San Manuel Airport, the shelf cloud had turned into easily one of the top 3 I’ve seen here in Arizona. It was stunning, moving fast and behind it, golf ball sized hail was falling in places.
Such a blast of a day…so rare here to chase a long-track storm. This guy essentially blew up near Chuichu and died east of San Manuel. Almost 80 miles. Wow.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4, f/4, iso 400, 1/500th, handheld 9-image stitched pano // buy print)
The summer monsoon in Arizona came to an end this past weekend when a major transition event in the form of a intense trough moved through the state and caused flooding and tons of damage. We storm-chasers live for these events, which don’t seem to happen but every 4-5 years. There was a tornado risk as well, which is obviously unusual for our state.
As timing would have it…I was actually shooting a wedding on this day. I thought about chasing in the morning, but the storms were too far away to risk not getting back in town in time. So I watched what all my buddies were doing from my office as long as I could, then packed up and went to shoot a wedding that I was pretty excited about. As luck would have it…I was up by Pinnacle Peak where the bride was getting ready when the storm started to move into the West Valley. It was time to leave to go to the venue and as I headed south, the most incredible shelf cloud I’ve ever seen in Arizona was rolling over town.
I waited until I had the best possible view I could from the 101 freeway, pulled over and snapped this quick 9-image pano.
I didn’t care about composition or where I was, or the fact that Best Busy is right there in the photo. I only wanted an image of this scene to have forever.