Saturday, November 30, 2013

First Storm Chase

Storms are seen all over the world and most storms are just an everyday part of life bringing much needed precipitation and hopefully enough to avoid a drought.   I actually waited way too long to become a trained Storm Spotter and was interested in studying about storms for a long time. (Not sure why I hesitated and wished I pursued my interests with more focus.

I was with a photography group that I have been with and I had just recently bought a digital camera that could film simple non HD video.  I had no experience chasing or documenting storms and if you do want to do this I recommend that you seek real training or go with a person with experience because it can get dangerous.  PLEASE NOTE: I do not recommend that you go out and chase storms. When I was filming this video I was not anywhere near a shelter and I thought I was going to get struck by lightning.

In 2011 I took a Storm Spotter training and a year later I took the advanced class and now that I had learned about storms I now feel that what I did back in 2008 was foolish.  I did not have a NOAA Weather radio or mobile radar, which means that we were partially blind and we did not know that there were damaging winds that touched down not far from us.  Lessons learned looking at this in retrospect.
Slama Photography 8/2008

Below is a video that I filmed in segments and found this footage today (yes, years later)

When I got home I heard that there was storm damage less that a 1/2 mile from where I was located while filming and if I recall correctly residents thought their area was hit by a tornado.  I have tried several times searching for news reports and found that this was not a tornado but a severe thunderstorm with a strong isolated downdraft that generates winds that could be as strong as a EF1 Tornado.  This particular storm had different clouds that showed both horizontal, vertical rotation, and lots of lightning strikes.  This was filmed right after leaving Valley Forge Park where we witnessed torrential rain and a flash flood.
Reading more about that day, I found out that there was a hail storm in Chester County and another one in Elk Township NJ where Storm Spotters measured hail at 1 inch in diameter. (which is evidence of a severe storm)  The clouds you see in the video and the pictures below show vertical development which is another warning sign of a severe storm.  I could not find  if there was a tornado watch issued that day.

Here are a few pictures from that day.  You can see the clouds how the storm was moving by us, the clouds were swirling above us showing signs of vorticity.

Flash Flood at Valley Forge Park
Possible Scud cloud

I hope you enjoyed this story, the pictures and the video. Thanks for following The_Weather_Vane!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cloud Streets

Watching the skies for some folks may not be the most entertaining thing in the world.  However for others who watch the skies for cloud formations and storms in general, well I have something to show you today.   I took a Meteorology 101 course and during the course we discussed basic formations of clouds and how they relate to current and future weather conditions.  Last Sunday while I was on a short hike with my brother and a friend we ran into a cloud formation that had us looking up for awhile.  I looked up this particular type of cloud and found that this is a rare event called "Horizontal Convective Rolls" aka Cloud Streets.  In short, this is generated by rolling motion caused by counter-rotating air that is parallel with the ground usually generated by instability from a strong arriving cold front.

In part I was unprepared.  I write for a blog and I was face to face with a tremendous natural science display and I did not have a camera with me.  Thankfully I was not alone and my co-photographers in a photography group I belong to helped out by taking pics that day.

Here is another pic of the rolling clouds.

 Watching the cold front roll in from the western sky had us mesmerized and that was not the end of that.  When we left the park (in separate cars) we all unknowingly and randomly stopped and took similar pictures of the sky during sunset.   That sky produced a wild display of light, texture and color.  Below you will see what I mean.   So the next time you hear about a cold front, plan to keep a camera with you and if you take a great picture, don't forget to share.