I have limited access to a computer with internet here in Arizona, so I apologize that the blog and live stream have been more or less neglected over the past few days.
I’d like to share one my adventures over the past four days of storm chasing the 2014 Monsoon Season in Arizona. I’ve photographed storms in Arizona for the past six years, however I am still relatively new to “storm chasing” which involves a rough version of forecasting, looking over routes and roads that can be used to access (or escape) storms, trying to navigate those roads and finding safe places to pull off and take pictures.
Seeing these beautifully complex and exciting storms and meeting other people who have the passion to chase them as well greatly rewards and justifies the cost, time, and occasional stress that comes with the hobby.
I just arrived in Arizona five days ago knowing that the 2014 Monsoon Season had already made its name as one of the best in years. The weather models weren’t too optimistic about storm chances near Phoenix for the next few days but I kept an eye on my phone for the first day I was here.
Sunday August 17th 2014: I started off looking at the High Resolution Rapid Refresh models in Starbucks and saw that they predicted a storm cell or two would pop up in the northern Arizona terrain near the town of Payson at about 1PM. I left my grandmother’s house in Scottsdale at 11AM and watched a storm develop right where it was predicted to by 1:30PM. As that storm started to fizzle out, I stuck around Payson and watched some impressive cumulus towers develop into full blown thunderstorms to the east and drove straight into them.
The storm dropped rain and numerous close cloud-to-ground lightning strikes before it also died. At this point I saw on radar that there were some more strong storms to the south, but not wanting to drive all the way back on the same highway, I decided to try a “shortcut” through the mountains to Highway 188.
This was a serious mistake. The road was only partially paved, and much longer than I had imagined. The stretches that weren’t paved were covered in slippery mud that had me cursing as the front wheel drive Kia lost grip even below 15 miles per hour. Some areas ran along cliffs and there were never guardrails, so the going was slow and frustrating as I watched impressive storms mock me with distant lightning while they floated away faster than I could possibly go.
By the time I got onto a decent highway, a cluster of storms had developed near Phoenix and I was way off course from where I wanted to be. After two hours of catchup, I ended up at a viewpoint a few miles from Scottsdale to watch the storms. After almost nine hours of chasing, I was too tired to trek to the new storms but I still got a nice picture of a lightning strike behind Fountain Hills.
Since that chase, I’ve seen more night time lightning, heavy rain, flooding, and met a few fellow storm chasers who were very welcoming and great to meet. I still have ten days to storm chase and I hope to make the most out of them before I head back to Seattle. Stay tuned for more photos and stories!
Scattered Thunderstorms are expected in the area once again this afternoon and evening. They will be similar to yesterday’s storms that produce frequent cloud to ground lightning strikes due to the massively unstable atmosphere. Continue reading
Temperatures reached the mid 90s in the Western Washington lowlands on Monday while an upper level low pressure system surged into the Northwest region bringing colder upper levels and swaths of mid level moisture. These ingredients came together to produce strong, frequent lightning producing thunderstorms that tracked across the Lowlands and the Cascades.
Rain showers are expected to continue throughout this morning and storms will start becoming more likely by around 3PM this afternoon.
With the Northwest summer giving us plentiful heat and sunshine, we’ve been lacking interesting weather content to feature and talk about on PSWxG. However, things are about to get interesting as a few changes occur during the next few days.
Yet another upper level system sweeps down from the Gulf of Alaska.
The system will move towards the Northwest in conjunction with a surge of searing heat in the low 90s in the lowlands and in the 100s further east on Monday afternoon. The brutal surface heat, combined with the cold upper level low and the waves of upper air moisture associated with the system will create an atmospheric recipe for wide spread thunderstorms on Tuesday and Wednesday. I will be publishing more up to date articles as the forecasts become more certain with audio or video updates. Stay tuned!
Unfortunately the storms, heat and wind increases are bad news to wild-land fire crews across the NW battling wildfires. The expected sporadic lightning in the Cascade mountains will likely spark new fires and the unpredictable pop-up storms will make fighting the fires very difficult. Hopefully some of the downpours have an effect on new and existing fires.
On another note; as I’ve done for the last six years, I will be traveling to Phoenix Arizona to storm chase and photograph the Southwest Monsoon Season for two weeks. I will be able to maintain the live stream and basic info about the weather on PsWxG but full articles may be sparse. I will also post photos and storm chase updates from Arizona.
I awoke early this morning to see giant rain droplets (probably hail that had melted on the way down) falling from brightly colored tall bubbling cumulonimbus clouds. I wish I had my live stream cam on record! Continue reading
The Puget Sound Region has been blessed with a streak of sunny hot days making us remember why we love summer in the Northwest so much. Alas, a return to reality is in order as rain and cooler temperatures are forecast for this weekend. Continue reading
One of the biggest weather trends for the past couple months has been the occurrence and effects of upper level low pressure systems. These tough to forecast systems bring a mixture of sun, rain, storms to the lowlands and even late spring snow to the higher mountains. Continue reading