Friday 6 April 2012

23rd August 2011 - Tucson (AZ) Relived

This day will go down as the best day we have ever had for Lightning Photography on our Tours. Granted this is not a Tornado Alley chase but gives you a flavour of what the Lightning can be like. The Usual HP Supercells cannot replicate this type of Lightning in the Plains but Elevated Hailers can when the EML Becomes favourable for Summer type Hailstorms.
On the 22nd August we chased some marginal diurnal storms around the Tucson area which all dried up before Sunset and seeing as we were effectively done by 6pm we grabbed some food and then went on the drive upto Mount Lemmon more for the scenery over anything else. We stopped at various scenic checkpoints along the way and I even said on the 22nd whilst stopping at Windy Point (Elevation 7,000ft asl) looking down on Tucson below (How good would it be to shoot a Storm from this location) Exactly 24 hours later we would get our wish in spectacular fashion!!
The next day we left Phoenix at 2pm and grabbed lunch at Casa Grande, on the drive down the Interstate we sampled various Storms making there way across the Desert Floor and noted a bigger MCS System down by Tucson. Onwards we pushed but as witgh the previous day Storms were struggling to keep their acts together in the Tucson Valley, as we drove through another marginal Duststorm occured (Haboob) and we had some fun with the blowing Sandstorms. As with the previous day the radar looked deviod of storms at about 6pm. We once again grabbed some Pizza and then drove towards Mount Lemmon. The drive from the centre of Tucson to Mount Lemmon is about 45 minutes so off we set again. This time though I was noting a possible Outflow Boundary extending from NW - SE on radar and kept an eye on this closely. We got to Windy Point at about 7pm and literally as we parked all saw a huge flash from our SE. This was a developing Storm that was not even on radar yet but was showing on the Barons as Lightning Flashes. Everyone got set up and the next 90 minutes was set to be the most incredible experience we have ever had. The radar was now showing a back building line of Storms from just SE Of Tucson extending down towards Benson. The Storms seemed to impact the East side of Tucson (Closest to Mount Lemmon) and then dissipate as they moved away from the elevation. At our Location we always had clear skies above us and the Storms remained within the 5-10 Mile Range. The Cg rate was about 10-20 per minute. Being level with the Base of the Storm allowed us to capture some remarkable images and still to this day our best Photography of Lightning which will be hard to beat.

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