2016-11-03 REPORTS: AZ

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I hadn’t been forecasting this day to death…not even close. I was pretty much keeping a lazy eye on it for any option for interesting storms as low pressure worked its way into southern Arizona. SPC had marked out southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico for marginal severe probabilities, but a quick morning check of HRRR hinted at some fun further north, outside the marginal zone, in the Little Colorado River Valley.

Several runs were pretty consistently bringing up to 750 j/kg SBCAPE, 20-40 knots of 6km shear, low 50 degree dew points up into the LCRV. Those runs were also consistently laying down decent helicity swaths across I40 between Winslow and Holbrook. As the day wore on, dew points looked like they might cross the 50 degree threshold. By 2PM, convection was starting to strengthen south of Holbrook, so I took off to sample the goods.

As I headed east, one cell took over and picked up a very nice, cyclonic velocity couplet as it drifted north-northwest.

By the time I was within 50 miles, I could start to make out a couple layers of bell-shaped lowerings sweeping beneath the lurking darkness of the storm. As good as the couplet looked, I was pretty sure the storm was peaking and I’d probably missed the best.

About 10 miles east of Winslow, I exited at Jackrabbit road, trying to position a couple miles east of where I thought the storm would cross. I haven't scouted this area before, and got stuck with some pretty bland landscape options…shooting perpendicular across railroad tracks makes me sad. But the storm…the storm was incredible. The RFD gust front had scooped up a gigantic cowcatcher shelf cloud as it loomed closer. After snagging a few still photos, I set both cameras up to catch both wide and tight video as it moved in.

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Five-frame stitched pano looking south at the approaching supercell from 10 miles east of Winslow (2315Z)

Within a few minutes, my phone belted out a warning alarm, and there I was smack dab in the middle of a tornado warning polygon. Although there was broad rotation, I didn’t notice anything tightening up apart from some fun eddies underneath the gust front.

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Finding myself in the center of a tornado warning polygon (2321Z)

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(2326Z)

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Doubling up on wide & zoomed in video (2326Z)

Road options were no good once it crossed the interstate and I headed back west to Winslow to take Highway 87 north. From there I watched a trailing cell try to make good on whatever was left to chew on.

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…and the very important, parting rainbow shot (0016Z)

So, yeah, it feels great to finally have been on a tornado-warned Arizona supercell!

Full set of images / larger sizes:
Storm Chase - Northern Arizona || 3 November 2016
 
Jan 10, 2014
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Sheridan, WY
www.kevin-palmer.com
Great photos Jeremy. I was hoping somebody was chasing it because I was wondering what it looked like up close.

I just happened to be on a road trip across Arizona that day. I knew there was chance of storms but I certainly wasn't expecting a supercell. In the afternoon I stopped at Petrified Forest National Park for a few hours. There were passing showers and rainbows over the Painted Desert.

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Painted Desert Rainbow by Kevin Palmer, on Flickr

Looking at the radar I noticed that strong cell heading for the Holbrook area. I briefly considered chasing it, but decided not to since I only had a short time to spend in the national park. Besides, I wasn't expecting that velocity couplet to actually last that long. I forgot about the storm until later when I was up on Blue Mesa to shoot the sunset.

Even though I was 40 miles away, this mesocyclone to the west immediately caught my attention, and I soon learned that it was tornado-warned. It was backlit by the sunset and surrounded by a beautiful landscape.

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Arizona Mesocyclone by Kevin Palmer, on Flickr

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Blue Mesa Storm by Kevin Palmer, on Flickr

As I drove back to Flagstaff there was some impressive lightning. But I didn't have much luck capturing it, and this was all I got.

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Winslow Lightning by Kevin Palmer, on Flickr
 
Wow those are awesome shots, Kevin! That was a great spot to watch from.

The lowering in those second and third images looks a lot like the trailing cell I was watching from north of Winslow around 5PM. I was watching that second one from the west after the first cell filled in with rain and moved off to the north. The second one showed some rotation too, but started struggling after it got north of I-40. It did drop some hail on me as the sun dropped below the horizon.

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Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
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Westminster, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
Staff note

We're glad to see some enthusiasm for an off-season event in a portion of the US not known for severe weather events, but please remember that the TA rules remain in effect year round; they are not suspended during the off-season. REPORTS threads are for firsthand reports only. Please send your praise either via PM or start an EVENT thread and move the post-mortem discussion there.