FAQ: Chasing the Southwestern Monsoon

Will Wilkens

Susan, I'll be chasing and photographing lightning in Arizona Fri 7/24 thru Sunday 7/26 I'm not liking the central and southern zones forecast anymore (Tucson-Casa Grande) and was thinking to target the north zones instead, say Prescott and Sedona. Any thoughts?
 
I'm not Susan but may I throw in an oar? For the next few days I pretty much agree with the NAM composite reflectivity forecast. Right now the monsoon is rather weak and short of moisture. The majority has been coming up from the Gulf of CA, favoring western AZ.

Far southeast AZ should have some storms all three days, but I agree that you might want to look toward northwest AZ for Friday and Saturday at least. The Arizona Strip (the extreme northwest corner) is a neglected area photographically IMO that produces good storms -- but it's also a pretty long drive. A possible itinerary for storms would be the Kingman area on Friday, Bagdad-Prescott-Wickenburg on Saturday, and the southern border, e.g. Arivaca-Nogales-Sierra Vista for the iffy Sunday opportunities. FWIW.
 

Will Wilkens

Thank you sooooo much!! That was the feeling I was getting based on the forecasts. Prescott was my choice for Sat, so I like that you are verifying my thinking. Kingman will be perfect for Fri as I will be coming in from Southern California and an easy shot along I-40.
 
Good advice David. Wickenburg is a good performer. I run out there very frequently and have pulled some of my best shots in that town. I would watch what comes down from the Bradshaw Mountains, between Wickenburg and Prescott. I also agree with the far southeast corner of AZ. When all else is dry, that area can perform. Plus, there is a giant playa in Willcox, with a power plant on it, or the western motif of Tombstone, these can make good foreground.

I would also watch Globe and also Payson to Show Low. They are mountainous, but attractive to storms...I have done well in both towns.

I hope you find a ton of action!
 
Mar 15, 2004
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Tucson, Aridzona
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Tucked away in the extreme SE corner of Az is scenic highway 80. It runs for 75 miles NE from Douglas, to finally intersect I-10 just across the border in New Mexico.

The southern section of the road meanders among the jumbled hills and hummocks of the Southern Chiricahua Range. Further north, the Chiricahuas rise to their full powers, filling the western horizon. A short drive to Portal puts you in a large, extremely picturesque amphitheater, ringed by the rugged mountains. I've seen some fantastic sunset light streaming around the peaks. Just add lightnings and you'd really have something!

Further north the road punches through Granite Gap, again offering 'fun' horizons and scenic terrain for your storm photography.

The whole area is lightly traveled, sparsely populated, dark, and staggeringly pretty. The low grasses that are the dominant vegetation make roadside shooting a cinch. Just pull over, aim, and shoot. No need to hunt for a high spot or a break in the trees or bushes. Cell coverage is spotty and help will be hard to find. Make sure your car is in good order!



Stagecoach road / Hwy 86, between Wilcox and Chiricahua National Park is similar in nature to Hwy 80. The Dos Cabezas and Apache Pass areas are scenic high points, but the whole road has great potential. Be sure to take the Apache Pass road to Ft. Bowie. More rugged mountains and endless horizons!
 
Jun 1, 2008
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Barstow Severe Storms

Hey all,

Well, got some excellent storms the other day just 10 - 15 miles west of Barstow on the 58. It took a while to get going, but it was quite a show. We got terrential rain, 40 to 50 mph winds and super close CG's during the day. We followed the storm down the 395 and got these shots just after sunset. This is my first time getting those cool sunset colors behind a bolt. I had my wife and 4 kids with us and they loved it..

Here are a few shots.. I love the first one of my daughter sticking her head out the door with the rain shaft in the background. That's enough to make a daddys heart melt!!

Also, wanted to thank Susan and Greg for the hot spots. We are going out to Tucson from Aug 22nd - 28th to use a week of a time share. I would love to hook up with some of ya!!!

Thanks again,

Brian









 
The monsoon break periods, like the one happening right now, are torture. Bring back the rain. The Phoenix area and Central deserts hit 115-117 today with not a cloud in sight. Even though I got spoiled last week with several storms, I am eager for the storms to return, maybe late in the weekend...

Monsoon operates in burst/break pattern from June-Sept.

I like those pictures too, esp the reds. Nice!
 
Yes, what gives with the monsoon this year...especially in California? These unusually strong low pressure systems are barely even letting the moisture sneek into AZ from time to time. Well, im crossing my fingers for a pattern shift by the end of the month...when I take a trip to AZ. Maybe the developing El Niño is affecting the season? I read on the NWS Tucson page that developing El Niños can cause the high to be supressed to the south later in the season...keeping most of the moisture in Mexico.
 
Mar 15, 2004
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Tucson, Aridzona
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I'm OFFICIALLY issuing a PDS! :eek:

"Particularly Dreadful Season!"
:(


Some hope on the horizon, with a return of favorable flow by Wednesday. Given how dry the air is, it will probably take time for the moisture to re-constitute any hope of storms. Maybe Thursday...

(Please, Mr. Monsoon! We need lightnings! :) )
 
Jun 1, 2008
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California
Coming to Tucson

Well, looks like Tucson will be greeting me and my family with some storms this coming weekend and into the next week. We will be driving from LA this Saturday am, and all the models are pointing to some good stuff. I am hoping for a picturesque dive as well. I love just looking at clouds. We are actually staying in Oro Valley so I am hoping to see some good stuff in and around the area, but I am totally willing to shlep my wife and kids with me where ever we need to go. We will be doing the water park one day and the caverns as well.

Any thoughts? Greg, I got your PM. I will give you a call. Susan, would be great to meet up if you are out!

Thanks and here is to a good week of storms. In fact, looks like there is a good vort coming through the LA area Friday evening so we may even get wet here in Los Angeles. Doubt it, but hey, I am optimistic. I love shooting lightning over the ocean.

Hope all is well,

b.p.
 

Will Wilkens

Yep! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this new monsoon surge starting to show its face. NWS in Sand Diego thinks that 50% POPS for Fri night/Sat is reasonable, but let's see how much that changes.

Brian, when I chased in Az last month I intercepted a nice storm over Oro Valley. We circled around at the split by Oracle Junction and headed north on US 79, then made our way back to I-10 on that road that dumps us near Redrock. There we hung out for awhile and watched some nice lightning west of Redrock until a small haboob chased us away. I really need to post my chase account in the appropriate section as it was a 2 -day adventure with many severe storms. I got some pics and vids, but the wierdest thing was that there were no nighttime storms those 2 days ??? which was one of the main reasons for the chase trip! To stay up all night photographing and videotaping lightning! :(

Well, Brian, good luck, and send me PM sometime. I'm located between Corona and Lake Elsinore.
 
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Will Wilkens

Brian, those pics you posted above are awesome. The area you chased is one of my favorite chase targets. Always consistent. I was in AZ chasing that day, but you had better luck with the lightning than I did. Go figure. :)
 

Will Wilkens

Ok, I couldn't resist, here are my pics from my AZ chase trip, July 24 and 25 in AZ:

7/24/09 - locations noted

US 95 northeast of Yuma:





South of Gila Bend, near Ajo:




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7/25/09 - locations noted

Redrock (lightning taken by my chase partner, Gerry Kerns):



Casa Grande:


Coolidge:



 
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Mar 2, 2004
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Wichita, KS
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Happily I am able to say I have been able to get down here again this year, but sadly I haven't had near the results of my 2007 trip. Hunkered down in Mesa right now after striking out along I-10 this evening and will probably embark back east into NM tomorrow to shave off a bit of our drive to Denver on Tuesday.

Gorgeous sunset tonight, and would've been a PERFECT backdrop to the lightning had we been able to bribe her into dropping a few bolts..

Ah well, just THRILLED I am able to get down here again!
 

Will Wilkens

Had an EXCELLENT chase today! Hit two severe storms along I-40, first one 40 miles east of Barstow, Ca about 5pm, then the second one 35 miles west of Needles, Ca around 7pm. Both storms began to rotate and had classic stacked plate meso structure and shelf clouds! The first storm even had a non rotating wall cloud! When I got into the second storm, I stayed on it well into darkness and had some of the most intense and gorgeous lightning you can imagine.

Here is one of the bolts I captured during storm #2:



Here's what storm #2 looked like as I was approaching it. This is looking east, right at sunset, just at the time it went severe warned:
 
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Wonderful multi-branched lightning strike Will! Very nice.

I saw in the Day 1 yesterday that a slight risk was called for in the far eastern California deserts near the AZ state line. Quartzsite was rocked lastnight. But the Day 1 has changed to include more of Arizona, and the slight risk is taken out.

Tony you're in Mesa? You're only 20 minutes from Superstition Mountain. (storm magnet). There is a 20% chance tonight for the Valley, and in the eastern mountains of AZ conditions are usually more favorable.

I can feel it in the air today.
 
Oh yeah, one thing that is cool on the way back into New Mexico. About 50 miles west of the little town of Socorro you'll find the VLA/Very Large Array, that valley full of satellite dishes that was used in the movie Contact. That would be a cool thing to shoot with lightning.
 
Mar 2, 2004
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Wichita, KS
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Oh yeah, one thing that is cool on the way back into New Mexico. About 50 miles west of the little town of Socorro you'll find the VLA/Very Large Array, that valley full of satellite dishes that was used in the movie Contact. That would be a cool thing to shoot with lightning.
We tried exactly that... got down there just before sunset and some storms were barely scraping by just south of there... unfortunately they didn't make it to the VLA, but we sure tried. Was a beautiful trip out US-60, especially in eastern AZ. Breath-taking to say the least!
 

Will Wilkens

We had some suprise cells pop up in my area on Wedenesday, that went severe, rotated, and produced a weak landspout in Perris, about 10 miles east of my home (local news showed a camera phone shot of it from a viewer, but I have yet to find it posted anywhere. I was on the freeway rushing to get home, but got home only to enjoy about 30 minutes of what was left of it before collapsing.

Here's a pic I took with my blackberry of the tornado statement scrolling across the tv screen......

 
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