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7/25/06 REPORTS: AZ

Last night's monsoon storm was so ripping intense...I'll just keep my report brief here because I was chasing all night and I'm absolutely bleary-eyed today.

What I chased: Severe monsoon thunderstorms

County: Maricopa

Span of severe: Buckeye, Arizona to Apache Junction, Arizona. This is about a 2 hour drive east to west.

Time: Approx 7pm-3am

Strength: Solid line of 65 dbz with patches of 70 dbz...extremely severe

Lightning: Constant with frequent, dangerous CGs, closeby causing transformers to explode.

Winds: Extreme, high enough to topple even a metal powerline in Scottsdale. Customers w/o power in Scottsdale: 30,000

Where I chased: Tempe, Midtown Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, McDowell range

Main wx features: Constant cloud-to-ground lightning, extreme wind, downbursts, torrential rain and flash flooding.

Special feature: The entire line was moving south but backbuilding north.

It was one of the most violent storms I have ever chased, including some of the Plains ones.

Photos later.
 
Talk about urban action.

A photographically frustrating but fun and challenging chase evening in metro PHX that would've certainly benefitted from WWORX or other technological assistance. I left my east-central location around 6:45 to get northwest toward a S moving line heading into the N/NW portion of the metro area. Sun City always seems to get severe action and so I targetted the western end of the W-E oriented line hoping to get some sunset color in there as well.

Well, once I set up the tripod the lightning went every direction except towards me. Being the patient sort I waited myself into nonchaseability for the other cells moving into central PHX and south from Wickenburg. Of course there was plenty of lightning and eventually I set up in a nice dry empty field to get some shots of South Mountain CGs before the downpour came in and I headed home.

Total chase miles inside metro PHX: 78.

The late p.m. backbuilding from south metro back up into central PHX was really incredible as this is exactly the sort of inner city storm action that used to happen all the time here, but in recent years has been noticeably absent. There must have been a decent disturbance rotating around the bottom of the ridge given the realized instability yesterday.
 
Snookered in Tucson!

Headed out just after 6, intending to intercept a big cell a ways south of town. After fighting unusually heavy traffic, (I always underestimate how slow surface streets can be) I finally reached Hwy 19 and freedom. Took off south, straight into the path of the beast. My plan was to cut in front of the storm, then drive a few miles east, possibly climbing Mt. Hopkins road to gain elevation. With some luck, the timing would converge and I'd have a grand view of the sunset to the West, with a backlit, lightning spitting Cb hovering over the Sierrita and/or Cerrro Colorado mountains.

Heading south, I got caught in the storm. The system seemed to be gaining speed (or I simply misjudged the radar) and was some distance further west than I had 'planned.' After loosing time 'core punching' (LOL - there wasn't even any hail), I reached the foothills of the Santa Ritas. I didn't have time to head up into the mountains, but did find a nice vantage point just W. of the FL Whipple visitors center.

Unfortunately, the storm was going just a bit too fast. By the time the sunset colors ripened, the storm had moved too far west, leaving me with only a few trailing CG scraps to shoot. Those pretty mountains were now working against me, occluding the vast majority of the action. With twilight fading and the storm strongly intensifying (natch!), I gave chase west on Arivaca road, getting one decent picture before the sky darkened. Later, I got a few more dark-sky lightning pics, but I don't think they will be anything special. I've already got plenty of the usual black forground lightning shots. Given the 'size' of the day's activity, I feel I missed the boat in a big way.

I really want to get some of those colorful sunset + lightning pics this year, but so far I've been played (the fool) by the weather. What a frustrating hobby! <_< Still, the scenery is great. After the long dry winter, and blazing early summer, the recent monsoon rains have brought the desert back to life, with birds, insects, snakes and other critters out and about, enjoying the cooler climate and newly available water.

-Greg
 
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