May.18, 1999 - storm chase
Note: please forgive any 'newbie' talk in the comments below. This was probably one of my first times chasing and it is probably really reflected in the comments. - Marc (Aug.2009)
May 18th, 1999
Departure time: 5:25pm
Chase ended: 6:45pm
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Temps were up around 32-33C, with -high- humidity levels. It was one of those days where you have to wash your hands every hour because they get so sweaty and sticky just from the air... yucky weather. A lot of hot humid air was pushing up from the states in a NNE direction and made it here by 5pm, which clashed with the cold front pushing eastward. Low-level scattered cloud came first, followed by the towers along the area of convergence. I was checking the radar all day (had the day off luckily!) and could see some nice colours on doppler, and the clouds were topping off around 45000 ft by the time they got here, even higher south of the border. I had the gear in the car and was on the road by 5:25pm.
The only problem with storms along a frontal boundary is that the cells pop up really quick and die out just as fast, so it's hard to pin point a target area to drive to. I decided that the one cell that was staying active the longest was probably in the southern area of the Niagara Penninsula, so I headed out down the 406 towards Welland. 'Took about 20 minutes just to get through the damn rush-hour traffic and onto the highway, but as soon as I got out of the city limits the towers were everywhere, with anvils all over the place making it look like the towers were inside a big room with a pasty grey ceiling.
As soon as I hit Thorold the torrential downpours started. Traffic was moving at 110-120km/hr just outside the city, then down to about 70-80 once the rain started, and eventually came to a complete stop on the 406 between Thorold and Fonthill (actually, it was probably still technically in the Thorold town limits). Some of the big rigs were crawling along but most cars had pulled off to the shoulder, and stopped for about 30-45 seconds - you could see absolutely nothing through your front window except water. The area from LP to HP was like going from colour to G&W (grey and white). Trees off in the fields were only barely visible as shadows and beyond that was a grey nothingness as the water and winds pelted the windshield (pictures below). I pulled off the highway onto some farmer road that led into Pelham past the Merritville Speedway and realized I was soon becoming lost, so I backtracked and headed for the darkest part of the storm I could see, which seemed to be off in the Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) area, as the storms were heading towards Lake Ontario. The clouds in NOTL were far darker and far more structured, and there were pockets of LP here and there where I could scope things out better. HP storms put on an impressive rain show but when you can't see past your windows there's not much point in chasing in them. I ended up on some gravel road in NOTL and watched a small scud back-build on itself until it had quite an impressive structure, almost looking like a Cb with a beavertail. The scuds were moving at a very impressive speed... I could see them pass above me very quick as the clouds above them remained still... I shot some video, snapped some pictures, and headed home through another area of HP. 'Made it home by 6:45pm.
... and the rain came down (Hwy.406 - Thorold)
Traffic on Hwy 406 came to a stand-still for 30 seconds.
Believe it or not my wipers were on full tilt!
... and the rain continued ... wipers still on high.
It's a "grey out" ! :^) ~5:45pm, near Fonthill.
Niagara-on-the-Lake (want a grape vine? heh...)
Cb base grew darker.
Nice back-lit area of the storm.
I thought it was a scud but it kept growing with HP core.
More scuds follow each other along...
Sky darkened and had better formation (~6pm, NOTL)
Things got really dark and cloud base dropped a lot.
Cloud base gains much better structure.
Don't forget to keep watching the action above you!
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