July 19, 2013
A series of severe thunderstorms swept across Southern Ontario, bringing with them heavy rains, high winds and near constant lightning. This day had been forecasted for days as “above average risk of severe weather”
Woke up at 6:00am to check on the forecast before deciding on where to go. Having narrowed my choices to either head north towards Arthur or west towards Watford (along the 402 towards Sarnia), decided to head north towards a town called Mildmay.
Mildmay is approximately two hours north and west of where I live. After pulling over in the beautiful town of Fergus, Ontario to have a look at the conditions on the computer, I decided that I would contact with my friend Dave Patrick of Ontarioweather.com to see if he believed Mildmay was still our target area. He said the target area had moved eastward towards town of Arthur which is approximately 20 km north Fergus. Another chaser, Spencer Sills stayed west towards Mildmay with another group of chasers.
Met up with Dave at a place called Katie’s (Kate’s) Fries – a cute little chip wagon north side of Arthur. We met up with George Kourounis of Angry Planet, Mark Robinson from The Weather Network, Cindy Burgess (Reporter). If you find yourself in the neighborhood, try the Newfie Fries..trust me. Going to be a pit stop ground for me heading to the cottage going forward.
George, and Mark were setting up to do a live hit with TWN, except we were being sandblasted by incredibly strong winds coming in off Lake Huron, and sadly they were having some technical difficulties with the hardware.
We quickly needs to pack up the gear, and head north to intercept a strong cell.
Target: Palmerston, Listowell, Drayton area.
These storms were rapidly rising, and moving very fast. We found ourselves on a rural road near Palmerston, Ontario. Mark quickly got out, and immediately began recording from underneath this storm cell which was about to drop TONS of rain, and as you can see, a definite lowering of the clouds in behind Mark’s head.
This cell was approaching 50,000′, and moving at about 55kts (~60MPH). Needless to say, we didn’t stay here long.
Next top, Drayton – Just a short 5 minute drive ESE of Palmerston, though we took an odd route to get there. This was the next cell in line.
As we drove through Drayton, I caught the above video on my dash cam. It looked to have hit a transformer in the town, as every light and street light immediately went out.
Later in the day, I would find myself driving back through Drayton, only to find the town was still without power.
Just outside of town, we’d stopped to see if they could do another hit with The Weather Network.
Mark Robinson tried a report “from the Field” technique. I have a feeling he’s done this before. We again did not stay here long as this storm was quickly forming . With tops approaching 60,000 feet, and with some serious winds, this cell was just getting started
As you can see by see by the following video. This line of storms was just starting to form what is known as a bow echo, and was racing south towards Kitchener, Waterloo, and eventually the GTA. Sadly, cell service was very poor in the region, and I was unable to receive any real updates from various radar applications.
These storms were moving too fast for us to keep up with them. Dave had raced off to see if he could get in front of the storm, while Mark, George and Cindy were going to head east to see if another cell might come through for them, and I began my slow trek south, as I had spotted a new moisture band coming ashore off Lake Huron that looked like it had potential, there was still enough of mother natures secret sauce left in the atmosphere to form another couple rounds of storms. These ones would not pack anywhere near the punch as the original (now a “Bow Echo”) storm we had been chasing.
The storms that altimately formed, ended up being chased by Dave and by Mark/Cindy/George, as well as a few other chasers, as this was likely the last shot for any real action. I was west of both groups, and riding on the northern edge of the storm, just north of Waterloo/ St.Jacobs. Didn’t see much happening other than a beautiful rainbow, and a pretty short-lived but intense downpour.
With an hour plus drive home awaiting me, it was time to call it a day. Pulled over, and put all my gear away, and cleaned up a bit (chasing leads to messy car).
By 6:30ish I was on the backside of rush hour in KW, and was now following both the first line of storms, and the second line. Man, what I was seeing while driving along the 401 towards Milton from Kitchener was stunning. VERY low hanging shelf cloud (nearly touching the ground) to the south and east (Hamilton), and a rather large inflow from the west (Brantford). It was roughly 7pm when I knew that HWY 6 was not going to be a good route to travel on (never good when there are strong winds), so I took the side roads.
I pulled off of Hwy 6, and found myself on a road just north of Waterdown. May not have been a good choice in hindsight. I knew the storm was still in front of me, so I wasn’t worried about that, but what I ended up seeing was startling to say the least. I had a large branch from a mature tree drop right in front of my car. I tweeted about here. The picture to the right was about 200m down the road. Wind has snapped this large branch right off. Luckily, I could get by without much issue.
Continuing on my path home, and found my north/south route on Cedar Springs road blocked. This one took out both hydro and telephone wires. So, needed to double back, and head to Guelph Line. It too was blocked at Mt Nemo Road with multiple downed trees. Went to #2 side road. Blocked. Walkers Line – blocked. Appleby line, partially blocked.
From north of HWY 5, we could see perhaps my favorite cloud type. The Mammatus Cloud (aka mammatocumulus). Usually found on the back side of strong storms (such as we had).
Due to police and fire activity in the area, I could only stop for a second to take this shot.
I was now south of the damage path, and cruising along HWY 5 (Dundas), and I could see a few flashes off in the distance.
“What was that?” I asked myself, as the bow echo and 2nd storm line were already over the lake.
So what was this?
Another round (3rd in 1 hour) was approaching.
So, rather than go home, I thought I would head over to a park where there is a great view of the city skyline, and maybe take a few more snaps, and capture a bit more in the way of video.
The image to the left happened completely by accident. I was setting up my tripod as I wanted to capture a couple long exposure shots. As I was mounting the camera, somehow managed to turn the camera on and snap this image. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the odds of that happening.
After a few long exposure shots, I decided to shoot some video (below).
By 10pm, I was finally home. Opened the computer and saw yet another storm heading our way. These were not as intense nor were they likely to be warned. They hit about 1:20am. Lots of flash and boom, and no substance.
Thanks again to Mark, Dave, George, and Cindy for allowing me the privilege of hanging out with them. I hope we can do it again some time soon.
So, that was my day. How was yours?